Who remembers Sue Becker and Debbie Drake?
During the pandemic, the extended need to work from home with no real end in sight has left us combatting COVID kilos. With incidental physical activity from going out to work reduced, and gyms and fitness studios closed, we’re left to our own devices. Now many of us choose to go online for our fitness fixes. Online classes might seem to be innovative; in fact, they build on a great tradition that started with radio and TV fitness classes.
Something old, something new
Today, we have access to a whole host of fitness classes online – from yoga to HIIT exercises, weight training, Pilates, Zumba and so on. If you have a personal trainer, you probably have access to online sessions. However, remote exercise instruction is nothing new.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit some fitness gurus of the mid-twentieth century.
Sue Becker: Swing in Time and Boomph with Becker
Lithe and flexible, Sue Becker was a well-known Australian radio and television personality in the 1960s. Becker, already a noted aerobics fitness guru, had a weekly TV exercise show called Swing in Time targeting stay-at-home mums.
When her show ended, Becker continued to work in media as a talkback radio host with ABC Tasmania. When a senior citizen herself, Becker had a show on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the United Kingdom titled Boomph with Becker – an exercise program for the over-60s set. (Of course, the ‘queen of the tummy tighteners, Eileen Fowler, had paved the way much earlier with her enormously popular fitness shows initially on radio then TV.)
Becker was famously quoted for saying ‘Exercise is not only good, it’s fun as long as it’s boomphy!’
Debbie Drake: The Debbie Drake Show and Dancercize
Debbie Drake, born Velda Louise Bellah, was a true exercise trailblazer credited for being the first American female TV fitness guru.
Born in 1931 (although she never revealed her true age), Drake starred in The Debbie Drake Show, which debuted in 1960. The daily exercise show aired during the morning across the U.S. and also made it to Australia. Drake remained active in the fitness circuit well until 1978 with her Debbie Drake’s Dancercize.
Drake also published a fitness book, Debbie Drake’s Easy Way to a Perfect Figure and Glowing Health, and recorded albums like Feel Good! Look Great! and How to Keep Your Husband Happy.
Although Drake emphasised the importance of maintaining a trim figure in keeping one’s husband happy, there’s no doubt she opened doors for future female fitness icons like Jane Fonda, whose workout videos helped to fund her husband Tom Hayden’s political career, and Judi Sheppard Missett, founder of jazzercise.
From the telly to the ‘net
Today, instead of fitness TV shows, we’re getting online classes on Zoom, YouTube or some other platform, and we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to finding the perfect class.
The Inner West Council has a page of suggestions for stay-at-home fitness.
However, if none of those inspire you, here’s a list of online workout classes you can do in the comfort of your home:
- Chandra Yoga: Free or pay as you feel. Eastern-Suburbs based yoga studio
- Happy Melon: Based in Melbourne, they do a 14-day reset online to get you started. Yoga, Pilates, meditation, etc.; prices vary
- Universal Practice at Home: Pilates, yoga, physiotherapy, meditation at $49 per month
- Annie Belcher: Yoga – public (also live streamed) classes and free audio classes
- Emkfit: Free dance workouts on YouTube
You’ll find plenty more available online; YouTube in particular has a wealth of videos, including our favourite 10-minute abs workout.
All you need to do is search and get moving!
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