So, where to go if you're looking for a cooler approach? What if the exhortations are getting too intense, and the side issues, like clothes and machines, are getting too confusing?
Just remember, first of all, that some people at the very epicenter of the fitness movement know what you're going through. Unconsciously or not, they even define themselves in contrast to the fitness evangelists. "Jacki isn't an evangelist or a guru," her husband, Neil Sorensen, is quick to say. "I'm not a physical fitness preacher," says O'Shea. "I don't want to 'testify' about fitness."
Next you might consider these words by O'Shea: "What's your first priority? Are you happy with the way you feel?" Maybe you feel good or your job keeps you in shape and you have no desire to use a home gym as a way of getting on the sexual scoreboard. Fine.
Out-of-shape and overweight people generally know who they are, and they should do something about it. But not by running out and buying a book, a leotard or some contraption that would have turned Torquemada green with envy. Start with a visit to a medical doctor who can home in on your specific trouble areas and limitations. If your regular physician has no interest in fitness—and many of them don't—you can go to your local sports medicine clinic. There are about 450 of them across the country, and a list of the ones in your area can be obtained from The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 4530 W. 77th St., Minneapolis, Minn. 55435.
If you want to read about fitness before you get started, you don't have to turn to a celebrity. There's only one reason that Fonda's book spent two years on the bestseller list while another Simon & Schuster book published in the same year, The Wilmore Fitness Program by Jack H. Wilmore, a Ph.D., is out of print: name appeal. Name appeal means publishers promote the book, bookstores sell it and we buy it.
If you're already keeping reasonably fit with one specific activity, like jogging or weightlifting, fine. Just keep in mind that you may not be getting fitness balance. Jogging and stationary bicycling can be excellent cardiovascular exercise, but they don't do much for, say, upper-body strength, nor does weightlifting always provide much aerobic benefit. "The body adapts to certain routines," says Smith. "If you do a Fonda-type routine all the time, you're just not getting the benefit unless you increase the workload or use arm weights." Smith suggests varying workouts every month.
In any case, don't do a fitness activity that isn't enjoyable for you. "If you don't like a certain exercise, don't do it," says Jacki Sorensen. "It's like people who jog and can't wait until it's over. Maybe you should only jog two days a week and do something else the rest of the time." And, unless you're young and in outstanding shape or training for the Olympics, be skeptical of the "go for the burn" (Fonda), "no pain, no gain" (Soloflex) and "work to failure" (Nautilus) advice. "If your body's hurting," says L.A. chiropractor Leroy Perry, whose patients include Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty, "there's a reason for it."
Don't make a financial investment before you're committed to improving yourself. You can't use your fancy equipment one day and stuff it in the closet the next—and expect to stay fit. Decide what kind of program you want to embark on before you buy all the accoutrements. Or get down on the floor and do some push-ups. Or go outside and do some "power walking" or "power jumping"—moving explosively, often with hand or wrist weights—excellent cardiovascular activities. And you know what? As long as you've got a good pair of shoes, you can wear jeans and a T shirt advertising your favorite brand of beer while you exercise.
Nude Exercise Interlude IV: Morrison called back. It was no use, she couldn't find the press release. "But how about this one?" she said. "Exercise...the Erotic Way to Physical Fitness. I know that's available." Put out by Monterey Home Video, it's billed as "a program for couples with partial nudity in the cool-down period." Ah, to be partially nude and physically fit in America.