Joey Bull attended a FitSteps workshop and found that it, ‘lifts you up, glides you along and waltzes you around’ to provide a great opportunity for fitness professionals and ultimately people looking for a tremendous dance-based class.
A benefit of being an old hand in the health and fitness industry, is that I often get advance notice of new developments and from time to time get the opportunity to try a new product or take part in something. I was delighted to receive one such request for the latest dance fitness class – FitSteps. It was an instructor day near Reading which was one of my old stamping grounds. As somebody with a dance background and a love of the art form, I didn’t think twice about hopping on an aircraft and hot-footing it from Switzerland. And the chance to catch up with Strictly Come Dancing professionals Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe was an even bigger lure.
Ian and I used to train at the same gym many moons ago so it would be great to renew that acquaintance and I have been transfixed by Natalie’s dancing skills over the last few seasons of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. At 8am on a sunny Sunday, we gathered at a nice country house in Berkshire complete with ballroom with large open windows, a high ceiling and walls dressed with old promotional posters for dances and competitions. It was all pleasantly reminiscent of the 50s when ballroom dancing was highly fashionable. With a 10 hour day ahead of us it was a relief to be in such an appropriate, airy, welcoming environment with plenty of natural light. A bustle of pretty, poised, dancer girls welcomed us. Even at that early hour their professionalism shone through and their stage presence was matched by their dazzly smiles and sweet voices. There were plenty of us there first thing and more kept streaming in, of all shapes and sizes and maturity, all of us looking to bring something new to our local gyms, communities, clients and classes. We were ready to qualify in something new and exciting – something that is sure to enjoy tremendous popularity.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Ian Waite, enters and I’m immediately struck by the fact he seems to be about a metre taller than I remember him from our gym days. Or maybe I have shrunk?(!) Sadly we learn that Natalie, the popular, tall blonde Aussie can’t make it today as she has had to dash to Paris to renew her visa. It’s good that she’ll be legal and can stay in the UK continuing to inspire us, but there was a palpable wave of disappointment in the room. To have watched her amazing body Jive and Quick Step would have been an absolute joy. But never mind, I hope that opportunity will come again soon and besides, there was still plenty to learn from throughout the day. In FitSteps there is no partner problem. Ian and Natalie have ingeniously solved the dance partner issue for the nation and designed choreography, with steps from ballroom that we can do on our own. We can dance our socks off feeling free, without any tension of having your toes trodden on or suffering from a reluctant, restrictive partner or even being that reluctant restrictive partner.
* Ian Waite, Natalie Lowe & Mark Foster
Ian Waite took us through a dynamic uplifting class as an introduction and left us fired up and waiting for more. He combined a cha cha cha with a waltz and more for a warm up and then shakes and glides us into 4 X 4 choreography as they call it – four different styles of dance with four different moves in each. We can cope with that surely? But what was once a simple move becomes a tricky one with added arms and twirls.
Another trainer takes over and breaks down all the moves. All of which illustrates how varied and versatile FitSteps is and how it can be tuned to suit the needs of everyone from absolute novices to the super-fit. A glance around the room reassures me we are all in the same boat and I haven’t been left behind by those younger and nimbler types, yet! The same glance also confirms that this particular group is almost entirely female. But there are two males – visionary ones at that, who I expect have signed up for what is likely to become a huge brand and activity. One of the gentlemen is right next to me and Miles and I partner up for role play, teacher and pupil. Miles is half my age, neat, fit and knows the moves.
His mother was a ballroom dancer and I bet she’s delighted that he’s adding this to his repertoire. You’d think he had danced before but he hasn’t. I’m impressed. Impressed that FitSteps have put together something so achievable for the majority and impressed that Miles, had already agreed to teach a 45 minute class back home in Canterbury six days later. While the rest of us will still be considering and honing our music and moves, he’ll be out there putting it all into practice. Good on you Miles, I hope it was a huge success! And that’s what it does, FitSteps lifts you up, glides you along and waltzes you around. Finally, here’s a class and formula that could sweep the UK off its feet. It certainly has all the necessary ingredients in abundance. By the time Ian rejoined us later in the day we’d progressed lots.
* Natalie Lowe by Simon Howard – www.snhfoto.com
Their message is to offer quality to the FitSteps public, so the training day was long, tiring, in parts repetitive (to ensure key elements were well drilled) and I don’t think everyone sailed through the assessments. However, I returned home still energised by the physical activity and also the whole prospect, potential and structure surrounding FitSteps. I was waltzing in my sleep when I went to bed that night! I missed the female inspiration that only Natalie could have offered, but the rest of the team did a terrific job.
The business side of it is good. The front people are a tall trio of Ian, Natalie, and Olympic and multiple world champion swimmer Mark Foster who is a former Strictly contestant. And behind them is a strong team that has knitted this package together very well, providing constant support and everything an instructor requires to make a nice little FitSteps business for themselves. The follow up plan for their instructors will keep things fresh and professional for all: new monthly choreography, presentations, marketing advice, recruitment campaigns and among other things, new music downloads all performed by their in house band to save on public performance license complications. Jail House Rock or Party Rock Anthem, you wouldn’t know they weren’t the original artists.
So much of the nation has been inspired by Strictly’s costumes, choreography and celebrities. It has become the biggest show on TV with viewers crossing both sexes and all age groups from toddlers to great grandparents. Anything sprinkled with the Strictly magic dust is likely to do well and Natalie and Ian have devised and are fronting something that is clearly poised to become a huge success. An observation that was obviously shared by the giant Universal Studios who have quickly stepped in and snapped up FitSteps!
And whilst the Strictly name and profile will ensure attention and interest, FitSteps also has the depth of credibility and content to get the nation moving, buzzing and shaping up. No new teacher to FitSteps ought to worry about attracting attendees. As I said at the beginning, I have been around the fitness industry for longer than I care to remember and have seen plenty of things come and go. Sometimes they come in with a massive fanfare but vanish with a whimper. Everything about FitSteps suggests a long-term level of success. This is obviously something that giant studio company identified when it moved quickly to acquire FitSteps and mastermind the global push.
So if there’s a hint of a dancer in you and you’re looking at freshening up your workouts or your class programmes, I strongly suggest you should search out your local FitSteps class. And if you want to take things a step further why not check out when the next instructor days are and join me and become a member of the FitSteps family.