Strip Aerobics might make your cheeks flush—but only in that healthy, invigorating way. This workout is not about baring it all. It’s about looking and feeling beautiful in your body regardless of your shape, size or fitness level. So, throw on your fishnets and boa and groove to the music—no experience necessary.
Teri Hatcher, Lucy Liu, Christina Applegate, Jennifer Love Hewitt and even Bachelor Bob Guiney are already devotees. Carmen Electra and Sheila Kelley liked it so much that they launched their own versions of the exercise: Aerobic Striptease DVDs (AerobicStriptease.com) and The S Factor classes in Los Angeles (SFactor.com), respectively. But the man who's credited with starting it all is Jeff Costa, who, after being a stripper, a choreographer and an aerobics teacher, decided to put it all together and create the Cardio Striptease (CardioStriptease.com) workout and DVDs for Crunch gyms worldwide.
With moves like the "BLT," which stands for breast, leg and thigh; the "Hello Kitty," a full squat to the floor with your feet together but knees spread; the "California Roll," a pivot and grind move; and "Spicy California Roll," like the regular roll with your arms overhead, it's clear this isn't your mother's Jane Fonda workout. Danced to Madonna and Janet Jackson, Cardio Striptease offers both a hard, fat-burning workout and a safe arena to move your body and laugh.
"This workout helps people recognize that they are beautiful at whatever shape or size or fitness level they're at," Costa says. "We are human; we are sexual. It's okay to show off your body."
However, it's important to know that showing off your body means only what you are comfortable baring. In the four years that Costa has been teaching the class, not one person has ever gotten completely naked. He says that people are generally modest, preferring to take off only a hoodie or a T-shirt during class and saving the real risqué behavior for home—be it in front of a spouse or a full-length mirror.
"There's no right or wrong here; it's all very interpretive. If your California Roll looks a little bit different than the person's next to you, great, because that's your body expressing what you're doing," Costa says. "That opened up Cardio Striptease to a bigger demographic—older women, people who have never danced before, people who have spent their whole life on a treadmill. These women discover a part of themselves that they probably always knew was there but never got in touch with. When you see yourself out of the baggy gym clothes, you're going to present yourself in a very different way than if you were trudging down the street carrying groceries or carrying your kid. I've had so many makeovers with moms and wives and [women playing] every other role besides being a woman that they get into the class, and it's a rebirth for them."
The class is broken up into two parts. The first is learning and repetition of the steps—that's what gets the heart rate up. The second is the performance, putting them all together, which gets other people's heart rates up. Costa gives unorthodox instructions like, "Pretend there's a crayon in your butt and draw a circle between your legs" to get you to loosen up and understand the steps he's teaching. Then, to spice things up, he adds props, like a chair or a light box that you spank to turn on and off.
"Anything to get people's minds off the fact that they're sweating, burning fat, burning calories. Anything to make the gym not be a grind anymore," says Costa, "and make it be a place to bump and grind."