February 16, 1995 in Features

Plain And Simple O.J. Simpson’s Exercise Video Presents A Practical And Realistic Routine By An Eager-To-Please Host

Art Carey Philadelphia Inquirer
 

As the only journalist in America who has not yet weighed in on the Trial of the Century, I’d like to say a few words today about O.J. Simpson.

He has a nice body.

How it works and feels and whether his body is strong and agile enough to have enabled the Citrus Man to hack Nicole and Ron to death I’ll let the jury decide.

But for a guy on the downslope of his 40s, his body sure looks good.

I’ve come to this verdict after careful study of the evidence, namely O.J.’s recently released exercise video, “Minimum Sentence.” … er, I mean “Minimum Maintenance Fitness for Men.”

O.J. still has the physique of an athletic thoroughbred. His shoulders are broad, his chest thick, his waist trim. He still has what my bodybuilding buddy Al Berger calls “the taper.” His legs, though ravaged and scarred by football, are lean and shapely, the kind that women notice and are moved to admire out loud. At age 47, the Juice weighs exactly what he did when he retired from the gridiron - 212 pounds.

He does not bulge with anabolic gingerbread. Instead, he has the elegant body of a man who’s active, who’s proud of his physique and cares how he looks (he did have to pare away 15 pounds at one point) but doesn’t spend hours in the gym in narcissistic pursuit of an overmuscled ideal.

In other words, it’s a body that seems to illustrate the principle he preaches: minimum maintenance.

Let me confess: I was ready to trash this video, to skewer it with clever ridicule and facile wordplay. But truth to tell, it deserves better. It’s well put together, visually interesting, musically pleasant and contains plenty of sensible exercises and sound advice. Moreover, its basic premise appeals to me mightily: namely, that your body doesn’t ask for much. Or, to put it another way, it really doesn’t take much to keep your body fit, happy and beautiful.

No fancy equipment. In fact, no equipment at all.

No big blocks of time. In fact, only 25 minutes or so three times a week. And if you can’t spare that, short five-minute exercise breaks at the office or while cruising at 10,000 feet or staying at the Ritz (or Motel 6).

As O.J. says, all minimum maintenance requires is “just you, your body and a little motivation.”

This is not a macho tape. This is not O.J. flexing and showing off. It’s all very light and low-key, bordering at times on wussy. The first 25 minutes is a cardiovascular workout that’s a bit too close to aerobics for my taste. Luckily, O.J. and personal trainer Richard Walsh avoid effeminate dance steps and pattern many of the moves after masculine sports such as boxing, weightlifting, football, basketball, ice hockey and skiing.

Even though the tape bills itself as “fitness for men,” two women join in and by and large outperform the studs. Indeed, any woman who’s spent more than a week doing aerobics at the Y will probably find this portion of the tape elementary. While the foxy babes knock out real manly pushups, more than one of the he-men is doing “girl pushups” on his knees.

Speaking of which, O.J. complains about his battered knees frequently and occasionally drops out or gears down whenever the exercises involve jumping, impact or deep bends. On the other hand, when he shadowboxes or exhibits his golf swing, there’s nary a sign that arthritis or old football injuries have significantly compromised his mobility and flexibility. As O.J. admits at one point, “My biggest problem is my lower body, not my upper body.”

(Incidentally, an augmented version of this video will be marketed next month, with a special trial-related addition: a half-hour of outtakes from the original production during which the Juice reportedly bellyaches about all his bodily woes and limitations.)

My favorite part is the special tuneup for the abs and lower back. I followed along on my living-room floor, and even though I pride myself on having a bulletproof gut, I felt the burn several times during this challenging series of abdominal crunches, twists, leg lifts and stretches.

I also liked the plain and simple exercises that O.J. demonstrates for the harried, hard-charging exec - toning, stretching and stress-relieving techniques designed for short body breaks at the office (such as the desk pushup and triceps press), in your hotel room, or on an airplane. (In a comic turn, we see O.J. stuck in the ultimate frequent-flier nightmare: sandwiched between a sprawling fat guy in a Hawaiian shirt and a woman with a squalling infant. His goodnatured solution: pray for “the strongest tailwind in the history of aviation.”)

A nifty touch: Some of these quickie exercises are shown in a handy fold-up brochure that comes with the tape and can be slipped into a jacket pocket, wallet or briefcase.

Interspersed we see O.J. in his trophy room delivering crisp, affable lectures about nutrition or strolling the grounds of his estate extolling the benefits of walking (“I used to walk on the wild side,” O.J. confesses. “Now I just walk.”) and the relevance of the depicted exercises to sports such as golf (his passion), tennis and basketball.

This video was made before Nicole Simpson’s murder, of course, and to watch it knowing what we do now is both eerie and saddening.

At one point, while exhorting us to decompress by taking meditation breaks or “one-minute vacations,” O.J. closes his eyes and says: “When I’m a little angry or have a little too much stress, I have a little trick. I sit down, take some deep breaths and I think of Mount St. Helens, you know. I think of the explosion and all of that energy going up, and I see it exploding and shooting all of the dust and the stuff into the air, and I just get all of that energy exploding out of me.

“Then I see that dust begin to settle. I see it sitting there. Then I visualize some cool breezes coming and blowing the dust away. Then I see the grass, just a blade of grass in the beginning, beginning to grow. Then I see a whole hillside of green, coming back in. I know it sounds silly. It sounds a little stupid. But it works for me.”

Yes, it’s sad. Because what you remember most about this video is not so much the exercises or nutrition advice but the ebullient, eager-toplease personality of the host, who smiles and laughs easily, pokes fun at himself and even breaks into song a few times. Maybe it’s all just an act for the camera. Maybe in real life, O.J. is a coke snorter who doesn’t give a fig about his body and looks good mainly because he’s got lucky genes. Maybe, off stage, out of the public eye, behind closed doors, he’s really sullen, angry, haughty and mean.

At the end of the video, O.J. signs off with this assurance: “When you’re healthy and fit, you’ll achieve more at work, hold up better on the road, enjoy yourself more at play and be a better husband, father and lover.”

The words linger in the mind, taking on an ironic meaning. And you wonder: Will this man’s next workout video be titled “Maximum Sentence Fitness for Men: Easy Exercises for Those Doing Hard Time”?


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