Lycra, leggings and leotards: morning TV just isn’t the same without the fitness experts coaching couch potatoes
PUBLISHED: 10:07 13 January 2019 | UPDATED: 07:59 14 January 2019
They were the watch and work-out stars of the small screen who urged us to get off the sofa and into a leotard years before the days of Instagram and YouTube workouts and #fitinspiration. Stacia Briggs casts her mind back to the days of Mad Lizzie and The Green Goddess, Mr Motivator and Jane Fonda.
Back in the deep dark 1980s, a revolution began in front rooms across the UK.
Couch potatoes rose up in their thousands, stood purposefully in front of their TV sets and lunged towards the screen, following the fitness instructors on screen as they made their way through workouts designed to cater for the masses.
Thanks to YouTube and Instagram, TV exercise routines have all but disappeared from our screens – other than a little bit of instruction from The Body Coach Joe Wicks – and fitness on the box is now packaged in an entirely different way, by concentrating on what we put into our mouths rather than how we work it off once it’s moved from mouth to hips.
Here, we take a look at four TV fitness instructors from the past, and one very much from the present.
TV fitness instructors
• Jane Fonda: The aerobics queen of the 1980s, the Hollywood A-lister released her first video in 1983 when she encouraged all of us to “feel the burn” as we followed her exercises while wearing leotards, sweat bands and leg warmers. Her work-out video sold an incredible 17 million copies and was joined by a further 22 videos which kick-started the fitness video trend and made us all wish that we could be in her gang of tanned, lean Californian hard-bodies instead of in our front rooms trying not to smash the coffee table as we lunged towards the TV.
• Diana Moran, also known as The Green Goddess: On January 17 1983, the BBC launched Breakfast Time fronted by Frank Bough and Selina Scott and boasting its own fitness instructor, Diana Moran, who sported a skintight green leotard and tights. She hosted short fitness sections in the programme from locations around the country, having been chosen after producers had seen her fitness classes on HTV. With a nickname from the tabloids, Diana led the country in a series of gentle workouts and was recently seen on Loose Women helping the panel learn how to fit exercise into their day. People loved the Green Goddess because she was in her 40s, had children and represented an ordinary woman, albeit one with a cracking figure that mere mortals could only dream of. After losing her slot, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and used her experience to make exercise videos for people with limited movement.
• Mad Lizzie (Lizzie Webb): Lizzie was ITV’s answer to Diana Moran and was talent-spotted at the dance lessons she hosted at a Covent Garden dance centre. After one lesson, a participant came forward, introduced herself as Greg Dyke’s PA and suggested that she was exactly what was needed for TV-am: “I told him you make exercise and dance fun and you’re mad,” she told Lizzie, forever after Mad Lizzie. Ms Webb had her role on TV-am for nearly 10 years and danced with all manner of celebrities, including Take That and John Travolta. Such was her influence that Simon Cowell would send her music by his artists and then watch it climb the charts after it had been used in her workouts. Today, she runs an organisation called Creativity in Sport with Debbie Flood, an Olympic rower.
• Mr Motivator (Derrick Evans to his Mum): Everybody say YEAH! In the early 1990s, we got off our fat asses (© Mr Motivator) and joined GMTV’s fitness guru in a bid to persuade couch potatoes to beat the bulge and embrace exercise. With his own slot on the breakfast show, Derrick had an eye-watering collection of multi-coloured Lycra sportswear which made him look like a lithe technicolour yawn and high-octane shouty inspirational patter which taxed anyone who had enjoyed one too many the night before. That he got his job by waiting outside the GMTV studios, prodding a gentleman “with a big fat belly” in the stomach and then convincing him to train with him (the man was the programme controller of GMTV) is no surprise. Mr Motivator believes that exercise can and should be part of everyone’s day – in Jamaica, he still runs free exercise classes four times a week for local people. Get wicked!
• Joe Wicks: The Poldark of the fitness world, Joe makes being fit sound like it’s going to be fun when he says things like “I call weighing scales ‘the sad step’” and “I probably have a blowout like a burger with truffle fries and mac and cheese followed by a chocolate fondant and a cocktail once a week”…until you look at what you have to do for the other 167.5 hours of the week in order to look like him, or his female equivalent. Wicks’ High Intensity Interval Training workouts are brutal (“I love the pain when it feels like my legs are on fire and even when I feel sick” he says. I think he may soon feature in Luther) but on the plus side, he does look like Aidan Turner’s better-behaved, trainer-wearing brother.