Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Trapeze, the Catwalk, the Gym

“A tiny redhead with electric-blue shoes strikes up the carnival music. Sixteen people prance forward and backward in vague unison, grip their trapeze bars, tuck their knees in, yelp and swing. Welcome to ... the gym. This Equinox class, which uses modified circus equipment as part of a cardiovascular workout, is called Jukari Fit to Fly, and it is just the latest in the collection of unorthodox classes that health clubs around the country have introduced. Yes, the bread-and-butter classes are still there — basic yoga, muscle toning, calisthenics — but often they are side by side with less standard fare like pole dancing or Army-style boot camp workouts. At gyms that have made oddball classes into a hallmark, executives say they are trying to satisfy their clients’ increasing demand for novelty. At the Crunch chain, for instance, the goal is to introduce a handful of new classes every quarter, said Donna Cyrus, a senior vice president. ‘We look very hard for entertainment in fitness,’ Ms. Cyrus said. ‘I try to see what the trends are, and I look for instructors with theatrical abilities.’ Not all fitness clubs are so experimental. At New York Health and Racquet Club, the group fitness director, Maryann Donner, said that bizarre-sounding classes can draw members, “but if you have no idea what the workout is, based on the name, I don’t know how attractive that will be.” And some members still love ‘the very staid classes,’ like Stretch, Sculpt, and Cardio, she said. Carol Espel, the national director for group fitness and Pilates at Equinox Fitness Club, said that her company tries to avoid “programming fluff,” although it has offered classes like a Brazilian derrière-lift and Skinny Jeans Workout. ‘We don’t want to offer something just because it was on ‘Oprah,’ Ms. Espel said. For example, ‘we would never offer pole dancing.’ But Equinox does offer Jukari Fit to Fly. The word Jukari is derived from the Sicilian word ‘jucare,’ meaning ‘to play,’ and the class, which was introduced in June in 14 cities, was developed through a partnership between Reebok and Cirque du Soleil. The redheaded Equinox instructor, Sara Haley, said that Reebok sent her as a ‘guinea pig’ to Cirque du Soleil’s Montreal base last year to see if any of its acrobatic equipment could be adapted for the gym. A team at Reebok and Cirque du Soleil then refined the recommendations and the result is the specially designed FlySet, which is like a trapeze, ‘but the ropes are way thicker, safer,’ she said.”

No comments: