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Reflections on fitness, wellness, health and more

Step back (and forwards) in time

In 2009 Step group exercise classes turned 20. In the early 1990s the Group Ex world (or ‘aerobics’ as it was then) couldn’t get enough of the new program and eagerly attended the training workshops held all over Australia by Gin Miller and the crew from Reebok University.

Step was hugely successful in pretty much all of the markets where it debuted and a big part of that was the sense of immediate success that every participant could achieve from even their first class. Petra Kolber, an international fitness presenter and one of the original Master Trainers for Step Reebok (also presenting at FILEX 2010) says, ‘Step choreography was easy to follow and as we were using higher Step heights there was an immediate feeling that this workout was awesome for everyone involved’.

For a while Step thrived, but over time as the format developed, the original guidelines that had made it so popular fell by the wayside. Choreography became complex, the simplicity was lost, and participants stopped coming to classes. It seemed for a while as if Step might fade away, but a handful of presenters including Marcus Irwin, Petra Kolber and Rebecca Small, continued to preach the value of Step at instructor workshops around the world. Slowly, but surely, instructors have caught on, and while choreography today continues to be complex it is mostly taught using logical and progressive learning curves.

But for Step to grow as a program, and regain a degree of its previous popularity, the following needs to take place;

The re-introduction of entry level Step classes with achievable choreography. In a world where most people want instant gratification, learning complex movement patterns and choreography can frustrate and even disappoint newcomers to Step.

The creating of an athletic, gutsy and strong Step class format where the focus is on intensity and not choreography. This would have the potential to bring back people who attend more athletic group exercise classes but are not interested in learning complex movement patterns.

The re-launching of instructor education. It’s time to re-educate current and upcoming instructors about what made it so popular in the first place: A simple, athletic workout that gives the results your members come for!

The branding of highly choreographed classes as ‘Dance’ or ‘Moves’ sessions so that every participant knows what level class they are attending. There are still members who want complex choreography, and we should continue to offer it in alongside the simple athletic workout format.

If we can implement these points, Step can once again assume greater prominence on group ex timetables.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you have experience teaching multi level Step classes? Please share them with the industry by using the comments feature below.

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Posted by: Debbie Marl | 11-May-2010 01:03 PM | 5 out of 5 stars

I am an original Step Teacher from 20yrs ago, I have progressed with the industry. Unfortunately now on the Gold Coast, Qld, there is not (1) single solitary Gym offering freestyle Step. All the major chains, Beach House, One Life, Fenix, etc., ONLY teach Les Mills Body Step. Instructors with skill, expertise and experience galore, are now no longer needed or employed. Very Sad.

Posted by: Ann | 15-Aug-2010 07:32 PM | 5 out of 5 stars

Hi Debbie, same prob in SE suburbs of Melbourne. I teach 2 freestyle step classes a week, and the members love them! But, when I take a week off, they are covered by Body Step, or worse still a different format. Why cant Les Mills instructors teach freestyle? Surely they have the skills. Can a LM instructor explain this to me. I could teach BodyStep in a snap, why not visa versa.

Posted by: Anonymous | 15-Mar-2011 12:39 AM |

A little late, but I was searching for freestyle step in Brisbane. One gym has it and it's miles away from me. I hate body step, it's so boring... Bring back freestyle step!