As New Year’s resolutions go, “getting into shape” has the same shelf life as “being a better person.” There won’t be evidence of either come spring. But at least the weight watchers will give it a try; for the next month, and only the next month, you’ll have an easier time landing a night in the Lincoln Bedroom than a half-hour on a YMCA StairMaster.

Still, there’s no shame in good intentions, and so, strictly in the interest of my readers, I recently went to a known master on matters physical to discuss the importance of staying in shape. Not a personal trainer, dietician, or nutritionist; every Joe Resolutionist looks to those types, and look what it gets ’em! No, for my fitness wisdom, I solicited somebody who’s really in touch with the human body.

A porno star.

OK, an ex-porno star: Vanessa Del Rio, who made still another visit to Washington just before Christmas. Del Rio spent a day with her incredibly enduring and sizable army of local admirers at Capitol Video Sales’ 8th Street SE outlet. More than a decade after quitting “the business,” as she calls it, Del Rio remains D.C.’s favorite skin flicker, which is why Capitol owner James Townsend ignored her layoff and brought Del Rio back to his stores for another fabulously successful meet-and-greet.

For six uninterrupted hours, Vanessa the Undressa posed for photos (at $30 a pop) and autographed cards, videotape cases, and whatever else was plopped down in front of her by admirers. (Among the reverent troops was a hilariously/scandalously high number of on-duty D.C. cops, a contingent large enough to entice Townsend to ask aloud if any of the uniforms in the very crowded storeroom could fix the parking ticket he’d been given that afternoon.)

Oh yeah, Del Rio also addressed the importance of physical fitness. As it turns out, not all of her workouts were performed nude as the cameras rolled. Along with being a hall-of-fame porn princess, Del Rio’s anything but a dumbbell when it comes to working out.

After her withdrawal from film work in 1986 (The Devil in Miss Jones III was her last), she made her own resolution to get fit. Really fit. And she lived up to it.

“When I was making movies there was never any pressure from producers to stay in shape,” Del Rio recalls. “This wasn’t Hollywood, you know? So I wanted to get into shape as a personal thing.”

A boyfriend named Mike convinced Del Rio to try weightlifting. Soon enough, Del Rio was throwing steel with the big boys at New York’s finer health clubs, doing reps with 275 pounds in the squat. When she also pared down her diet to nothing but fish, salad, and vegetables, Del Rio got into competitive-bodybuilding shape. (She had entered a national tournament held in D.C., but withdrew because it conflicted with a European vacation.)

Photo spreads of Del Rio scantily clad and sculpted—buff, but not entirely in the buff—started popping up in muscle mags.

“I remember when I first saw shots of Vanessa all built up,” imparted one admirer at Capitol Video as he waited to get Del Rio’s signature. “I knew who she was from her movies, but she looked a whole lot tighter, man. Real tight.”

In the late 1980s, Del Rio and her lesser-known half also produced and starred in a half-hour workout show that was broadcast on a cable access channel in Manhattan. Along with exercise advice, the pair doled out dietary tips and romantic counsel. The show’s title? Pumping With Mike and Vanessa.

“Oh, once you’re in this business, everything’s a double-entendre,” Del Rio blushed (!) when asked about the moniker.

It wasn’t just the cable program’s name that gave Del Rio pause. Even given her history in an industry not noted for its technical excellence, the show’s production values were not up to Del Rio’s standards.

“I look back at those exercise shows I did now and I’m just so embarrassed!” she says. “This was never rehearsed, and never edited, so every mistake shows up, right there for everybody to see. It’s like half the time I’m talking I’m out of the camera shot!”

Not only were the cable appearances unrehearsed and unedited, they were also unpaid. Del Rio stopped seeing her workout buddy about the same time she lost interest in seeing herself sweat all over the access channel.

She never went back to porno films, but after deep-sixing the bodybuilding gig, Del Rio did succumb to the pleas of video store and strip bar owners for her to show up at events like those held at Capitol Video. The appearances paid very, very well, but the traveling took her away from the gym, and combined with years of eating whatever food was available while on the road, she became Del Rio Grande, packing too many unwanted pounds to ignore.

Which is why Del Rio recently restated her resolution to get into better shape. She’s back to eating healthy. “These Cracker Jacks are fat-free. Read the box!” she announced while pointing to a big box of the sugary snack food at the Capitol Video signing table. And she has also resumed a regular exercise regimen, though this time around her sweat is falling on a workout partner a lot less wearying than her former beau eventually became.

Mike’s been replaced by a machine. Every day she’s in New York, Del Rio spends at least a half-hour grunting and grinding on the Bowflex, a catch-all exercise apparatus produced and marketed (at up to $1,499 per) by a Vancouver, Wash., firm. Del Rio discovered the home gymnasium—whose catchy slogan is, “No other machine feels this good!”—through an ad on television, and has since become so enamored of the product that she’d gladly shill for it.

“I really want to do commercials for them. I mean it!” she says.

“Oh, I don’t know if we’re looking for a new spokesperson at this time,” hemmed Randy Potter, vice president of marketing for Bowflex, when asked if he’d consider giving Del Rio the opportunity to turn his company’s infomercials into nymphomercials.

While waiting for Bowflex to call, Del Rio may already be reaping some professional benefits from the second coming of her health kick. Producers of NYPD Blue felt comfortable enough with Del Rio’s current physique to give her a role she was born to play: She starred as “Vanessa Del Rio, former porn star,” on the episode that reran last week. (The show was written by local-boy-gone-Hollywood David Mills, who says he’s had Del Rio on his mind ever since he interviewed her for a 1987 Washington Times piece.)

Del Rio’s role on the hit cop show might be what made her appearance at Capitol Video look like an an episode of MPD Blue. Or perhaps a few of D.C.’s finest share her interest in total fitness and showed up in hopes of getting tips on how to work off all those Krispy Kremes. Cops make resolutions, too. —Dave McKenna