Margaret Richard Was All About Health and Fitness Before The Fad

For More Than Three Decades, Margaret Richard Has Led Her Generation to Health and Fitness



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Margaret Richard

Matt Burke

 

Cast your mind back, if you will, to exercise in the early 1980s. That time after Jack LaLanne’s black-and-white television calisthenics, but well before high-intensity workouts such as P90X and CrossFit.

You know, when Jane Fonda looked slamming hot in her “Workout” book and video — even though she was pushing 50. When Olivia Newton-John rocked a headband and importuned us with “Let’s Get Physical.” When, à la “Flashdance,” we revved up to “Maniac,” were schooled by Jennifer Beals on the art of taking off a bra without removing a one-shouldered, oversized sweatshirt and wondered: “Is there really such a thing as a club where drunk guys pay good money to watch a woman dance without taking her clothes off?”

What many of us might not know is that Tallahassee made its own contribution to the shiny-spandex-and-leg-warmers era of fitness, courtesy of an energetic and forward-thinking Miami transplant named Margaret Richard and the brand she created — Body Electric.

Margaret Richard, Berneice Cox and Jane Marks in an episode of Body Electric

Courtesy of Majortenn/Youtube

It was the name of her locally popular exercise studio in the Miracle Plaza shopping center (where Whole Foods now stands), which became a cable-television exercise show, which then exploded into a nationally syndicated Public Broadcasting System show once seen on 130-plus stations — nearly half the nation’s PBS network.

Although she hasn’t taped new programming in five years, reruns of the 500-odd workouts she’s done throughout the past 30 years are still being shown on television stations in 25 states and the District of Columbia. And Richard is at the helm of her own Web-based fitness mini-empire, still promoting and selling DVDs of series past, as well as continuing to teach and take fitness classes in her new hometown of Boston.

A very vibrant 68 years old, Richard isn’t ready to unlace her sneakers quite yet. In fact, she’s seeking to create a new series of shows aimed at a huge group she declares is hugely underserved by the fitness industry — the baby boom generation.

Boomers are now hitting retirement age, but that’s a life stage that can cover 30 years or more and a large range of physical ability. Traditional exercise classes can put stress on an older person’s worn-out joints, she said, but alternatives such as seated exercise and mall walking often aren’t enough of a challenge.

“There’s a group of women like myself; we’re youthful, we’re strong, we’re energetic and we’re not senior citizens, per se,” she asserted. “Your skin may sag, but your muscles will always respond to the challenge, always. If you are working out in your mid-years, it has an effect on your later years. They’ve proven that.

“It’s so critical that people maintain their strength as they get older, and … I would like to set myself up as a proponent, as a voice for baby boomers in fitness,” she said. “I have the background for it, I have the passion for it and no one else is doing it.”

But let’s start her story … at the start.

Story continues on next page...
Check out a behind-the-scenes video from the photo shoot:

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