Jane Fonda: Ready for Act 3
By L.E. Gomez


Jane Seymour Fonda was running on four-inch platform sandals while filming a scene from The China Syndrome when she stumbled and broke her foot. An Academy Award winner and veteran actress with many films on her résumé, the 40-year-old was immobile for five weeks with a plaster cast on her foot and less than two months to go until her next film project. Fonda panicked.

Years later, she wrote about the experience in her book, The Jane Fonda Workout (Simon & Schuster), which was published in November 1981, and struck a chord with a generation still new to the concept of fitness—and even less familiar with the concept of aerobics. A ballet dancer since childhood, Fonda became the spokesmodel of fitness, sporting the skin-tight leggings and leg warmers that characterized the epoch.

That image of Fonda remains, even 15 years after the release of her last fitness video in 1995, and more than 30 years since the broken foot accident. And as the 73-year-old enters the fitness stage once again with her latest workout DVDs, Fonda is geared up for what she considers a great third act.

Fonda has never called herself a professional trainer. Rather, she is a steward of a brand that speaks to baby boomers about the importance of staying active. Jane Fonda’s Prime Time DVDs, Walk Out and Fit & Strong (released Nov. 30, 2010) are the product of her latest book, Prime Time: Creating a Great Third Act (Random House, September, 2011) which she credits for re-energizing her comeback. “The young body is forgiving,” she said during a recent interview. “Fitness is obligatory when you’re older.”

Fonda’s recent work reflects a consensus within the industry: As people age, exercise and wellness are the panacea of illness and decay. No other generation has embraced this in so many numbers as baby boomers. And the icon still remains in touch with this concept, and is poised to reach out.

The commercial success of Fonda’s first workout book arrived as she entered her 40s, giving her headway into a second career. The book was later turned into a VHS home video, which sold 17 million copies and sparked interest in a new industry mostly affiliated with body builders and athletes. The fitness industry was kicking into high gear.

Fonda produced more than 20 videos between 1982 and 1995. Through the years, fitness evolved and science brought it closer to its older and more mature sibling, the health industry. Fitness, like healthcare, is a maturing movement and it will continue forever, according to Fonda.

During her hiatus from fitness videos, exercise went from focusing on aerobics to interval training, from focusing on larger muscles to focusing on the core and connective muscle tissue, she said. “The fitness movement will improve as science improves,” she added.

If this is truly Fonda’s third act, she doesn’t plan on shutting down her workout legacy. This most recent foray into the new world of fitness—one saturated by a wide range of workout programs, thousands of health clubs, millions of exercise videos on DVD and the Internet—is an opportunity for her to pass the torch to a set of up-and-coming fitness icons.

Team Fonda, as she calls them, is made up of Pilates trainer, Tara Stiles, Hollywood Trainer, Jeanette Jenkins, and Tone It Up trainers, Katrina Hodgson and Karena Dawn. The partnership is intended for each to use Jane Fonda’s Workout brand to produce their own workout DVDs appealing to a younger consumer generation. “I want to give a platform to a new generation of fitness leaders,” Fonda said. “It’s a way for them to have the profile and the kind of legitimacy of the workout brand.”

Whether Fonda still has the spark to energize the fitness industry is yet to be seen. As she wraps up her media circuit to promote her latest DVDs, she keeps up with her blog ( and fans on her latest projects, which include a Broadway show and a film in production. At that rate, Fonda says she must squeeze in time for her daily workout.

A survivor of many ups and downs, Fonda says that on a personal level she is very healthy. The last three-and-a-half years speaking about aging and doing research for her book have given her insight as to how critical fitness has become in her life. She says she’ll continue to make strides into reaching out and drumming the beat. This movie star is far from fading.AF 

Bio: L.E. Gomez is an assistant editor for American Fitness. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communication.