Saturday, April 3, 2010

Class #63 Step Friday 4:15 p.m. (Hannah)

After withstanding a barrage of classes (five) on Wednesday and Thursday, I’m downshifting today and taking only one class. I’m skipping my regular Friday afternoon tennis match to attend Hannah’s 4:15 p.m. Step class.

This makes my third Step class (lifetime) and a few of the moves are starting to sink in. For instance, I “know” the basic step, kick step, L step (even though I occasionally mess this one up), V step and several other simple moves. This rudimentary knowledge is helpful but all the spice is in the more difficult moves – the mambos, cross-over steps and full twisting gainers (okay, I made that one up).

Step class has a core of rabid followers who choose this workout over all others. These aficionados are supremely adept at advanced Step moves and no doubt love it when a teacher can challenge their dexterity and wow them with a fancy new move. The challenge for the teacher is to somehow push the veterans without totally frustrating the newcomers.

In today’s class, along with me there are two other apparent rookies – it’s fairly easy to pick out the neophytes (we don’t know exactly how to set up our benches – oops, I mean steps). We rookies also tend to camp out on the back row and may occasionally be found with hands on hips, head cocked to the side trying to figure out a complicated routine that is way beyond our ability.

After class, several regulars sweetly ask me if/when I’ll be back to take this class again. My stock answer is – I’m not repeating ANY classes until I’ve completed all of them. Still the intent behind the question is clear – would I choose this class over other classes? Like a proud mom being asked which of her ten children she prefers – I think I’ll pass on a direct answer but still the question got me thinking about how different classes must compete for students.

Just like a health club needs a sufficient number of members to succeed, group exercise classes need a healthy attendance to stay on the schedule. In that respect, classes and their teachers are always battling for market share. The question is – what makes a class popular and successful?

To answer that question in a strictly hypothetical manner – I propose the following seven criteria (listed in no particular order): 1) The quality/intensity of the workout, 2) The fun/enjoyment quotient, 3) The application of the skill practiced in class to the outside world (e.g. indoor cycling presumably helps outdoor cyclists), 4) The skill/motivation of the instructor, 5) The shelf life of the practice (i.e. does it evolve over time or does it get stale), 6) The popularity/trendiness of a particular practice (e.g. Zumba is still considered new and “hot” right now), and 7) Does the class fulfill some other need not mentioned above (for example, the practice of yoga has significantly lessened my level of chronic back pain).

For fun I’ll measure today’s Step class by the above criteria: 1) It’s a tough cardio workout (I was sweating profusely) and especially strong work for the legs, 2) It’s fun, I suspect, is proportional to one’s ability to master the moves. I'm still not there yet but I realize there’s a learning curve and one must walk before running (or mamboing), 3) Other than climbing stairs with panache - not really. 4) Hannah is a very good instructor on many levels – she cues well, shows modifications (i.e. how to make a high impact move low impact, etc.), caters to both rookies and long time practitioners (not easy to do) and is motivating/energetic. 5) I can’t answer this one directly because I’ve only been to a few classes – however, I know that Step’s been around for 20 years and that many of the regulars have been doing it a long time so I assume it keeps evolving in a way that keeps their interest. 6) No, Step isn’t trendy – it’s been around a long time. In fact, as a seller of Step market share, this aspect would have to be overcome. 7) Nothing that strikes me at the moment.

Of course, everyone is doing all this grading in an informal, non-linear way every time they take a class. For some it may come down to time of day – if one can only take a class at a certain hour then one will take the class that’s offered then but if there’s flexibility – one will choose based on preferences compared across all classes. It’s also possible that one particular criterion outweighs all others – for instance, I know some members who take certain instructors’ classes no matter the time or class – they just love that particular instructor.

Well, I’ve wandered far a field from today’s class but maybe the criteria list will be of value to someone. One goal of ‘the quest’ is to encourage readers (are y’all still out there??) to try out new classes. There are many interesting workouts on the schedule but you’ll never know it until you give them a go.

In Step class today there are about 15 folks though only one other fellow. The man is a regular in Step class and Nia, and he knows all the moves. I was curious about him so I watched him during class (when I could) and sure enough – he kept pace without a problem. He also turned out to be the lucky winner of the $25 gift certificate. His name is Bill Bogle. Oh yeah, he’s 78.

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