In 1978, Jane Fonda broke an ankle bone while filming The China Syndrome, forcing a stop to her ballet exercises. She sought a new exercise regimen that would help her lose weight and stay trim, without stressing her foot. She was referred to Leni Cazden, an exercise instructor and smoker in Century City who formulated a lengthy exercise sequence to burn calories. Fonda took classes from Cazden, and adopted her style of exercise. Fonda later recalled that women in 1978 had few choices for exercise classes, that most gyms were designed for men. She said, “We weren’t supposed to sweat or have muscles. Now, along with forty other women, I found myself moving nonstop for an hour and a half in entirely new ways.”
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On location in Utah shooting The Electric Horseman in late 1978 and early 1979, Fonda taught her actor colleagues the exercises she had learned from Cazden, and was encouraged by the warm reception. In May 1979, she partnered with Cazden to open an exercise studio called Workout, the sign over the door stating “Jane Fonda’s Workout”, located on Robertson Boulevard in Beverly Hills. One week of instruction (five one-hour sessions) cost $32.50. Two to three thousand customers attended per week, likely because Fonda taught some of the morning classes. The new business was profitable. With the concept proved, she added a second studio in Encino and a third in San Francisco. She wrote Jane Fonda’s Workout Book to bring the technique to a wider audience. The book sold 2 million copies.
In parallel with the exercise book, Fonda released the vinyl LP Jane Fonda’s Workout Record through Columbia Records in May 1982, which sold steadily at $12.98. It was certified double Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in December 1984. On the album, Fonda speaks as exercise instructor, backed by music. The double album contained songs by the Jacksons, the Brothers Johnson, Boz Scaggs, REO Speedwagon, Sylvester, Quincy Jones and others. A cassette tape version was also sold. While preparing the book and audio recording, Fonda was already considering a video.