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Richard Simmons workout touching, touchy-feely

Stephen Bond/ Lantern photographer

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“I put some real hot music together for you because I want you to sweat until your underwear is wet,” Richard Simmons said, just as his workout session, “Sweatin’ to the Oldies,” was beginning.

About 850 students and faculty members gathered in the Tom W. Davis Special Events Gym at the RPAC Wednesday to participate in an aerobics class with one of the nation’s biggest names in fitness. The event was organized by the Ohio Union Activities Board, the Department of Recreational Sports and The Exercise Science Club.

There were large light fixtures on either side of the bleachers in the back of the gym, each with four large spot lights pointed at the stage. There was a railing in front of the stage, and the backdrop was a large black curtain that extended from end to end.

Sporting a completely fringed shirt with teal, orange, pink and purple stripes, Simmons loosely resembled a more colorful version of the flappers of the 1920s. His shirt, though it was not exceptionally long, extended lower than his extremely short dolphin shorts.

He also wore flesh colored tights with white shoes and socks.

The workout portion of the event lasted about 45 minutes, and was followed by an invitation for everyone to sit on the floor and listen as Simmons shared his life story.

He spoke about the weight problems he had as a child. He talked about how difficult it was to go to school, being constantly teased about his weight.

Simmons became emotional, crying as he shared his experiences.

He spoke of his struggles with bulimia and anorexia, and when he lost 119 pounds in only 2 1/2 months, he was hospitalized and near death. This lead to his decision to change his life and become the fitness icon he is today. Soon after leaving the hospital, he opened up his own fitness studio, “Slimmons” in Beverly Hills.

Simmons urged everybody to refrain from judging others based on their appearance and to follow the “golden rule” of being kind to one another.

“A lot of people judge people by the pound,” Simmons said. “But there’s no scale in heaven.”

Though the workout portion of the event was called “Sweatin’ to the Oldies,” every song played was a current hit.

During “Without You” by David Guetta, Simmons called two guys up onstage. He then grabbed their shirts, pulled them off over their heads and threw them into the crowd before busting out more aerobic-dance moves for everybody to follow along.

Simmons continued to call participants up on stage throughout the workout. It became standard for any male that came up to take off his shirt. Simmons also kissed a woman on the cheek and danced with another while rotating his pelvis. He also rubbed his hand down one man’s bare chest and then rubbed the hand on his own face.

“He was pretty touchy,” said Brandon Hoffman, a first-year in marketing and public affairs. “I didn’t expect that. I think it’s funny.”

Immediately after running out from behind the curtain at the beginning of the event, Simmons invited about 30 people to come onstage to workout beside him.

He then instructed everybody there to hug the person to their left, the person to their right, and the person behind them before the workout began.

Before starting, Simmons told the crowd what the workout would consist of. It was to include stretching, a warm-up, a cardiovascular routine, upper-body toning and a cool down.

There were huge screens at either end of the stage. A camera followed Simmons as he danced around during the workout, and the video was projected on the screens so that it was easier to for the crowd to follow along.

By the end of the workout there was close to 100 people on the stage.

Victoria Holthaus, a third-year in nutrition, was one of people whom Simmons called onto the stage.

“It was the greatest,” Holthaus said. “My mom used to workout with him on workout videos. So the fact that I was able to workout with him in person was really cool.”

The speed of the workout slowed down during “Party Rock Anthem,” by LMFAO. Rather than dancing wildly, Simmons led everybody through a slower-paced strength workout routine that targeted the upper body.

“It Will Rain” by Bruno Mars played during the cool down. The movements during this song were slow-paced stretches and swaying.

Those in attendance looked as though they had travelled through a time warp to the ‘80s, with most students dressed in brightly colored tights, spandex shirts, headbands and wristbands.

Aaron Blubaugh, a first-year graduate student in occupational therapy, was pleased with the crowd’s attire.

“I think the coolest thing was how many students dressed retro,” Blubaugh said. “It was really nice that they all got into it.”

Simmons ended the event with a prayer.

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