When I found out that Richard Simmons teaches classes at his studio, Slimmons in Beverly Hills, that are open to the public for $12, I knew I had to go. Not only would it be a great blog post and an excellent workout, but it would fulfill a dream of my grandmother’s, as she always loved his buoyant personality, dolfin shorts and puffy fro of reddish-brown curls. I was lucky enough to be accompanied on this journey by my friends Merrie and Hilda, two lovely ladies whom I work with and work out with! In addition, some wonderful blogger ladies and gents like All The Weigh, The Curvy Nerd, Finishing the Hat and Keep It Up David were there, too! (They’re regulars!)
As soon as Richard came in, that Southern sense of hospitality kicked in. He flitted around the room like a butterfly, greeting everybody with hugs and kisses. I was wearing pigtails and he walked right up to me, gave my pigtails a gentle yank, and embraced me in a big hug. It was surreal. (Hilda is blessed with a lovely svelte figure – Richard told her he’d eaten ribs bigger than her! LOL)
As the music kicked in, Richard screamed that it was Beatles night! His tank top bedazzled with colorful busts of Ringo and Paul should have clued me in, but I was psyched as techno versions of “Hello” blared through the speakers. The first few songs were SO FUN, as Richard bounced around the room shouting praise and encouragement as we marched and kicked and squatted. I had a big goofy smile on my face at the silliness of it all – me, in Los Angeles, a girl from the suburbs of Chicago, working out with a major fitness star, Richard Simmons! I also was mildly star-struck when I learned I was working out next to Ellen Degeneres’ Mom, another regular.
We proceeded to bounce and jump and jiggle through an hour of cardio. Near the end, Richard created a huge circle and started picking sets of two to go in the middle of the circle and do the moves with him. Merrie and I were “summoned by Simmons” and laughed as we did arm thrusts, knee kicks and other moves in front of 50 people, alongside Richard Simmons. (Rumor has it he posts videos online – as soon as I see it I’ll share!)
After cardio, we did thirty minutes of weights and then sit ups and push-ups. I was quite proud of how well I kept up through out the class. Other than the usual disorientation about following aerobic patterns, I used five pound weights for all the reps and didn’t need to take any breaks. I remember distinctly thinking, “Yes! Finally! All this exercise is catching up with me!” It as an awesome workout – I was drenched!
The cool thing about Richard Simmons is that he’s not just a “personality”. You can tell in his classes that he’s the real deal, and he honest to God cares about what he’s doing and teaching. When I worked out alongside him in the circle, he looked me square in the eye as we trotted across the studio, and he had this passionate intensity coming directly from his pupils – the kind of self-confidence and drive that looks at you dead-center and says “This is all me, and it’s AWESOME.” He’s also freakin’ hilarious and had many dirty quips and jokes. I think what I really liked about his class was that it took the SERIOUSNESS out of exercise. Exercise is serious business, and I get it, just like being obese – but I’ve always been the type of person to try and find something to laugh about, to have fun with, which is where this blog’s name came from. It’s all about taking something difficult or hard and learning to find the light side, and Richard does that so well.
He graciously stuck around after class to take pictures, and when it was my turn to pose with him, he again yanked my pigtails and said “Well, aren’t you just the cutest thing?” I have to admit – that was cool to hear from a celebrity, albeit someone as effervescent and sparkly as Richard Simmons.
I can’t wait to go back, and Merrie and I are thinking we’ll try and make it a monthly goal to trek to Slimmons and sweat it out with Simmons. Now – Next time, who’s coming with me?