30 Years: Beauty/Fitness

A Look Back at the Things We’ve Done to Stay Feeling Good and Looking GreatOur Bodies, Our LivesA Look Back at the Things We’ve Done to Stay Feeling Good and Looking Great

By Tabitha Yang

Women in Tallahassee are looking pretty good these days compared to the rest of the nation, according to the city’s first lady, Jane Marks.

“Whenever I go to cities across the country, I’m amazed by how physically fit we are in Tallahassee,” said Marks, an avid dancer who appeared for many years on the exercise show “Body Electric.” “I don’t know what the statistics are, but I’m just saying what I noticed. I went to Charlotte (N.C.) last year, and I thought, ‘our women look great!’”

While always interested in looking good, men and women in Tallahassee, along with the rest of the country, are now investing more heavily in gym memberships than they were 30 years ago, when gym usage wasn’t nearly as prevalent.

Health and beauty habits in general, from eating to exercising to getting hair permed, colored, poofed or frizzled, have changed steadily over the years. Tallahasseeans are more educated about nutrition, but they’re eating out more. They’re taking advantage of diverse exercise options such as yoga and Zumba. And they’re doing a lot of coloring their gray hair, because nobody wants to look old, say people who work in the health and beauty professions.

Getting Physical
Pouffy permed hair, metallic leotards, leopard prints, leg warmers … this was exercise in the 1980s. For some women, at least.

Others preferred to forgo the dance aerobics craze and opt for the more traditional options of a competitive tennis match or long walk.

But the early ’80s was the time period when many began spending mornings exercising alongside a toned Margaret Richard, whose popular show “Body Electric” aired for more than two decades on PBS.

“Body Electric” was born after Richard went down to Miami and took a few dance classes that had a heavy exercise focus. She came back pumped up and eager to implement the same sort of classes in Tallahassee.

She got a group of about 40 of her friends together and they started doing choreographed workouts at a dance studio on Timberlane Road.

“It became very popular,” Richard said. “I taught there for maybe a year, and then Barry (Richard, Margaret’s ex-husband) said to me, ‘You ought to open up your own place.’ So I opened up this studio next to the Miracle Theater.”

Some TV producers from a local cable station happened to be passing by on their way to the theater one day, and they stopped in and asked Richard if she’d like to be on television.

“For me, it was very exciting,” Richard said. “ I went over there thinking maybe we’d get picked up by (a station) in Jacksonville, but all of a sudden, we were all over the country.”

Richard later moved to upstate New York to be with her new husband, attorney Jim Fox. She still teaches exercise classes at her local YMCA, and “Body Electric” continues to be popular among the crowd who first began exercising with it more than 20 years ago.

Over the years, the gyms have multiplied across Tallahassee, and they now offer all sorts of classes that Richard never dreamed of when she started her show. The Apalachee Parkway branch of the YMCA, which started in the 1950s, was one of the first fitness facilities opened in the area. For nearly 40 years, it operated out of a small house that a local doctor donated.

“We were doing health and fitness when it wasn’t even cool,” said Peggy Conklin, CEO of the local YMCA.

Then in 1991, the Y’s current facility was built, and it now offers Pilates, Zumba and a number of other classes, as well as child care services, and camp activities at Camp Indian Springs.

Exercisers have gone from focusing solely on toning and strengthening their bodies to thinking about the mind, spirit and body connection, said Mary Barley, director of corporate wellness for Gold’s Gym and Women’s World. As a result, people have started practicing yoga, tai chi and other forms of exercise that are supposed to calm your mind as they strengthen your body.

Gyms today have come full circle, said Jim Burtoft, the owner and operator of the Gold’s Gyms in town, who has worked in the fitness industry for about 27 years. The gyms started out as simple places with workout equipment and not much by way of exercise classes. Then, for a while in the 1980s and ’90s, aerobics classes became hugely popular. But today, things have changed.

“If you look at the numbers of people participating in classes, those numbers are greatly declining,” Burtoft said. He attributes the drop to people’s busy schedules and being unable to commit to attending a class at a regularly scheduled time.

Instead, what people are looking for now is a clean, affordable gym with a good selection of equipment, he said. They also tend to prefer memberships that are month to month, as opposed to multiple-year contracts.

Eating The Right Stuff
Thirty years ago, people knew that they should eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

But over the years, continued research has shown the value of different vitamins, minerals and oils found in various foods, sometimes sparking mini-food crazes in which people try to eat one food because of the healthful properties it’s supposed to have, said local nutrition expert Leah Gilbert-Henderson.

“Every time they come out with a new study that shows a chemical in a food that’s really helpful, people start going after that food,” she noted.

People also have started gravitating more toward organic foods, convinced that they’re healthier for the body and better for the Earth than conventional alternatives.

“Even just 15 years ago, the number of organic foods was much less,” said Cristin Burns, project and marketing manager at New Leaf Market. “We’ve seen the quality and quantity of organic foods just explode.”

Burns said New Leaf has gone from having about $1,000 worth of inventory when it first opened in the mid-1970s to now being a $10 million business. She said her clientele has gone from mostly hippie or alternative types to a diverse range of people, including families with children, professionals and senior citizens.

Freddy Kaye, a nutritionist who has been practicing in Tallahassee since 1981, said he thinks people are more aware of nutrition and realize it’s important, but they’re not well educated about the specifics.

“They’re more aware of low-fat, high-fiber. But that’s where it ends,” he said. “They’re not educated in what’s high-fiber. They’re not educated in what’s a healthy fat. And they don’t understand that carbohydrates in the right proportion are never fattening.”

Kaye has noticed that too many people want a quick, easy fix for weight loss.

“They’re only motivated by the quick,” he said. “And that sets up a vicious cycle of, you lose, you gain, you lose, you gain. And the worst part is, you lose the hope for something permanent to really occur.”

Permanent change only happens with lifestyle change, he says. Kaye outlined his take on how to lose weight for good in a recently published book called “The Path: Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss.”

Looking Good
Chelsea Salon and Spa owner Mary Fannin laughs when she thinks about the way her salon used to be decorated.

“At our first salon, we had this recycled tire that had been transformed into a bird that was transformed into a hanging basket for a plant,” she says with a smile. “Back in the ’70s, everything was a hanging basket for a plant.”

Her business has gone from a funky turquoise and pink-appointed salon to an upscale establishment and spa decorated in sophisticated taupe tones, with a lovely chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

The hairstyles and spa treatments have similarly become more upscale. Gone are the days of pouffy perms and frosting caps. Today it’s foiling and hair straighteners.

“Thirty years ago, we were just starting precision haircuts,” Fannin said. “So we were transitioning from hot rollers to blow dryers and curling irons.”

Things have changed in terms of spa treatments, too. At first, Chelsea’s offered manicures. Later, it expanded into pedicures, and then to massages and facials. Today, you can indulge in a full day of spa treatments, and enjoy Chelsea’s ultimate massage, radiant facial, Caribbean therapy manicure and pedicure, and a shampoo and style.

Christy Seaton, who owns Christy’s Hair Design, said that through the decades, styles have gone from big perms in the 1980s to straighter styles in the ’90s, and on to styles that involve lots of coloring today.
“At least 80 percent of my clients do color,” she said. “Hair color has improved so much. We are just always amazed as to how natural it can look.”

Seaton started out in a salon in the Village Commons shopping center on Thomasville Road, but four years ago she moved to a location off Capital Medical Boulevard. Now she has private hair cutting and manicure rooms, a change she said her staff and clients have appreciated.

Sherin Rahimi is another Tallahassee woman who has been in the salon and spa business for more than 20 years. She owns the Styles of Excellence Salon and Spa on Mahan Drive. When she first came to Tallahassee, she worked as a stylist at JCPenney.

What styles were people asking for back then?

“Lots of perms,” Rahimi said. “Dorothy Hamill-type haircuts, different types of shag cuts, long layers, the Farrah Fawcett haircut.”

Today, her salon offers both trendy and classic haircuts, as well as spa treatments such as manicures, pedicures, massages, facials and waxing. Styles of Excellence also is one of the few salons and spas in town to offer threading, a technique that uses knotted threads to remove facial hair. Threading your eyebrows or upper lip hair can be slightly more time-consuming than waxing, but it allows for greater precision of hair removal, said Mona Bhatty, who does the threading at Rahimi’s spa. The results generally last between two and three weeks, and if you do it regularly, the hair will grow back thinner than before.

Rubbing You the Right Way
Cutting, coloring or waxing hair may improve its appearance, but what people are turning to these days to improve their health and lower their stress levels is therapeutic massage.

Massage has seen a huge increase in popularity over the past several decades, said George Peter Kousaleos, founder of the CORE Institute, a nationally acclaimed massage training school.

“When I came to Tallahassee in the fall of ’78, there were only three massage therapists,” he said. “Two of them told me the town wasn’t big enough for a fourth massage therapist. We’ve certainly seen that expand.”

When Kousaleos started his practice, national surveys he looked at indicated that only 2 percent to 3 percent of the population had had a professional massage in the past year. Today, that number has jumped to 45 percent.

A large part of that is due to increased awareness about the health benefits of massage, Kousaleos said. Magazines and newspapers have written about the advantages of regular massages, and research done by a number of nationally recognized experts has shown that massage is effective in treating various physical ailments, as well as improving one’s overall mood.

Massage has taken off among the athletic community as well. Kousaleos and massage therapists from the CORE Institute worked with British athletes who came to Tallahassee to train for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. That was the first Olympics in which massage therapists were part of the American athletes’ medical team.

Kousaleos also organized the international sports massage team for the Athens Olympics, recruiting 180 massage therapists from 18 countries to work with the athletes at the games.

Theresa Teeter, a massage therapist who graduated from the CORE Institute, said she sees a lot of people who have office jobs coming in to schedule appointments.

“People are not designed to sit in front of a computer eight hours a day,” she said.

Dr. Steven Willis, a local chiropractor, also sees people with various aches and pains caused by repetitive actions, either at work or from weekend hobbies such as golf. Like massage therapists, chiropractors’ work has not always been respected.

In the 1970s and early ’80s, the American Medical Association did not allow chiropractors to refer patients to physicians, and likewise, physicians could not refer patients to chiropractors. That changed in 1986, after a chiropractic group in Chicago successfully sued the association. Ever since, chiropractors’ work has grown in popularity, Willis said.

“FSU now has a chiropractor that travels full time with the football team,” he said. “Back in the early ’80s, they would not pay for the chiropractic bills.”

Willis said chiropractors are able to solve certain problems that primary care physicians can’t, because they’re actually fixing the underlying problem of a misaligned spine instead of just toning the muscles around the spine and using drugs to deaden the pain.

Acupuncture is another area of health and wellness that has gained in popularity over the past 30 years. While getting stuck with lots of little needles doesn’t sound very appealing, patients swear by its effectiveness.

Sabrina Kimball says acupuncture has really helped her 11-year-old son Greyson, who contracted a form of bacterial meningitis soon after he was born and suffered brain damage. Greyson is unable to walk or talk but has shown marked improvement since he started seeing acupuncture specialist Richard Nixon.

“He’s starting to make more sounds and becoming more expressive,” Kimball said. “He’s started reaching out his arms toward things.”

When Greyson first started therapy, he was pale, had a rapid pulse and was tiny for his age – about the size of a 5-year-old, his mother says.

But after starting therapy, he has a healthy glow, his pulse is normal and he’s starting to put on weight.

“He would smile occasionally, but now he smiles a lot,” Kimball said. “His cognition has increased greatly.”

Nixon has used a combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and laser therapy on Greyson. With the laser therapy, he uses low-level lasers to stimulate the cells, a technique Nixon said has been shown in various research studies to rejuvenate the body’s cells.

Introduced in the United States in the 1970s, acupuncture has made huge strides forward in becoming an accepted method of treatment, local acupuncture specialist Min Tian said.

“When I first came (in 2000), none of the insurance covered acupuncture,” she said. “But now insurance covers it. I see a lot of growth in the field, and more and more people are aware of it.”

Whether it’s the realm of exercise, diet, hair care or alternative treatments, Tallahasseeans have come a pretty long way in 30 years. People’s perceptions of gyms, styles, diet fads and massages have changed, and the treatments and options available have transitioned to fit them.

“I think people are thinking more about health and not just about looking better,” said local nutritionist Leah Gilbert-Henderson. “I think things are changing. I would expect that (in the coming years) they would change a lot more.”

From the Pages of Tallahassee Magazine

Whipping Our Bodies into Shape, The Old-Fashioned Way

Early in its publishing history, Tallahassee Magazine was writing about exercise. Zumba and Pilates weren’t around to keep us entertained while exercising, and some people were getting bored with their routine.

But there was always the option of getting involved in a city sports league, as described in this story that appeared in the Winter 1983 issue of the magazine:

“The 1980’s have been called ‘The Decade of Fitness,’ and evidence is all around Tallahassee. Seems like everywhere you go in town, people can be seen jogging, bicycling, speed-walking, slow walking, dog walking – anything to speed up sluggish circulation and tighten flabby thighs.

“The number one complaint of all these ‘do it yourself’ exercise programs, however, is BOREDOM. After all, running (or walking) is just not exciting. Tallahassee has great scenery, but once you’ve become accustomed to those breathtaking canopied streets, they tend to fade into the background. So people are resorting to jogging with portable headphones, music backpacks and the like. Or just plain quitting.

“Have we got the answer for you! It’s called the Tallahassee Parks and Recreation Program, and it is, in a word, incredible.

“Supported by city tax dollars, the Tallahassee Parks and Recreation Department has an extensive program that covers everything from arts and crafts classes to Little League baseball. The main goal of the Department is to generate and oversee a thriving interest in recreational and fitness activities in Tallahassee.”

Trisha Radulovich wrote in the July/August 1990 issue about that ever-popular Florida sport, tennis:

“In addition to being able to enjoy the sport on a year round basis in Florida, there are many reasons tennis is so popular in Tallahassee; one of the best has to be the fact that tennis is a lot of fun. Almost everyone can play tennis, the rules are simple and you can enjoy the sport on your own level.”

For those who weren’t team sports-inclined, there was always the YMCA, as described in an article by Jim Crosby in the Spring 1988 issue:

“Even though the YMCA is a pioneer in the field of fitness, that fact sometimes gets lost in the glut of spas, body building emporiums, tae kwon do centers and other specialty houses in the marketplace. But when it comes to fitness, nobody does it like the Y … .

“The choose-your-own program approach has worked for the Y. Its varied programs include: a nautilus center with a full range of nautilus machines including computerized exercise bicycles; aerobic exercise classes, offering calisthenic and aerobic conditioning at all levels; slimnastics, for flexibility, toning and stretching exercises; and senior fitness, which incorporates water exercises along with other flexibility exercises.”

Thirty years later, the Y is still around and offering classes. These days, people are still working out at the Y, participating in city sports leagues and playing tennis. But they’re also taking advantage of the many other exercise options available today.

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