One of the benefits of living in a crazy city like New York is the variety of activities available to the average New Yorker.
Among them are tons of exercise options that you just can't find almost anywhere else. This reporter has been able to experience everything from Barry's Bootcamp training to the famous "Legendary Step" classes of Tina Thompson. Yes i said "step."
The 80's and 90's sensation is alive and well in New York City.
One of my favorites (beside Thompson's) is Sarina Jain's "Booty Kickin' Step" class at Crunch Union Square.
Jain is a well-known and popular fitness instructor in the city, but she's managed to turn "teaching classes" into a brand as well. Jain bills herself as "the Jane Fonda of India." She's also become known around the world for what she calls "cross-cultural" exercise.
But that's not all. She teaches several styles of classes, travels around the world holding master classes, sells clothing, and is a motivational speaker. But she's found the most fame from her development of a popular workout inspired by her ancestral culture called "Masala Bhangra." Loosely translated it means "spicy dance."
Jain is now travelling in India to promote her latest Masala workout video and celebrate the 13th year of the dance workout routine.
Jain was born and raised in Southern California where she was part of a close knit Indian-American family. Her father's untimely death from heart disease inspired a life-long drive to bring the message of fitness and exercise to the Indian community. He was just 47 years old.
Jain started by teaching aerobics at a local club house in Yorba Linda, California as a teenager. She developed a loyal following and eventually came the attention of a local gym owner. That owner taught Jain step aerobics (then all the rage), and many other teaching styles.
Jain was eventually recruited to teach at New York Sports Club, and with just 15 classes under her belt, moved to the Big Apple.
She released her first Masala Bhangra workout video in 2000.
Jain thought it was a no-brainer for the Indian community, but was in for a rude awakening when it came to bringing the fitness message to her community saying, "The most shocking thing to me was that it was mostly Americans
that would come and participate. I was relentless in trying to get Indian folks
involved." But not many showed.
Instead she heard things from other Indians like 'please get a real job, and get married.' Jain said "lack of support from my own community was shocking to me." She said "God this is going to be easy," but she said it wasn't.
Eventually, though, Masala took off.. and so did Jain's career. She now has brand ambassadors in several countries spanning the globe. She regularly holds classes of 100 or more in places like Central Park. Her videos have become big hits all over the world. Best of all, she has a huge following now in India too.
And she still remembers the old-school step fanatics like this reporter. Jain said "I love my students, so i can't seem to give up these classes."
One of the things Jain told me when we chatted was that she's realized along the way that fear is one of her biggest enemies, "Being embarrassed is only holding me back."
She says that when she dies, she knows she will have made a difference - that she got people moving. This reporter thinks her father would be proud.