Donna Richardson-Joyner: Mixing Faith and Fitness

Fitness guru Donna Richardson-Joyner talks to Farai Chideya about her latest DVD Sweating in the Spirit 2. And she clears up rumors about the health of her husband, radio personality Tom Joyner.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

I'm Farai Chideya, and this is NEWS & NOTES.

Donna Richardson-Joyner was the woman behind the scenes of some of America's top-selling home fitness tapes and DVDs. Then the trainer decided to branch out on her own, creating videos with a Gospel twist. Her new DVD is “Sweating in the Spirit II,” and Donna's video makes the case that your body is God's temple.

Ms. DONNA RICHARDSON (Fitness Trainer): How we are obedient about spiritually, we have to be obedient about the physical being. And I've just combined music and movement, and it is like a party with a purpose. And the purpose is to get faithfully fit and fabulous.

(Soundbite of video “Sweating in the Spirit II”)

Ms. RICHARDSON: Come on. All right. Are you ready? You want a little bit more? I can't hear you. We're going to step tap right/left. Here we go - step clap, here we go…

CHIDEYA: When did you start connecting your physical self with your spiritual self?

Ms. RICHARDSON-JOYNER: So about six years ago, my Mom, who is like anybody else, had health problems. And even though I'm a fitness expert, have been for 20 years, my Mom was in denial. So, I couldn't help her unless she was willing to help herself. So she got fit. She got fine. And all her members at church were going, look at Cecille Laverge(ph) she got pep in her step. She's looking good. So she said Donna, I want to start a health and fitness ministry at my church.

CHIDEYA: Wow.

Ms. RICHARDSON-JOYNER: So she started it. I helped her start it. And it's been going extremely well it's serving not only the church, but the community. And it was from there that she says you got to do a video that has inspirational music. We need some gospel Christian music and I was like Ma, okay, I'll get to it later. But I realized that people were in need of taking better care of their body, which is their temple.

CHIDEYA: Now, back up and tell me how you got into the fitness industry. You mentioned 20 years.

Ms. RICHARDSON-JOYNER: Oh, my gosh. It was from a challenge. I was in a dance and theater group. And a friend of mine was teaching and she said oh, Donna, come take class. And I was like aerobics, what is that? And that was when Jane Fonda just came out with the first tape.

And so, I said okay, I'll do it. Okay, an hour goes by and I'm like when is this going to end? It's kicking my butt. And it's two-hour class, high-impact aerobics…

CHIDEYA: Oh, my gosh.

Ms. RICHARDSON-JOYNER: …and back then we didn't have aerobic shoes. I was so glad she said and I'll see you guys next week and I was like - I ran out of there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. RICHARDSON-JOYNER: Uh-uh, no way. And then I guess, eventually, I started teaching and then the world of videos came about because I was the one who was writing speeches or choreographing for the Denise Austins and Richard Simmons and eventually I went, wait a minute, let me step from behind and let me do my own thing.

CHIDEYA: So you're now on the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. What's your mission there?

Ms. RICHARDSON-JOYNER: My platform there is to decrease childhood obesity. We used to have a health concern, now it's a health crisis. Ninety-two percent of grade schools do not have physical activity on a daily basis. So, I am creating a program that I really call it sweating for purpose.

And I go out to the schools and I am this motivational speaker at the junior high school and grade school assemblies and I go in with the DJ It's music. It's movement. And then we talk about, you know, how they deal with stress. We talk about how they have to fuel their body with the right foods and they love it.

So, I am going to be on tour next year and I'm going to create a DVD so that any math or science teacher can pop it in and those kids will be getting up and moving their minds, their bodies and their spirit. So, I'm excited about that. And then, as you know, the health disparity among African-Americans is just alarming. So, I'm going to have to challenge us to do better.

CHIDEYA: Don't you think that a lot of the obesity in the black community is based on, okay, I'm stressed or I don't live in a neighborhood with a rec center? There are so many challenges that black folks face everyday.

Ms. RICHARDSON-JOYNER: Yeah but you know what, it's excuses. I'm going to be honest with you. When you think of the money, the time and energy that we invest on the exterior, we have to invest in the interior. Because being healthy is from the inside out. We spend about $20-$30 on our nails, probably $40, $50 pedicure. Hair costs, at least, what, $50-$100, but yet you say oh, it's costly for me to be active or eat healthy.

Now, I will agree with if you're trying to get a membership or buy a bike or a stationary machine, yeah, but to invest in yourself - if you don't have your health, what do you have? We've got to do better at this because it's up to us to make that choice about embracing this lifestyle.

CHIDEYA: Among the many people that you've helped embrace the lifestyle is your husband, Tom Joyner.

Ms. RICHARDSON-JOYNER: Oh, my goodness. Now, let me just set the record straight. I was never his trainer. I basically took him to the Kenneth Cooper Clinic just to check out his health status, got him a nutritionist, a cook, a trainer and set it up.

Now, I am probably what he would say the cookie police because he just loves to snack and he'll go in and wait for me to leave the room and I find these stashes of food everywhere. But he has lost weight. He is healthier. Blood pressure is in check, cholesterol. He is always going to be a round, big guy. And I love him because he's full of love. But you can't base health on the size or shape of a person.

Because you could look at a skinny person and if their arteries are clogged they're unhealthy. And I'm setting the record that Tom Joyner is healthy. So, don't be saying to me that girl is out every weekend speaking at all of these conferences and then she should be at home working on her husband. He is fine, okay?

CHIDEYA: All right. That's Donna Richardson-Joyner For The Record, thank you so much.

Ms. RICHARDSON-JOYNER: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Donna Richardson-Joyner's latest fitness video is “Sweating In The Spirit 2.” It's available on stores nationwide.

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