Saturday, May 10, 2014

Interview: Q&A Session with Dana Pieper of Everybody Fitness (9-17-2012)

Belles: For starters, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in the fitness industry?
Dana: I have danced since I was a child and danced professionally for about 6 years after I graduated from University of Michigan as a psychology/dance major. As I was transitioning out of dance, where I got all my exercise, I started to take group exercise classes at a gym. This was all during the time of the “kickboxing craze.” As a dancer, the martial arts aspect of the classes came easily to me and filled a void left behind from leaving dance. I was approached by the instructor to start teaching the classes, as instructors for this format were in demand. I honestly never saw myself going in this direction, but with an added push from my then fiance, now husband, who said, “they’re going to pay you to work out?!” I conceded, and so began my life in fitness.
Belles: We love the concept behind Everybody Fitness – for everybody and every body. How and why did you come up with the concept?
Dana: When I moved to suburban Chicago from Los Angeles, I had to somewhat “start over” as an instructor because I did not have a reputation in this neighborhood. I found myself at a facility that was just about to open its’ doors for the first time–a state of the art Recreation Center that was both a full functioning fitness center as well as a venue for local park district programming. I thought I’d have to tailor my classes that I was accustomed to teaching to a more hard core crowd, to accommodate the wide age range and experience levels of the people who were walking into my studio. Instead, I found that what I was doing was appealing to all walks of life and that everyone wanted to do the workout even if they didn’t look like the person next to them, or do exactly what they were doing. I didn’t want to change what I brought to the table in terms of creative exercises, inspirational music, and the concept behind the class. I wanted to challenge everyone in the room with the same format. I will have such a range of people in my room–a high school girl, a new mother, an uncoordinated male, a grandmother, a super athletic runner, etc, and my goal is to have all of them complete the hour feeling they got the best workout. Thus..a workout for Everybody and Every Body was born ;)
Belles: You just released two exercise DVDs: Kickbox Challenge and Total Body conditioning. What motivated you to begin creating fitness DVDs?
Dana: The idea was kind of born from two different factors. First, my husband who travels all the time began the P90X program so he could bring his workouts on the road. After a couple weeks, he mentioned to me that he thought I could launch something similar because he felt (having taken my classes as well) that I brought something different to the table that may appeal to people who do home exercise. Second, as a very dedicated individual, I rarely will miss teaching my class, but when it happens, I would get so many complaints that they “didn’t know what to do when I’m gone.” The two comments collided and I started to really consider the possibility that I could do it.
Belles: What can you tell us about the DVD making experience?
Dana: Making these DVDs was a daunting experience because I was doing this alone and did not know anyone who had produced any in the past. I contacted a man I knew that filmed all the Chicago dance performances when I was a dancer, Matt Hoffman. Luckily, he remembered me! He knew very little about exercise videos except what almost everyone told me, which was “that is a very saturated market! Are you sure this is a good idea?!” I knew it was a big market to conquer, so if I was going to do it, I knew I had to bring a fresh look and concept. I wanted it to feel different both in style and in content. I knew I couldn’t use licensed music, and music is extremely important to me and my workouts, so I worked very closely with a composer to get just the right vibe and motivation throughout. I relied on Matt for the technical side. He watched several of my classes and wanted to bring the motion of the the group into the filming–something he has a wonderful skill for with his history of filming dance. We brainstormed together on venues and did several location scouts. I recruited a mixture of my loyal “class-takers” and it all just came together. My first look at the first edit was so nerve wrecking…I had no idea what to expect, and thankfully I was pleasantly surprised! I learned a great deal from the whole experience, and will definitely need to make some changes the next time around, but I’m more than happy with what we put together.
Belles: Do you have any plans for future DVD releases?
Dana: Yes! I have 2 more concepts in the works. I hope to get them off the ground within the next 6 months.
Belles: How does teaching a live class differ from producing a workout video?
Dana: I’m going to reveal a little “behind the scenes” secret here…so…the people in my video are actual participants in my weekly classes. They appeared in my video as a favor and in support of me. Therefore, I did not have the heart to ask them to come and rehearse/learn the routine before shooting. What you see on my video is me teaching them, while teaching the viewer. It’s kind of why I didn’t “mirror cue”–which is a comment I’ve been getting from some consumers. It would have been way too confusing for them behind me. So, this time around, it was pretty similar to teaching a live class. There are so many great things I love about both…teaching a live class allows me to see the sweat and hard work first hand. We work together and have a comradery. Shooting the video is exciting because I know that what I’m doing is going to reach a whole other crowd of people, and share my fitness enthusiasm with them.
Belles: What is the funniest thing that has ever happened while teaching a live class?
Dana: Oh it’s always fun in class…I’ve had huge spiders crawl into my space during push-ups, I constantly am belting out the wrong lyrics to my music, and one time, one of my daughters was “sick” and couldn’t go to school-she was probably 4 at the time–and she came with me to the gym and watched me teach. I had her just sit on the risers and color, which she did so well. I was teaching in the actual gymnasium of the facility and I had us doing sprints across the floor. I guess she was so inspired by the hard work in front of her that the next thing I knew, she was running back and forth with us! It was so funny to see her immersed in the class. I think it in turn inspired the rest of the group!
Belles: With so much misinformation out there and everyone claiming to be an expert on something, how do you help your clients decipher the information so that they can achieve a healthy and fit lifestyle?
Dana: That’s a good question. It reminds me of this commercial that’s running right now where a girl insists that “everything on the Internet is true.” Most people will hear something from another instructor or friend and actually ask me my advice or interpretation of it. I’m not saying that I’m the answer box for all things fitness, but I think they have the right idea…if you’re not sure, do a little more research before you take something at face value. Ask a friend, or two, and use the Internet in order to make an informed decision.
Belles: Motivation and support are cornerstones to achieving successful and lasting results whether on a weight loss journey or trying to stay fit. What inspires you? How do you keep your clients motivated?
Dana: I try to keep my clients motivated by being honest with them. I may be a fitness professional, but I’m human and not without faults. I share my experiences of not having a healthy eating day, of being sore, or my rough days with my kids and being exhausted. But I remind them that if it weren’t for our time in the gym, we’d take that fatigue and frustration and misplace it. We all feel better after a good sweat. It may take extra effort to get there, but we always are happy we did. I remind them of the feeling they will have after they are done. The sense of accomplishment and doing something for themselves will carry them throughout the rest of the day.As to what inspires me…After the summer Olympics, I can honestly say the athletes from all these different countries inspire me. They sacrifice so much, they work so hard, and the emotion they exhibit from the mere completion of their lifelong goal is so inspiring. There are obstacles they overcome and their accomplishments are envious.
Belles: If you could leave us with one word of fitness wisdom, what would it be and why?
Dana: One of the most important messages that I want to get out there is to lead by example. As a fitness professional, my children see me use my body every day and how it’s a part of my life. We want to promote healthy living for future generations and I think the best way is to demonstrate how living this way can positively impact your body and mind. If you place a high level of importance on fitness, so will your children and friends, and hopefully it will continue to pay it forward.
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