Winnipeg Free Press – In conversation with… Hal Johnson
In conversation with… Hal Johnson
By: Oliver Sachgau
Whether you were a couch potato or a fitness nut in the 1990s, you would be very familiar with Hal Johnson. Together with his wife, Joanne McLeod, the two were the stars of Body Break, 90-second vignettes that would air on Canadian television between shows, aimed at trying to get people moving. Johnson and McLeod have remained active in trying to get Canadians into shape through their website, BodyBreak.com. The two will also participate in the TV show The Amazing Race Canada, the first episode of which airs Monday.
FP: Why did you decide to enter The Amazing Race?
Johnson: We’ve been doing Body Break for 25 years and we thought it was a great way to celebrate. On Dec, 3 we were watching the last episode of the Amazing Race, and they announced there was going to be a Canadian Amazing Race, and we immediately both looked at each other and said “Let’s enter,” because we’re big fans of the show, and we’re big critics of the contestants, and we thought ‘Oh, we could do a lot better than them.’ Little did we know how tough it is even though we’d seen every episode of The Amazing Race.
FP: You’re competing against younger people and age can play a role in these competitions. How will you beat them?
Johnson: Age does play a role, and it’s called experience. I think the way of looking at is: How are they going to counter for the lack of experience? There are times when your physical ability is needed, but there are also many times where it’s how you think, if you stay calm, if you stay focused.
FP: All the new pictures of you are sans-moustache. Is the iconic moustache gone?
Johnson: I got tired of grooming it, actually. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. It was just a moustache. But when I shaved it off, there was a reaction. I may grow it back and have people go to the website to vote whether they like me with moustache or without.
FP: You’ve been advocating for fitness for a long time. Do you think Canadians are fitter now than we were before?
Johnson: No, I actually think that Canada and all of North America has gone down, specifically our lifestyle has changed. We’re not nearly as active. We don’t walk around as much. We’ve got so many things that are automated for us, to get people up and get them going is difficult. But a huge factor is what we eat. The food that people are eating today, the junk foods, the Cokes, the Pepsis, the Gatorade kids are drinking, as much as we know more than we did before, they’re consuming more because the sizes are getting bigger. It’s an epidemic on any scale you look at it.Childhood diabetes has tripled in the last few years. Our work is not yet done.
What we’re going to be doing is going after the companies that do misleading advertising. We have a whole section on misleading advertising that we’re going to be shooting this summer. Obviously, we couldn’t do that when we were on regular television but we can when we’re on (our website).
FP: You have a lot more freedom getting your message out today. How does that change things?
Johnson: We’re going to be a little bit more vocal and radical, I guess you could say. A little while ago, I sent out a little tweet saying that the $5-million ParticipACTION is getting from Coca-Cola isn’t right. I don’t think ParticipACTION should be taking that money from them. I think (they) have an excellent reputation and they’re tarnishing it, giving their health halo to a company that’s selling sugar water. It’s very similar to the Lung Association taking money from the tobacco industry. The reason I tweeted it out, we’re often known as the ParticipACTION people, and I wanted to distance myself from ParticipACTION and from their relationship with Coca-Cola.
FP: How do you find all this energy to do the things you do?
Johnson: I don’t know. I just get up, get out and do it. It’s a lot of fun. I’m enjoying it. We started in ’88, and I said ‘If we can do this for one year, that’d be great. If we could do it for two years, three years, and five years.’ Every year we’ve said if we could only do this for one more year, wouldn’t it be great? We’ve enjoyed what we do.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press