Jazzercise: More Than a Great Workout
Jazzercise is Fitness, Fun, and Good Friends
Although I'm an avid outdoorswoman, hiking isn't the only thing I do for exercise. I'm also known to work out three or four times each week in a class called Jazzercise.
Several years ago, on my 37th birthday -- and 37 years after the Jazzercise dance fitness program was founded in 1969 -- I walked into our local studio here in Flagstaff, Arizona, and bought myself a gift: a membership to what would soon become much more than a place to work out.
I've enjoyed my experience at our local center -- one of thousands of Jazzercise studios in 32 countries -- so much, I wanted to share some of the highlights.
If nothing else, check out the videos below. I think they're quite entertaining.
So, What IS Jazzercise?
A bunch of skinny-minny girls in spandex and leg-warmers?
Well, the leg warmers are a thing of the past (though you never know when they might be in vogue again, so don't throw yours away just yet), but Spandex is probably here to stay ... which would be a good thing, since I have a drawer full of it.
And it's definitely not only for girls. (Jazzercise I mean, not Spandex.) We do have our token man at our Jazzercise studio, not to mention the occasional husband or boyfriend who gets dragged ... uh, who takes a class now and then, but some studios have lots of male members.
And skinny-minnies? Yep, there are those. But I'm not one of them, and I've seen every body-type there is doin' the Latin walk and gettin' funky on the Jazzercise floor.
Basically, Jazzercise is a combination of various dance styles, aerobics, yoga, pilates, kickboxing, resistance training, even belly dancing at times, with routines designed so that people of varied fitness levels can exercise together. The instructors show you how to modify high-impact moves to be low-impact and/or light. I've even seen class participants sitting in chairs or modifying floor exercises to be done standing.
What's most important in any Jazzercise class is that you're moving.
Two left feet? No problem. As I said, moving is what's key, and, truly, no one cares if you're going left while the rest of us are going right (well, as long as you don't collide). And if you're doing heel-hops when everyone else is grapevining, ah well, it's all good as long as you're having fun.
And that's one thing I really love about Jazzercise. Fun is right up there with fitness. In our classes, the wonderful, upbeat instructors will often yell....
"Who's having fun?!"
And the class replies, "WOO-HOO!!!"
The Music Of Jazzercise
A Little Of This, A Little Of That, And A Lot Of Great Tunes
Okay, so I'm a country music buff. (Ooh, that Trace Adkins. Mm-hmm. I loved when "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" was part of the Jazzercise routine.) But no matter what kind of music makes you wanna strut your stuff, Jazzercise has it.
Let's see, there's hip-hop, funk, techno, disco, top-40, rock ... uhhhh ...classic rock, jazz, an occasional show-type tune, country of course ... oh, even opera once in a blue moon.
Most of the time, the sets are pretty heavy on the current stuff being played on radio stations, but there's usually some older tunes in the mix. You know, somethin' that makes you wanna flick your Bic and hold it up (uh-huh, you know you've done it) or do a little soft shoe perhaps.
You should be daaaaan-cin', yeah! A little BeeGees anyone?
See what's currently on the Jazzercise song list on Jazzercise.com.
Jazzercise at Home - Fun exercise videos
Okay, so it's not quite the same as being there in your local Jazzercise studio, surrounded by friends (because that's what it feels like), but if you don't happen to have one near you, don't want to drive there everyday or just want to save some money on membership, you can still have your own private Jazzercise class at home. Exercise with your family or invite some friends over for some fat-burning and muscle-toning to popular tunes.
These and other DVDs are available on Amazon....
Latin Live Jazzercise
The Jazzercise Moves
A combination of styles
Jazzercise is, at its core, made up of a bunch of basic dance and aerobics steps with some flair and creativity added to the mix. The routines are choreographed by Jazzercise founder Judi Sheppard Missett and, I assume, others at corporate headquarters, and instructors are provided with the latest routines and music every so often. (Not sure of the frequency, but they change it up quite a bit, so it never gets old.)
While you can often add your own style to the moves--well, some folks add "style" whether they're trying to or not--all the movements in Jazzercise are reviewed by a sports physiologist so you know you're getting a safe, effective workout.
If you'd like to perfect your flick-kicks, kick ball changes, and turned-out triplets before performing them for the people standing behind you in class (who truly will not care if your chasse ends with a back-ball change or a front), you can visit the Jazzercise website's "Learn the Moves" section, where they have some handy-dandy tutorials and videos.
Above photo is in the public domain
Jazzercise Instructor: "Who's burning fat?"
Jazzercise On The Early Show (CBS) - Julie Chen interviews Judi Sheppard Missett, Founder & CEO of Jazzercise, Inc.
You've gotta check this out. There's some funny as well as informative stuff in here. And would you believe that Judi is in her SIXTIES! I kid you not. (But that's not Judi in the still shot you're seeing here.)
Types of Jazzercise Classes - There's something for everyone at Jazzercise
The most common Jazzercise class is the 60-minute format, including a warm-up, a 30-minute aerobic section, toning and stength-building with weights, and a final stretch and cool-down. All high-impact moves can be easily modified for those who don't want to bounce and jump. And those days of Rockette-style high-kicks ... gone.
Aside from the "regular" Jazzercise class, most studios also offer some combination of the following alternatives:
- Jazzercise Lite: a less-intense, lighter version of the regular 60-minute class
- Jazzercise Body Sculpting: a 40 to 50-minute muscle-toning workout
- Jazzercise Personal Touch: small-group weight-training and toning with one-on-one help
- Jazzercise Express: a condensed, 30-minute workout--a great lunch-hour quickie
- Jazzercise Step: Jazzercise choreography adjusted for a step-aerobic class
- Jazzercise Circuit Training: a combination of an aerobic workout and strength training using weights, resistance tubes and exercise balls.
- Junior Jazzercise: a class designed for kids ages 6 through 11
- Jazzercise Team Dance: a class designed for pre-teens and teenagers
New Jazzercise DVDs - Enjoy different styles of Jazzercise at home....
Move the furniture out of the way, maybe invite a friend over, and dance your way to fitness with these fun and effective workouts.
Besides the improved fitness, that is
A few weeks after I first joined, I remember coming to class and seeing sheets of paper and big, cut-out flowers all over the wall, with a stamp block, ink pad and Sharpie pen in a little basket. As I discretely adjusted my sports bra, I wandered over to see what all the decoration was about and found titles like "Dancing Grannies" and "The Bouncing Barbaras" written on each paper. Some had stamped flowers in a few of the thirty-some-odd boxes on their sheets. Huh?
So class soon started and the fun began--I'd gotten the hang of that salsa move and actually felt like I'd grown a wee little Latin bone in my anything-but-Latin body--and I'd pretty much forgotten about what was on the wall when, as we later moved on to the first floor routine, our instructor explained the new incentive program (my term). I think it was called something like, "Dance into Spring," but it was probably a bit more creative than that.
Anyway, the deal was, we could team up with a classmate, preferably someone we didn't know yet, and write our names on one of the blank papers on the wall. Then we'd each get a stamp (a point) for each class attended in the next thirty days, with extra points given for making up a team name (I think my team of two was something lame like, "Jazzy girls," but we still got that extra stamp for it), getting up on stage with the instructor for a song, and so forth. If you'd filled in (stamped) all boxes on your paper by the end of the promotion, you'd get a present--a fancy-dancy ... what was it? I think it was a t-shirt that time. I can't remember; I have so many Jazzercise goodies now, I don't know which came from which promotion.
Anyhow, then there was the Jazzercise beach towel promotion. The tote bag. The water bottle. The thermal top. And so forth.
Teaming up with one and sometimes two other participants is a great way to meet new people, and it helps get your butt out of your comfy computer chair and off to class, knowing your teammate is counting on you so she or he can get that cool thingamabobamajiggy with the Jazzercise logo on it. (You wouldn't believe what some people will pay for that stuff on Ebay! *gasp* I didn't just say that, did I?)
Jazz It Off
A Jazzercise special program
This year, I participated in the "Jazz It Off: Winner Lose" challenge. Why? Well, cuz I needed to shave off some extra pounds ... especially before I saw some old high school friends I reconnected with on Facebook!
Being the competitive girl that I am, the weekly drawings from points earned and the grand prizes at the end of the twelve weeks for the largest percentage of body fat lost, the most overall inches lost, and the most points earned helped me stick to the program.
On February 15th, I checked in for the initial body composition analysis, including weight (eek!), body fat percentage (*groan*), body mass index (ugh), basal metabolic rate (*shrug*), body measurements (okay, so I'm curvy) and the optional "before" photo (no thanks!). Participants were also given a Jazzercise "Know More Diet" food and exercise journal.
Each week, we weighed in, had our body fat percentage taken and checked in online for nutrition and exercise tips.
During the program, we received points for attending the weekly weigh-ins, attending Jazzercise three or more times each week, and keeping up with our journals. And, at the end of the program, there was a final assessment just like the initial one, and the grand prizes was awarded.
Oh, and we got a t-shirt too. Me likes t-shirts.
The cost for this extra program was $35.
Jazzercise Instructor: "Who's working hard?"
Special Jazzercise Events
Live Taping, Jazzer-Jams, Parades and More
Jazzercise is even more than regular classes, fun incentives and special programs like Jazz It Off. There are also great special events and getaways you can choose from.
At Mountain Sky, we usually participate in one or more annual parades, including the big 4th of July celebration. Our group is always the hit of the parade as we groove our way through the streets of downtown Flagstaff, lined with thousands of cheering spectators. It's so much fun, I almost forget I'm wearing a clingy shirt, instead of the over-sized tees I usually wear to class.
And each year, there's also a taping event, where the DVDs of upcoming routines are filmed, to be disbursed to 7,300 franchisees in the U.S. and around the world. Anyone involved with Jazzercise can attend the taping and participate in a number of different specialty classes and other events. In 2009, the taping was held at a resort and spa in La Quinta, California. Several of us from Mountain Sky attended the sold-out "Jazzercise Spa Getaway" in June.
In addition to the annual tapings, a big Jazzercise convention is held roughly every four years. (I think it went five years this last time, in 2008, because the "Tres Jazz" conference was held in New Orleans, and the city needed an additional year to make repairs following Hurricane Katrina.) I've not yet attended one of these conventions myself, but I've heard from some Jazzercising friends it's a real blast. I mean, dancing and sweating with thousands of your closest pals ... what could be better?
2009 also marked Jazzercise's 40th anniversary, and the milestone was celebrated on November 7th at Jazz in the City in Chicago.
Charlotte Bobcats Jazzercise Halftime Routine - Okay, you've got to admit this looks like fun.
Jazzercise halftime performance on 1.17.09 at NBA Charlotte Bobcats game
Jazzercise Rules & Regulations
Just for fun....
Okay, so there really aren't any RULES per se, unless maybe a particular studio has some specific to their facility. Like, you know, don't flush tampons or don't leave your coat and bags around the edge of the room cuz somebody might trip on them. That kind of thing.
But here are a few hints you may want to follow so none of your Jazzer-mates looks askance at you:
First, no one owns a spot on the floor. If you have a favorite place you like to stand--in front of the fan maybe, at the front and center of the class or perhaps in the very back, darkest corner, but someone happens to be there already when you arrive or maybe moves into "your" spot when you duck out to use the potty ... well, tough noogies. Find a new spot.
And the fans. If your studio has them, but you don't like the breeze, move. Let those who do like the wind in their hair (and armpits) stand near the fans instead, rather than you turning them off. Some of us have thermostats permanently set higher than others.
And I'd say that high heels would definitely be frowned upon.
Now, woo-hooing and responding to your instructor's questions (ie. "Anyone know who's singing this one?" or "Who's squeezing their buns?") are certainly optional ... but making noise does have its benefits. For one, woo-hooing--or woo-ing, as the case may be--shouting out answers to silly questions, and singing on command actually play an important role. That is, they make you breathe. And oxygen is definitely a good thing.
Noise and talking back to the one with the microphone also energizes the whole class. And more energy definitely means more fun.
So, let's give it a try. Ready?
Your instructor asks, "Is the person in front of you squeezing their glutes?!"
© 2009 Deb Kingsbury