As a child of the seventies I can cast my mind back and remember the days when breakfast telly first started and a bright lycra clad woman called “Mad Lizzie” encouraged us up from the couch and into a few morning stretches. Leotards, dance tights and terry towelling headbands in the varying shades of 80s neon were the costume of choice and apparently you could exercise in full makeup and perfectly coiffed hair!
Around this time I remember my Auntie Margaret, a decades long exercise lover, talking about a new class she was doing called Step Aerobics. I tried to get my teenage head around what would be so great about having a step? Why not just run up the stairs? However, what did I know? The phenomenon grabbed hold, Mad Lizzi showed you how to fashion a step at home, and those bright orange glutes were soon clenching along to house beats and 90s pop.
You would think in the 25 years since its inception, my curiosity would have peaked and I’d have gotten myself along to a step class. Especially as my Auntie Margaret is a shining example of what a life-long love of exercise does for you; at 67 she still looks knockout! Last Monday evening after work I toddled along to my very first Step class at Live Active Rodney, now branded under the Les Mill “Body Step”.
Heather is the usual instructor, smiley and with a bounce like Tigger on illicit substances. Before we were ready to go she asked if anyone was new. She talked us through the basic moves, explaining some of the techniques and reassuring me that although I might not keep up on the first class it only takes about 4 or 5 classes to get into the groove. “This won’t be your first and last – you’re gonna love it! It is fast so don’t worry if you need to stop, just jump back in when you’re ready!”
I noticed in the nick of time that everyone had only two risers as opposed to the three you need for Body Pump. A quick reassemble of my kit and I was standing in this busy class a row or so back from the front. The music started, Heather gave us a “Let’s Go!” and we were off.
The class is fast. It’s not that I couldn’t physically do what was being asked (as in some other classes) but I struggled to keep up with the pace. She had warned me of this and I simply waited a few beats and caught up again. To be honest, it wasn’t really the tiredness or lung capacity that got me – it was the co-ordination! I just wasn’t quite getting the wee skips and foot pattern for some of it and so I wasn’t in time or keeping up. This was down to my position; I had ended up one row back but right in front of her so I couldn’t see properly when she was doing the explanation – which she did at the start of every move. If you’ve not been before, or if you’ve not been since the pink lycra days, then get in early for a good clear view of the instructor – I think this would have helped me pick it all up quicker.
Heather is a dynamo. She reminded me of an old school dance DJ whipping her crowd up into a frenzy. There were claps, proper little in time to the music steps and even the odd whoop! The class has a great atmosphere and she is the new century embodiment of my memories of “Mad Lizzi”! Half way through the class is really moving up a gear, the reps from other classes have been built into routines and this is a workout as intense as any other. It is fast and furious and although I’m red faced and sweating I know I’ve not had anything like the workout that is possible here – mainly because I kept stopping to look at the woman in front of me and figure out why my feet weren’t doing what her feet were doing!
I was completely fine with the last part of the class as it’s more intense reps than co-ordinated routine. But it is HARD work. Everyone loses a riser on their step and picks up a weight about half way through. The speed at which some of the class can get from one side of the step to the other is incredible and you do feel motivated to keep going – and of course, it turns out smiley Heather can shout as loudly as the next instructor! “Come On! Go For It!!”
My grey top was soaked down the back by the end of it and I felt as though I’d made up for my “ditzy girl in trainers and a ponytail” act of the first half! I did feel a wee bit lost at times and I think you have to be one of two camps to enjoy this class and get the most out of it; you either need to be co-ordinated OR you need to be comfortable with stopping and starting until it clicks in your head. I’m the latter so I’m definitely going back – I’m going to nail that little bunny hop, gallop, travel combo if it kills me (for the record, I’m almost certain this is NOT what it’s called!)