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Group X Files at CI East

We tried something different last week at Club Industry East in New York—a group exercise competition in our Club Studio area. We have presented group fitness activities before, but this time, the format was new, with several large and small clubs invited to demonstrate one of the original programs offered in their facilities. This gave us—and the show's attendees—a first-hand look at some of the most fun, creative and energetic classes out there. You can view snippets from each performance on our website.

The Wedding Dance Workout was presented by Stas' Kmiec from New York Sports Clubs (Town Sports International). Stas', probably the only group fitness leader ever to show up in a tuxedo, is an accomplished performer and Broadway choreographer. At first, I anticipated seeing some kind of workout developed for brides-to-be who wanted to get in shape. The reality, though, was something quite different—an upbeat aerobic routine choreographed to all the standard songs we've come to expect to hear at weddings. “Shout,” “The Macarena” and even a Conga to none other than Gloria Estefen's “Conga” elicited a cardio workout and created a compelling force to shake my booty right along with them!

Airopes, presented by Smart Workout, is an exercise program inspired by a piece of equipment manufactured by Power Systems. The “airopes” are the handles of a jump rope with weights attached but without the full length of a connecting rope. This was a total body workout: cardio, resistance, agility and balance. This innovative program was refreshing, and owner Elaine Platt tells me that her staff is completely involved in the development of their programs, including a system of approvals for choice of music. Elaine also told us that several other clubs approached her to see about licensing it for their facility.

The One-Two Combo Program, led by Gary Griffin of Chelsea Piers, is a fusion of boxing and gymnastics for an intense and invigorating workout. Elements included jumping rope, partner sparring and core strength exercises. Additionally, we witnessed cartwheels, handsprings and tumbling, which obviously keeps this group toned and flexible. It's the type of workout that leaves you with that “done for the day” feeling—in a good way! I asked about the tumbling, as it's not my thing, but Gary told me that their participants all try it. I would, too, because it looked like it rated a 10 in the fun factor.

The Spartan Workout, presented by The Atlantic Club, provided a full-body cardio and strength workout using sandbags, rocks, BOSU balls, hula hoops and an array of items you can find in any storage closet. This boot camp-style workout can be done indoors or outside—competitively in teams or individually. No body part was neglected, and the diversity of this routine can be a huge draw.

I'd be an enthusiastic participant in any or all of these programs. Each of these had elements that, as a member, would keep me involved. In my book, they all get high scores for diversity, intensity and fun—the key factors in my fitness regimen that keep me motivated and coming back for more.

The group fitness competition was so well received that we plan to do it again this October at Club Industry 2010 in Chicago. So for all you fitness directors and group exercise leaders in the Chi-town area or anywhere in the Midwest, drop me a line at and we'll be glad to get you on the schedule.

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