We’re locked outside the big red double doors of West Kirby’s Westbourne Hall listening to Set You Free by N-Tance and Underworld’s Born Slippy.
We’re shifting our feet with the rhythm trying not to look suspicious (and failing). We’ve arranged to meet Clubbercise instructor and Director of Zest Fitness UK Jennifer Emery at 8pm (the 45-minute class started at 7:30pm) and the doors are locked.
We’re getting a good idea of the class, though. Clubbercise is based around ‘90s club anthems and features glow sticks, UV lights and more in a darkened room to give classes an old-skool club vibe.
While we’re waiting, Sunshine on a Rainy Day by Zoe comes on. We hear lots of “Ooo ooo!”, the kind that would fill the air in Walkabout in Liverpool whenever Love Inc.’s You’re a Superstar came on. The doors open and we try to do a headcount. We lose track; approximately 80 exhausted-but-smiling women pour out of the community centre followed by Jen and her rainbow-haired, flamboyant sidekick Amanda Baker.
Jen checks her Fitbit which says she’s lost approximately 700 calories during the 45-minute session (a standard lunchtime snack of a pack of Jammie Dodgers in the Wirral Way office).
Dancing in the dark
Jen runs Zest Fitness UK and says they’re the largest providers of Clubbercise on the Wirral. Clubbercise is sweeping the nation, and Zest Fitness UK also host classes in Rock Ferry and Wallasey on a weekly basis.
“Clubbercise mixes various elements. It’s ‘90s-to-now club anthems. We use glow sticks and easy routines, most importantly it’s in the dark so anybody that might feel self-conscious has no-one looking at them or mirrors around them,” Jen tells us.
“It’s great to improve your fitness levels and for all fitness abilities as you have the option to go low, medium or high-intensity during the workout. We have people new to fitness and people that run marathons.
“It’s been extremely popular and we’re struggling to keep up with demand, which is good! We hold classes here, at Wallasey Town Hall which is our largest venue and can hold well over 100 attendees, and at Rock Ferry’s St. Anne’s Parish Centre.
“The difference between Zest Fitness UK fitness events like Clubbercise and leisure centres is that people don’t really know anyone in a gym. We all get to know each other here, there’s a great social element to it.
“We make the effort to try and get to know pretty much everyone to make them feel as comfortable as possible and point them in the right direction fitness-wise.”
Amanda adds “All the classes sell out and we’ve got waiting lists each week.”
Smells like team spirit
The nostalgia industry has become a global phenomenon thanks, in part, to the growth of social media. It’s tricky to pin down how much it’s worth, but international brands are seizing on ’90s nostalgia. Coca-Cola and Calvin Klein are just two heavy-hitters trying to reach out to people based on their common experiences growing up.
The Telegraph’s Alex Proud argues that the ‘90s were just as good as the ’60s and champions hits like This Is England ’90 and the global impact of Britpop. Thomas Frank of The Guardian, though, argues nostalgia can be dangerous and that Hillary Clinton relies too much on the power of nostalgia in her bid to enter the White House.
Clubbercise, though, appears to have hit a nostalgic sweet spot, bringing exercise enthusiasts together through their love of timeless dance floor classics that are still being played in nightclubs across the world today.
“We do have participants between 18 and 55, but the age group of our core is around 30-40 years of age, mostly because of the ‘90s element,” says Jen.
“It reminds people of where they were at the time that that music was played and we have anything from N-Trance to Prodigy, Zoë and so many other different tracks.
“There is a lot of neon and glow. We use UV lighting on stage, I glow so everyone can see me, but everyone else is in the dark which ensure that they’re not self-conscious of other people around them.
“It’s not just good for the Wirral but for everywhere. Obesity levels are increasing in the UK year-on-year and unless we do something about it it’ll get worse. Clubbercise is really fun; you can work it into your lifestyle and into your weekly diary.
“There’s nothing worse than dreading exercise, but if you find an exercise program that you enjoy then that is half the battle. Clubbercise’s fun element helps to win that battle but is also an effective cardio workout for all.”
Jen, despite leading a 45-minute cardio class, looks like she can go another round and Amanda is still energised long after the class has finished. The pair bounce off each other well and have worked hard to not only bring Clubbercise to the Wirral on a large scale, but to have tailored Clubbercise classes right down to the individual.
“We also feature songs from 2000 onwards such as Rita Ora and Jessie J. That’s good as an instructor because I get to choose a great playlist,” Jen explains.
“We provide nutrition and lifestyle advice, too, so with all three key elements (including physical activity) you can really change your body shape and reach your goals.
“Everything’s been thought about from a fitness and entertainment perspective so people get the best out of the workout. They don’t realise that, the way I’ve tailored the music, helps people to work harder through interval training.”
Amanda (something of a customer relations guru) was keen to stress the importance of the personal touch despite the size of their Clubbercise groups. “I’m meeter and greeter and move around the class to see if everybody’s OK. I’m a trained nurse so can help advise on any problems during class should they arise.
“I’ve worked with Jen for five years and we understand each other very well. My role is to ensure I make people feel welcome, help people with any fitness problems and help with queries and also manage the administration and organisational tasks.”
“We work so well because we’re approachable,” Jen explains. “People get to know us, feel comfortable, and come back week after week. They’re not just another face in the crowd to us. We bring the workout to the community.”
Groove is in the heart
For Jen, Zest Fitness UK is the culmination of years of work, and a long journey working within vastly different industries to bring her own unique brand of fitness to all corners of the Wirral.
“I was an entertainer – a singer – for 20 years and used to travel around the country and abroad singing anywhere, from holiday parks to casinos and nightclubs. But, at the same time, I also worked during the day for law firms, housing consultancy practices, Merseyside Police…
“Over the years I’ve managed to build up a knowledge of the business side of things and also how to ensure crowds/participants get the best possible experience. I’ve always enjoyed and loved fitness; this is the perfect way to link it all up.
“I can also relate to anyone who has struggled with their weight. I was five stone overweight at my heaviest during my second pregnancy so I know what it feels like to feel extremely overweight and understand how important it is to find a form of exercise that you enjoy.
“Clubbercise is great for everyone but it has also opened it up to a whole new group that feel they can take that step as they are getting fit in the dark.
“It’s just a great way to keep fit. Not only do we offer Clubbercise classes but we also run Zumba classes and Metafit which is high-intensity bodyweight training in Heswall. We work all around the Wirral and want to help women and men get healthy fit and active.”
“The future’s bright, the future’s neon,” adds Amanda.