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Beating Fitness Funk with a Dose of Punk

Posted - Feb. 27, 2004 at 6:20 a.m.



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Punk rock. Anti-establishment. Loud. Raucous. Interestingly wardrobed.

But - healthy?

Yep. Thanks to two Boston women, punk has collided, kicking and screaming, with exercise.

It's not as big a stretch as it might seem. After all, punk "takes a lot of energy," says Hilken Mancini, one of the founders of "Punk Rock Aerobics."

She and partner Maura Jasper have led classes for a few years and have just released a book, "Punk Rock Aerobics: 75 Killer Moves, 50 Punk Classics, and 25 Reasons to Get Off Your Ass and Exercise" (Da Capo Press, $17.95). A DVD is in the works.

"Maura and I created an exercise class that we'd like to go to ourselves," she says. "It's for the misfit, the person who doesn't want to have to go to the gym."

It helped that the women, who are both in their 30s, lost their jobs in 2001. With the time to develop the class, they became certified aerobics instructors - despite their horror at finding themselves among a group of "gym bunnies" at the certification class - and found a club that let them use the dance floor for the classes.

They tapped into their punk sensibilities to create the exercises. No. 1 in the book is the Pogo, the "Punk Rock Aerobics for Dummies" move. You jump up and down. Any questions? Don't worry, it does get harder.

Some of Mancini's favorite moves include the Skank (marching aggressively in place), the Wack Jack (a modified Jumping Jack), and You Be the Star Air Guitar (um, air guitar).

"They're goofy and they're fun," she says.

Other folks have told the pair that they had also thought of doing something like this, but the women were the ones who actually did it.

"Maura and I are both pretty determined people, and having a partner makes a difference," she says. "It's definitely punk to make money out of something you created."

Then there are the folks who hate what the women have done. The book devotes a page just to the hate mail - "This is a disgrace to punk" is one of the cleaner comments. (The facing page has the love letters.)

With Jasper's experience as a visual artist, and Mancini's as a musician and music collector, they were able to generate some eye- and ear-catching work.

"I have an entire wall of vinyl in my house and a bunch of singles," Mancini says. She changes the music constantly, and they match three exercises to coordinate with each song.

"Even in the class, people will ask, What is this?' and we'll say,Flipper,' and people will never have heard of it," Mancini says.

The classes cost $7, which includes the use of bricks, which the instructors provide as weights for strength training. And, naturally, there's nothing to join. Punk isn't about joining. Oh, except they are very firm that you need a good pair of sneakers. Everything else is optional.

They've taken their aerobics act on the road to New York, Los Angeles and the United Kingdom. They've been featured on MTV and VH1. Guest DJs have stepped in from time to time, including Blue Man Group.

"It's just such a community," she says.

Their Web site (www.punkrockaerobics.com) offers a look at their philosophy, schedules and a line of merchandise, including shirts, totes, underpants and other items emblazoned with their mottos: "Menace to Society," "Smoke Grass N Come to Class," and "Never Mind the Buttocks." If you don't get the last one, you missed Sex Pistols 101.

They currently have flexible jobs - Mancini works in a store whose owners let her take off time when she needs to, and Jasper baby-sits.

People have suggested that they franchise, but "we say that's kind of the point, not to do that," she says.

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(c) 2004, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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