Punk rock aerobics
What’s wrong with the world? Not enough Punk Rock Aerobics, that’s what.
Maura and Hilken woke up one day in a boozy heap and realised they’d better set up a successful punk rock aerobics class immediately – and thank f*ck for that! Here’s their story.
Maura, what’s Punk Rock Aerobics all about? Did you and Hilken invent it yourselves?
Punk Rock Aerobics was something that came about after lots of late night drunken dancing. It was an idea that I’m sure a lot of people had, but one that Hilken and I actually turned into a reality. So yes, I guess you could say we invented it, but I’m sure we weren’t the first people out there with the concept – we were just the only ones to actually develop classes.
Did you need any special certified training or anything like a qualification to start up?
YES!! This was one of the suckier aspects- We had NO prior experience, and we weren’t in shape at all! We began to work out at home to crappy videos, and from there we signed up for the certification exams.
In the US you can teach a class without certification, but certification makes it easy for you to get the insurance necessary to be protected in case someone gets hurt while taking your class. At the time we were so ignorant that this was our main concern. We weren’t thinking much about how to best deliver a safe class – as our own injuries would prove down the road!
What sort of venues do you use for classes? Squeaky-clean studios, or do you take over rock venues during the day (once you’ve kicked out the last dishevelled roadie)?
Finding a space is always an issue. We knew that most of the people who would want to take this class would probably never deal with a gym. We certainly didn’t know much about gyms either so it worked out quite well.
In the beginning we couldn’t find anywhere. No one wanted any part of a “punk rock” anything. Also, we charge so little for the classes that we can’t afford much for the space. We first looked at spaces that held all-ages punk shows and from there we scoped out any location that held meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous, or other community services that weren’t centreed around money. What we cared about most was a wood floor (anything else is hard on your joints) and whether or not we could afford the rental. At one point we found a cool community centre, but the room had a huge mirror, it made all of us REALLY self conscious – I mean who wants to watch themselves work out? In the end we lucked out with the rock clubs, though you always have to squeeze in the class before sound check.
Is there a dress code for the classes?
NO – Dress Code and Punk are an even worse combo than Aerobics and Punk!
Are legwarmers okay?
Show up naked or in your pajamas- we don’t care!
Is serious branded sportswear banned?
Like I said, we could give a f*ck what you want to wear, just wear sneakers – if you want to be a masochist at home, fine, but we aren’t into class-related injury, so sneakers, sneakers, sneakers.
Are these classes a good place to meet boys?
They can be. But mostly I think the people that take this class are just so psyched to be with other freaks like themselves (and us) that overall I would say it is a better place to make friends.
Do you have DJs or tapes?
80% of the class runs off a handful of mixed tapes that the class gets to know. Guest DJs come in once in a while and shake up the bag by choosing tunes for all the stretching and weight sections – the cardio is more routine so everyone can get to know the workout and really blow it out.
What’s the ideal soundtrack to punk aerobics? Top 10 tracks, f’rinstance?
To be perfectly honest, a lot of the songs that really got us jacked up after a night of drinking were not the same songs that always worked in a structured format. Some, oddly enough, were too slow. Mid-tempo worked best otherwise we would need an ambulance at every class.
The bands with the best tunes overall for PRA:
- The Buzzcocks
- The Undertones
- The Rezillos
- The Ramones
- Stiff Little Fingers
- The Misfits
- The Vapors
- The Fall
- Gang of Four
- X-Ray Spex
- The Adverts
There are loads of other great bands with tunes that work, and I didn’t include anything but old school here. Joy Division is great to do weights to, and the Stooges rule anytime, it’s really a taste thing, and of course, whatever floats your boat.
So what are the dance moves all about? Are they describable?
Hmmmm. Best not to describe. The moves are simple and fun. If they seem too hard for a first time exerciser, we tend to nix them. Let’s just say there is a lot of jumping and punching (the more you extend the arms and legs the more intense the workout). When in doubt you can always pogo! The important thing is that you do them at all- and that you have fun in the process. Does it really matter what you are doing – if you can do it and you are having fun?
Do you like people to bring along an attitude as well as a mat? If so what kind?
Bring your sense of humour – you will need it when you get on all fours to do some fire hydrants and you are smelling like a pair of socks the dog peed on three weeks ago.
What sort of people come along? Are they punky-punk?
Believe it or not we get everyone from soccer moms to punks – and sometimes both when kids come with thier parents!
Have you had any famous people come to your class?
What is famous? Like Angelina Jolie? No. Kelly Osbourne wore a Punk Rock Aerobics T-shirt in a concert once, does that count? She didn’t take the class but she had to lift up her arms to get her head through the hole.
We’ve had a lot of guest DJs who have been super supportive – lending thier time and getting up for a few moves between tunes. Mike Watt, J Mascis, Clint Conley from Mission of Burma, and – strangest of all – the Blue Man Group.
What would you do if Johnny Lydon turned up?
I would laugh.
Have you got fave outfits for teaching your classes?
Yes, which I admit is pretty f*cking stupid. I’m really partial to knee socks, and shirts that don’t expose my stomach when I lift my arms up (I hate anything that reeks of “baby doll”). I made some really cool shirts for Hilken and I to wear that had all these cool patches sewn into them. Mine had a GG Allen patch and I LOVED it – I had to stop wearing it so it wouldn’t fall apart.
In true punk-rock style, are students at the classes allowed to smoke and put a bit of booze in their healthy water bottle?
Why hide the booze in a water bottle? Sweat, Drink, and Be Merry! We may be aerobics instructors, but does that make us the Legion of Decency.
What’s the funniest / most horrendous thing that’s ever happened at one of your classes?
Well aside from Hilken and I getting into a fight – nothing. One of the best moments happened when we were about to teach a class in Brooklyn and Hilken’s sneakers (I’m not sure how) fell into a toilet. There was a reporter from some paper that mattered to us there that day, and I remember the look on Hilken’s face as she held them up by the shoe strings (looking like she might start to cry). She dutifully put them on and proceeded to teach the class, although I think she said something about it. Toilet bowl aside – wet sneakers blow and to be squeeging filth with a smile is a gift that even I don’t have. I have suffered through a lot of underwear malfunctions, but nothing that you couldn’t turn into a joke in front of the class. I don’t think either one of us is easily humiliated- or we would never have had the nerve to get up there and risk the general embarrassment of BEING an aerobics instructor!
Can you get away with getting fit through punk aerobics but still leading a wretched, hedonistic lifestyle?
Did you ever see the movie “Breaking Away“? The Bike hero is a smoker. You can get fit while doing any of the “bad things”, but you could be MORE FIT if you didn’t do those things. The choice is yours. We don’t care what you do.
Right, more about you and Hilken, not the classes… Have your keep-fit efforts been appreciated by your mates and punksters in general?
No. I don’t care about what punksters or anyone f*cking thinks. My boyfriend is a flab machine, and I am an island of my own beliefs. You do this or you don’t – like I said the choice is yours – I’m not swayed for the benefits of the appreciation of others. However it does bottom me out when I want to do something outdoorsy and physical and it is hard to find people who want to come along.
Has punk aerobics had any nasty side-effects? For instance, have you become more sober and less lazy and messy?
I am still messy, and I’ve never been lazy (or PRA would never have materialized). None that I can think of except that I drink a lot less (still every day, but not out til 4 am). I can’t lie, being in better shape changes things but none of it seems bad. I don’t smoke anymore, I still love to drink, but I also love to ride my bike, and it’s not as fun with a giant hangover. Tomorrow I am getting up early to go canoeing. But hey – I am almost 40, and I have spent the better part of my youth partying like a motherf*cker, and it gets boring after a while. A morning in a canoe starts to seem more exciting than another after-hours party with all the town hipsters.
We heard you’d done some classes in London a while back. Are you thinking of franchising to the UK?
Nothing would make me happier than to see PRA classes sprouting up all over the place. Anyone interested – please let me know and I will do everything I can to help you get set up!
What about you and Hilken? Have you two punky misses been gig-buddies for a while?
Hilken and I met because her boyfriend of 13+ years was a great friend of mine from college. There is a pretty big age gap between which puts us in different places in terms of similar music interests. I was a punker in the early 80s, going to shows and obsessed with CRASS, but settling for the Misfits and the Bad Brains cause that’s what came to town. Later I got more into indie rock, and was immersed in the whole Dinosaur JR. scene – then in 1990-93 I was living out in Seattle seeing tons of shows.
I met Hilken in 1993 when she started dating my friend Winston; at the time they had an indiepop band called Fuzzy. We never actually lived in the same town until 4 years ago – just before starting PRA. Mostly we partied together and had a load of fun whenever I came into town to see her boyfriend. We were never really gig-buddies but we became better friends when I moved to Boston in 2000. Hilken and I spent a lot of time goofing around at her house, pigging out in the kitchen and playing jokes.
Does Hilken ever sneak tracks from her own lovely band into the class soundtrack for a liddle bitta promotion?
Sure, the Count Me Outs Rule! We love hearing them – of course I’m biased cause my boyfriend is the weirdo front guy!
Have you ever received presents from fans? If not, why not, and what do you think they should give you?
There is a guy in Boston who gives us really awesome mixed CDs of obscure punk rock. We also had someone show up with a gift of 24 bricks to be used in class (we never had enough to go around, and it was a huge hassle lugging them to the club).
You’ve got a lovely book out which will give girls a chance to do this stuff in the privacy of their own bedsits. But some people are too lazy to read. When’s the DVD out?
We need MONEY!!! Hilken and I are not rich, we both keep day jobs, and we have no rich relatives! We have talked to a load of people – record labels, you name it, and no-one wants to help us fund a DVD. It comes down to finding the $10,000… maybe we should start playing Lotto.