CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — It’s three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and the small crowd gathered in the dimly lit nightclub is pumped and sweaty.
But these clubgoers aren’t in a mosh pit at a rock concert — they’re working out, sweatin’ to oldies that don’t quite meet Richard Simmons’ standards.
In Punk Rock Aerobics, exercisers jump, head-bang, kick and punch to hits by The Ramones, Sex Pistols and other indie-rock favorites. There’s no gym, no mirrors, no dress code, and, “No more sucky classes full of brain-dead bimbos in spandex thongs,” according to the Web site.
“At first I was skeptical,” said Amy Monaghan of Boston. “But then you get moving and it’s really fun.”
Having fun while getting a workout is what Punk Rock Aerobics is all about, according to its creators.
“If you’re having a hard time, that’s OK, just keep moving. Who cares what you look like,” co-founder Maura Jasper said.
"You Be the Star Air Guitar"
The routines and moves, including “You Be the Star Air Guitar” (arms swing like a windmill) and “the skank” (marching aggressively in place), are loosely based on the punk ethic of simplicity and intensity.
“A lot of the songs have three chords, so we keep the routines to three moves per song,” Jasper said. “It’s easy, easy.”
Jasper, a graphics designer and nanny, thought up Punk Rock Aerobics with friend and singer Hilken Mancini three years ago. Together, the women, both thirtysomethings from Boston and certified aerobics instructors, published a 208-page illustrated book outlining the program earlier this year.
“We realized we weren’t looking or feeling great. We needed to get our heart rates up, have fun, not turn into blobs,” Mancini said.
But their mental picture of aerobics classes — gym-bunny types, mirror-wrapped rooms and bouncy pop music — wasn’t appealing.
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“I just couldn’t imagine going to one of those classes,” Jasper said.
The women knew they weren’t alone.
“I wouldn’t say there is any one person we’re trying to attract. It’s the woman intimidated by a gym or the man who was the kid last picked for his junior high kickball team,” Jasper said. “It’s not a bunch of people with blue hair.”
Today, Jasper and Mancini have a loyal following at their weekly sessions in Cambridge, and they’ve recently added another class across the Charles River in Boston’s Allston neighborhood. There is a nominal $7 to $8 charge for a 90-minute workout.
About a dozen 30-somethings are gathered at the Middle East on this particular Saturday — and yes, one man does have blue hair.
A simple philosophy
The philosophy of the class is simple: keep moving, no matter what.
“It’s sort of this fine line between choreography and chaos,” Mancini said.
Dressed in shorts, knee socks and fitted T-shirts, the instructors tag-team the class, shouting out and demonstrating the moves. A boom box sits on the bar, blaring Blondie and other classic punk bands. Instead of free weights, spray-painted bricks rest in a pile on the floor awaiting the strength training segment of the workout.
Mancini and Jasper start and end the class with classic stretches given sassy names such as “Ripped T-shirt Stretch” or “Cat Scratch Stretch.”
After an intense 45 minutes of knee lifts, lunges, jogging in place and jumping jacks, exercisers grab two bricks to use as dumbbells for weight training.
Good form is not lost on the women, who come closest to Jane Fonda-style aerobics teachers when they remind participants to “bend your knees, lift your chest, make sure you’re breathing.”
“They give me a great workout, they’re hilarious and it’s not intimidating,” said Monaghan.
Franchising the routines to gyms, however, goes against the philosophy of the workout.
“We really embrace the attitude of doing it your own way,” Jasper said. “That’s really the spirit of the class.”
Jasper and Mancini have traveled to New York City and London to teach classes in nightclubs and promote their book in record stores. They’ll be in New York again in May, and plan on heading to the Pacific Northwest in June.
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