The first Cindy Crawford fitness video, Shape Your Body, came out in 1992, and last month I decided to dig it out of the archive for a roadtest. Has she stood the test of time?
You should watch all the way through before you start trying to follow, she says, so you’re not craning at the TV while you’re trying to exercise. This is ridiculous advice: you’d be craning anyway unless you watched it 500 times before you started, and each time takes you deeper into the peculiar era that was the 1990s. All the visuals are one part female-empowerment-hear-her-roar, two parts shampoo-ad hair flicking. The warm-up section – languid head rolls as seen in no modern aerobics class ever, arm scissoring that looks like the choreography for some Disney Mousketeers – seems mainly there for the aesthetic.
While, arguably, you can never have too much Cindy, with the workouts weighing in at 40 minutes (intended as a cycle of three on alternating days), you can have too much exercise. So I decided to stick to just a couple. There’s a lot to be said for a home workout, and I think the reason it isn’t said any more is that there’s so much money in fitness, only not here. Everyone, from Crawford to Mr Motivator, is freely available on YouTube. You don’t need much (any) equipment: just a sturdy chair, a cushion, a set of weights and a towel.
Fitness has changed, but not excessively: there are moves here that people simply wouldn’t do any more – eg leg kicks while leaning against the back of a chair, the only discernible benefit of which is seeing how many you can do before you put your back out; but you can tweak those.
Otherwise, much is timeless: bicep and tricep curls with small hand weights that would, without question, give you some totally snatched arm definition, provided you were carrying no surplus body weight to begin with. Lunges were huge in the 90s, and still are. The idea of targeting specific muscles to tone has fallen out of fashion, in favour of the full-body approach of F45 or Barry’s Bootcamp. But Cindy still does peculiar butt-focused moves, standing up with one foot against the other knee, scissoring your floating knee to the side and back, which I’ve never seen anyone do. There’s a very dated section on “girl push-ups” (“You can do boy push-ups, but I can’t,” she says sweetly). These are like a regular push-up except with your knees on the ground. Gender politics aside, it’s still a perfectly legit exercise that you might be asked to do in any resistance class. The workout isn’t heavily cardio – for that you’d need Jane Fonda, a step and, ideally, a sprung floor – but it’s probably as strenuous as a barre class; which is to say, a lot more arduous than it looks.
If you don’t get a huge amount from big hair and beach shots, this will feel a bit kitsch. But I’m in favour of the home workout in general; it feels like beating the juggernaut gym industry at its own game.
What I learned
Crawford still does her first workout, nearly 30 years on.