Feeling the Burn

By Julie Anderson

JulesAerobics were a big part of my 1980s experience. My parents, like so many others in the 80’s, caught fitness fever. They were enthusiastic charter members of The Prime Health and Racquet Club near our home. In 1986, I got my first job there at the tender age of thirteen. Mom and Dad were friends with the owners, so I had an in. I worked in the juice bar.

The Prime is now closed, but back in its day, it was all the rage in our rural county. One owner, Joanna, had sleek, straight blond hair down to her waist. Joanna was a huge fan of the color purple. EVERYTHING was purple: the interior walls, the company stationery, the cabinetry, the carpets, the railings, and every single article of Joanna’s clothing and accessories. It was awesome, in that 80s-deep-purple-saturation kind of way.

My mom was quite the aerobics aficionado. She did the high impact classes, an hour and twenty minutes of intense workouts, and followed them up with weight training. I remember they did the fat measurements at the club with calipers and her fat percentage was ridiculously low, like, 6% or something. She was all into it.

We shared her aerobics ensembles, and I won’t give too much thought to sharing tight Lycra ensembles with my mother (la la la la la…). They were fuschia and black and royal blue, with little shiny panties that went over the tights. Bunchy matching socks and Reeboks, poodle permed hair and scrunchies, and sweating to Cheeseburger in Paradise and Electric Avenue and Mony Mony. We grapevined to the left and right, we deep squatted, and we crunched those abs, baby!

80s Aerobics: Lycra lycra everywhere ... Feel the burn!And oh, the thrill when Step Aerobics came to the club! We side stepped, we kicked, we lunged on those gray, pink, and purple plastic steps!

Mom and I both indulged in the tanning beds. That is, we over-indulged. I look back on the pictures from those days and see my burnished skin, buttered up with Body Drench lotions and tanning products (for a healthy, fast tan!) and groan at the sun-damage in the making. I baked in those clamshell Wolff tanning beds every night after work for half an hour, then upped my tan with Estee Lauder self-tanner. The bronzer the better.

Dad, of course, didn’t go for the aerobics classes. With the exception of just a few daring souls, these were the province of women exclusively. He did get into racquetball and wall ball, though, with the men at the club.

Even then, the group hot tub grossed me out (I still can’t get into hot tubs with a bunch of people, unless alcohol and/or a beach resort is involved) and I was way too insecure to get in the steam room. Some of the women went in naked! But that was part of the 1980s fitness culture, too, of course. Work it, tan it, steam it, flaunt it.

I mixed up the smoothies and Milk and Egg protein shakes, pushed Tiger’s Milk bars and vitamins, and sold papaya juice by the glass. It was a great job. The big television kept blaring 80s videos on VH-1 in my purple juice bar cave while I served up the good stuff.

My skin was elated when I stopped working at The Prime, although I do still miss it sometimes. The pounding music, the laughter, the sweat, the Lycra. I saw Joanna a year or two ago, by the way, and she was still fit and slim and energetic.

And still wearing head-to-to purple.


Author: Julie Anderson

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