Marietta Mehanni

Easy Aerobics by Lucy Morgan

Written by Marietta

November 27, 2013

Since finishing Marietta’s mentoring program, I’ve been looking for a regular freestyle class to teach, but I have young children and we are away for all the school holidays. That’s a lot of cover to organise! So with my children’s local state primary school, I have started a new initiative: Easy Aerobics in term time. I’m happy to teach for free, as I need the practice, plus it is great fun and good for my own fitness- otherwise I would have suggested that when the class grew to a certain size, I could start being paid. Everyone pays $5 to do the class, and staff exercise for free. All proceeds go to the school.

The school has a gym which is available until 7.00am, when before school care starts, so the classes runon Tuesday and Thursday from 6.15am to 7.00am. To advertise them, we have put posters up around the school and used the school newsletter. Word of mouth is the best advertising, though, and we hope that the classes will grow as people talk about how easy they are. This is their key feature: the classes are suitable for people who have never done aerobics, or have not done aerobics for a long time. You don’t have to be super fit, you don’t need special expensive gear and you can exercise with your friends, in your own community. There are no joining fees- it’s casual and fun, but a good work out too. When you’re an experienced group fitness participant it’s easy to forget how disheartening it is to stumble around not being able to get the moves, and also what a sense of achievement mastery of these moves can give. Plus there is nothing intimidating about rocking up to the school gym in your trackies and trainers.

Older parents have said to me after the classes, “Oh, they used to have easy classes like this at the gym many years ago, but they’ve disappeared.” They mention the way you used to do a beginners’ aerobics class at a gym for a while, then progress to HiLo or similar- this logical progression is absent from most timetables now, a change which must surely have affected beginners’ participation and also the quality of form in group exercise, and the risk of injury. One mum who has tried a couple of gym classes in recent years said, “I never knew you could actually do a class where they taught you the steps!” She hasn’t missed a session yet!

Marietta once said to me that you need to be a good instructor to teach a good beginners’ class, and she is absolutely right (as usual!). Teaching the class is definitely a challenge for me, as I need to really break the moves down and use gentle learning curves. I can’t assume anything, and I need to be very consistent with both my verbal and visual cueing. It’s a learning curve for me, too. I had to laugh the other day when I noticed one of my newbies copying my raised single, single, double fingers for a single, single, double leg curl- that’s quite a tricky arm line for a beginner, combined with the leg pattern! The class is mainly low impact and easy on the joints too- it is absolutely designed to get people to come back, to have them think, “I can do that,” and also “that makes me feel good”.

Essentially, this is about fitness in the community, and fitness for the general population, not for regular gym goers. It’s a way to start out with exercise, and then I can advise people what else they might do and where else they might go to diversify, and to challenge themselves more. A participant who is a keen runner is already talking about collecting names from other participants who might like to start a weekend morning running group- it is easy to see how this small beginning could grow into a range of really accessible grass roots fitness activities for the whole school population and people who live in the area. This seems like a good use of a space (the school gym) that our taxes have already paid for, while raising further money for the school and contributing to the fight against obesity. I also see it as a way to introduce freestyle aerobics to people who are not aware it ever existed, like the 17 year old who came with her mum this week. It is a real pleasure to be choreographing classes for my participants, building week by week on what they are learning, while also making the class suitable for absolute beginners- it’s the kind of creative professional challenge that used to be normal everyday work for group fitness instructors. It would be great to see this take off at other schools, too.

If you would like to support us, I’m actually looking for donations (or loans) of PPCA free music CDs or tapes (the gym has an ancient sound system), so if anyone has any they would like to contribute, please let Marietta know!

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