On the eve of Auckland's annual Round the Bays run, NZ On Screen's Nicky Harrop revisits some fitness trends gone by.

Over the years Kiwis have attempted to sweat their way to health in an exhausting variety of ways. While the concept of 'fitspo' (or fitness inspiration) has largely been credited as an online phenomenon, a look back reveals that we've long turned to the screen for motivation and the latest exercise craze.

Released in 1980, The Greatest Run on Earth documents a late 70s Round the Bays. Opening with a zen-style warm up sequence (veering dangerously close to wardrobe malfunction territory at times), it quickly builds to capture a seething mass of terry towelling, facial hair and short shorts, as 70,000 runners descend on Auckland's waterfront.

Watch The Greatest Run on Earth here:

By the 80s, jogging was booming in New Zealand, with coach Arthur Lydiard and his band of Olympic champs (Peter Snell, John Walker, etc.) inspiring the way. This instructional film for runners - fronted by Olympic silver medallist and world record holder Dick Quax - serves to popularise Lydiard's techniques, setting footage of his protégés in action against an occasional soundtrack of fashionable synthpop. There's also great footage of Snell - then studying as an exercise physiologist, and clad in obligatory white coat - perched in front of a retro computer, as he explains the science of building stamina to complement speed.

Watch The Right Track here:

Not content to just pound the pavement, it seems many Kiwis craved a side order of public humiliation with their exercise through the 70s and 80s. Screening for an impressive 14 years - and reincarnated briefly in 2009 - travelling TV game show Top Town pitted teams representing New Zealand towns against each other in a series of somewhat absurd physical challenges. Subjected to slippery slides, novelty obstacle courses and more, dignity was soon sacrificed in the quest for civic bragging rights.


See the 1986 final of L&P Top Town here:

In the 90s, sport went extreme, and New Zealanders began throwing themselves off bridges, jumping out of planes and traversing rapids in the name of their health. TV quickly jumped on the bandwagon, and a number of adrenaline-fuelled shows sprang up to capture the action. In this episode of Mountain Dew on the Edge Lana Coc-Kroft and her all-female Extreme Team swing, fall and paddle their way through death-defying adventures in a thrill-seeking workout extravaganza.

Watch an episode of Mountain Dew on the Edge here:

The arrival of Shortland Street in 1992 brought with it a scene that still remains burned in the fitspo consciousness of many. In the debut episode - long before the scandal of his own son's penis exposure - Dr Chris Warner was seen getting physical with a lyrca-clad Suzy Aiken, fresh from leading an oh-so-90s cardio funk class. For those wishing to relive the memory, the scandalous scene can be found approx. 4:30 into the following clip.

See an excerpt from the debut episode of Shortland Street here:

And who could forget that most New Zealand of competitive sports - marching. Bringing a dose of military precision, not to mention a penchant for shiny tights, to fitness, the sport remains a Kiwi institution to this day. First screening in 1987, series The Marching Girls centres on a Taita social marching team who decide to have a crack at the North Island champs, following their triumphs, tears and missteps along the way.

Watch an episode of The Marching Girls here: