Back in the day — we’re talking the ‘80s — it seemed like everyone was high-kicking and jumping-jacking in an aerobics class, decked out in spandex and legwarmers. Well, lo and behold, aerobics are back, baby!
Aerobics classes are jumping up at parking lots, church meeting halls and park settings, in addition to fitness centers, gyms and spas. And premiering on Apple TV+ this summer was the highly lauded “Physical,” a series that featured a stressed-out, frizz-permed Rose Byrne (along with an unhealthy eating disorder). The show was an instant hit and created a good amount of high-intensity aerobics buzz.
Here in the Treasure Valley, one of the newest fitness crazes is HIGH aerobics, a dance-y, high-energy, high- and low-impact exercise class that is inspiring legions of fans. You can find classes at Idaho Fitness, Axiom, and at the Y, among others. Recently, Idaho Press attended a closed session of HIGH aerobic instructors in training, ensconced in a remote, makeshift workout studio in Meridian (see photos). Later, after the heart rates evened out, we talked with Trainer Melissa Zurcher via email.
Aerobics, that high-energy, dance-y, exercise craze that swept the country in the ‘80s, but sort of died down in the ‘90s and pretty much stopped in the 2000s — is back?? Can you give our readers the short and sweet low-down on what is going on in the exercise and fitness world with aerobics — and how HIGH Fitness fits in to all of that?
Aerobics is definitely BACK! HIGH Fitness is driven by fabulous music of varying genres and artists, which is how aerobics got so popular in the first place, but HIGH Fitness made it easy to follow, and super effective. Beyond cardio it offers elements of challenging HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and body resistance, all done safely so that it’s appropriate for all ages and stages of fitness. What keeps people coming back is that it’s so fun (and we never talk calories, size or weight).
What about you — you are an instructor and a trainer. What is your background, how did you get into fitness and fitness training? Did your mom do aerobics when you were a kid?
I grew up dancing! Studying various disciplines through college, group fitness was a natural transition in fulfilling my passion. Additionally, my father was an all-around athlete, dedicated to carving out time for regular workouts. He invited me to attend our athletic club, patiently guiding me through an understanding and foundation of training. I attribute my appreciation of physicality and health to his example.
What is an aerobics class like — is there a beginning, middle and end? What does that look like?
A HIGH Fitness experience presents a challenge that offers a sense of accomplishment, pride, and an element of belonging to a community. The class begins with a warmup, preparing the body for the workout by encouraging mental engagement, an increased heart rate, and physical preparation for the remainder of the class. A “peak” is the middle of a HIGH Fitness workout, this climax is where your heart is really pumping hard! The participants are encouraged to challenge their bodies, embracing states of anaerobic movement. The finale includes two dedicated songs to complete a full body emphasis: abs/core work and arms/upper body. This ending also begins the cooldown process in actively lowering the heart rate. And we always say, when in doubt, take the jump out and go at your own pace.
What kinds of music and what moves are involved in HIGH Fitness classes? For instance, when I was at the training class, I observed some classic ‘80s moves: “the grapevine,” knees up, jump-jumps, jumping jacks. Are there also hip-hop and other dance elements?
Music is the driving force of HIGH Fitness. The library collection of songs includes all genres and original artists, spanning current pop music, rap/hip hop, dance, rock/hair bands, country, and even K-pop. Each track/song is associated with specific choreography. As HIGH fans become more familiar with the tracks, they begin to experience success as they master the movement upon repetition. Britney Spears has made a gig comeback this year with the “Free Britney” movement, Olivia Rodrigo has been a crowd pleaser, and we’ve had lots of success with our Pride events too, so RuPaul is definitely getting played.
HIGH Fitness choreography includes classic aerobic movement — grapevines, jumping jacks, hamstring curls, etc. Additionally, strength training, such as squats and lunges, are paired with elements of HIIT — high knees/jump ropes, burpees, and star jumps. The movement patterns have been creatively combined and tweaked, incorporating specific arms, as a fresh approach to the ‘80s and ‘90s choreography.
What drew you to this style of fitness workout and training?
I have been a group fitness instructor since 1997, discovering HIGH Fitness in 2015. After years of creating my own choreography and routines for classes, I was delighted to find a format that provided a deliberate formula and specific choreography. The sense of community centered around the HIGH Fitness brand is palpable within the studio, city, and entire corporation. Inclusiveness and purpose is achieved through the ability to attract all ages and stages of fitness, and there is focus on charity and service. HIGH emphasizes an overall health approach, a balance of emotional, mental, and physical well being.
What are some of your favorite routines or songs?
My favorite tracks include: Michael Jackson, “They Don’t Really Care About Us;” Whitney Houston, “It’s Not Right, But It’s OK;” and Blackpink, “How You Like That …” amongst many others!
Anything else you’d like to say?
I am HONORED to serve as a trainer and representative of a brand that aligns with my core values of offering an inclusive environment of health and balance.