When I got to chat with exercise icon Denise Austin last year, it was a bit of a thrill. Okay, a lot of a thrill. She was just as friendly, energetic and bubbly as you’d expect. I felt like we were old pals because I’d grown up aerobicizing to Denise, doing videos and exercising to her shows on ESPN. Unfortunately, this time around we couldn’t get schedules and technology lined up, so we had to get her responses via email. But don’t worry: Her personality and enthusiasm still shine through! Read on to get the scoop on Denise’s latest projects and passions, and her advice to women like me on how to stay in shape during pregnancy.
FBG: How did you get your start, and what motivates you to keep going?
DA: I was a gymnast since I was a little girl, and I received a full athletic scholarship to the University of Arizona. After getting my degree from college, I was the co-host of the popular Jack LaLanne fitness TV show in the early 1980s. I am still in touch with Jack and his wife, Elaine, today. I have always been involved in sports. My sisters and I have always been active. We’ve all always done outdoor and indoor sports. My husband, Jeff, comes from an athletic background, too, so it’s been a way of life for us and one that was easy for us to pass along to our daughters. We’ve always stressed the importance of movement and activity with our two girls. We all play tennis, walk, run, dance, play team sports and just move all the time, as a family. The main thing that keeps me motivated to exercise is that when I exercise, I feel good and I feel energized, and I love how that feels. That energized feeling keeps my mind and body healthy and strong. I also want to look good in my clothes. I constantly change up my exercise routines, which helps keep me motivated because the workouts stay fun, fresh and exciting.
FBG: How have you modified your exercise habits as you’ve gotten older? What should women over 40 know about fitness?
DA: I do a lot more yoga and toning now. Everyday, I try to do some form of yoga and boot c amp; yoga to keep me flexible and boot camp to burn fat. Over 40, I find that target-toning specific muscles works best, using light weights to tone the muscles. Moving the body for at least 30 minutes a day is a must. Adding yoga to my workout routines is easy on the joints and makes me feel good. A good daily exercise routine should include: toning, so nothing will droop or sag; cardio to burn fat all over the entire body; and stretching to stay flexible. My 3-Week Boot Camp workout is m go-to workout. I use it to lose weight, tone up and burn fat. The DVD incorporates a kettlebell inspired portion where I use dumbbells if kettlebells aren’t available. I just use the same motion, but I hold them differently. If I have time, I do the entire boot camp workout. If not, I can do 15 or 30 minutes.
FBG: If you only had 15 minutes a day to exercise, what would you do to get the most benefit?
DA: My Body Makeover MixDVD is divided into 15-minute segments. Each segment works the upper, middle and lower parts of the body. The workout is a fusion of ballet-inspired moves, Pilates and the best of the best, fresh new moves to shape legs, lift the butt, work the core/abs, and shape and tone the arms. So, if you only have 15 minutes a day, you can work and tone a different body part.
FBG: I keep hearing about trying to get healthier choices in schools. Are you involved in those causes?
DA: Yes, definitely. I have always been a champion of a heart-healthy diet and an advocate of physical education and nutrition in schools. I’ve been a member of the President’s Council for Physical Fitness and Sports since 2002. I’ve testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and helped launch the new food guidance system of the U.S. Department of Agriculture . I’m very involved with the American Heart Association and am very concerned about childhood obesity. My message has always been to serve good, simple and nutritious meals, and to make physical movement fun, rain or shine.
FBG: I’ve heard that working out more than an hour a day is a waste of time. Do you agree?
DA: Exercise is never a waste of time. I am a true believer that exercise makes you stronger and healthier. Thirty to 60 minutes a day should be sufficient to maintain a healthy fitness level, but more is great.
FBG: What projects are you currently involved in?
DA: I am so excited to tell you that I am pleased to be a part of the first annual World Fitness Day in Atlanta on May 1, 2010. Over 3,000 people will come together in the Georgia Dome for a day of fitness education, fun and workouts. I will be joining Jane Fonda and others, leading a workout to live music from The Pointer Sisters. I am currently the spokesperson for Idaho potatoes and Skechers Shape Ups .
DA: Yes, I am very excited about a new fitness TV show I have in the works.
FBG: Do you have any plans for a Wii workout?
DA: Funny you should ask. Yes, we are talking about it now.
FBG: What is your biggest fitness challenge, and how do you overcome it?
DA: I travel a lot on business, so my biggest challenge is working out while on the go. Traveling changes the workout schedule, so I make sure that the places I stay are fitness friendly so that I can get in a workout.
FBG: What is the biggest exercise change you’ve seen from the 80s to today?
DA: There are more gyms and clubs around today than in the 80s. There’s more treadmills and elliptical equipment, so there seems to be more awareness and more people with the opportunity to work out. With the wide use of the internet, I am able to interact with people more, so I can connect and with people on my website at www.deniseaustin.com . The internet allows me to advise people, comment on their needs, answer their questions and hear their successes. It’s great!
FBG: Biggest diet change?
DA: More people seem to realize the importance of eating healthy andreading labels, and they seem to have a greater awareness of what to put into the body, like more fish, flax seed and vitamin D.
FBG: What’s the best excuse-busting exercise to do when you have just a few minutes here and there? Squats? Planks? Turkish get-ups?
DA: I love to do walking lunges either indoors or out. I do squats when I’m talking on the phone, and I do tricep dips on the couch when I watch TV.
FBG: What is the best advice you can give for staying in shape during pregnancy and getting back into shape post-pregnancy?
DA: During pregnancy, listen to your body. Stay active daily. It is important to stay in shape during pregnancy. Even if you don’t feel like working out, do something—a light walk, anything to help the body circulation. After pregnancy, start back to a fitness routine gradually. It is important to focus on and re-train and tighten the tummy muscles.
Thanks to Denise for sharing her philosophies with us yet again! And thanks to our dear readers for submitting questions for her. Stay tuned for reviews of her latest and greatest workout DVDs and a special Denise recipe on Friday! —Erin