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RELUCTANT NOVICE

Driven Back to Exercising at the Gym : Working out in your car on the freeway is not the way to attain a Jane Fonda figure.

August 11, 1995|ABIGAIL GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Since I've been making an honest attempt to exercise more by getting up at the crack of dawn to drag myself to the gym, I was enthusiastic about the proposition that I could work out while commuting to work.

That's what Cyndi Targosz's "Drive to Fitness" cassette tape promised. "Safe!" the promotional materials said. "Fun!" it added.

What a remarkable idea for busy people, I thought. We could expand the notion of exercising during mundane tasks, I fantasized. Why hadn't anyone proposed Aerobic Grocery Shopping? Weight-lifting gas pumps? Funkercise Laundromats? Why, I wondered, hadn't "Drive to Fitness" become bigger than fat-free yogurt?

Because it's downright goofy.

Like many other seems-too-good-to-be-true offers, Cyndi's tape was not all it was pumped up to be. Even if I could manage to drive and exercise without crashing, even if I didn't care that I was driving down the road looking as if I had ants in my pants, I soon discovered that this tape was no substitute for those pre-dawn hours at the gym.

What's more, I am now of the opinion that Cyndi is the most annoying person alive--a combination of a sickeningly cheery aerobics instructor and a 1970s motivational guru.

"The participant, whether the passenger or driver, assumes the risk of determining whether it's safe to do the exercises while driving," the tape's liner notes warn. "Always keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Fasten your seat belt and obey all the traffic laws."

Hey, I don't do all that when I'm listening to National Public Radio.

Side 1 of the tape consists of "Energize" for eight minutes and "Tone-Up" for about seven. It begins with a song that goes, "Hey, hey, hey! Can't you see . . . that I'm feeling real good about me!" I must admit that I almost dropped out right there. It's unclear whether Targosz is the singer, but I was beginning to dislike her just the same.

"Energize"--after advising drivers to use caution, and various other disclaimers--begins with a posture lesson: "That means your tummy is tight, buttocks tucked under, elongate the spine, sit tall and hold your head up high!" (Targosz always seems to end her sentences with an exclamation point).

So I sat up straight. "Yes!" Targosz said. "You are the best!" Lucky me, I thought.

There are a variety of warm-up type exercises--shoulder rotations, torso swings, rear-end lifts and combinations therein--interspersed with motivational thoughts advising me to "blow away any bad thoughts" and such. All of this is punctuated with lots of Targosz saying "MMMMMMM!" and "YES!"

Well, at least my usual bad morning thoughts were being replaced by bad thoughts about fitness driving. I tried to continue to the next segment.

"Tone Up" instructed that the car allowed me to concentrate on muscles I don't normally think about. I wasn't sure what that meant, but the segment turned out to be a series of muscle contractions and releases and still more shoulder rolls.

No big problem, even felt good. But I could do this stuff for years and be no closer to either Jane Fonda or a calm driver.

And there was still no escaping the bothersome New Ageism: I was told to "visualize a trim waistline" while contracting my abs. I refuse to "visualize" anything but pizza.

Perhaps there would be some great reward, I thought, from Side 2's "Stress Reduction and Motivation." Or, I thought, searching for any saving grace, maybe I could learn something from the part titled "Driving Tips."

Suffice it to say there were no rewards and no enlightening tips.

Targosz, who lives and works in Woodland Hills, also produced the "Best Bust" exercise video and the "29 Minute Tummy Toner."

And she looks great in her promotional materials, though my guess is that it took more than a few commutes' worth of fanny-wiggles and torso rotations to get her there.

My advice? Go back to the gym or head outside for a brisk walk and use your commute to listen to some good radio. "Hey, hey, hey! Can't you see . . . I'm feeling real good about me!" I can get my feel-good messages from NPR, thank you.

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