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Punk rock aerobics: crunches with punch

Even punk rockers can get flabby. And when that Ramones concert tee starts feeling snug, punk rock aerobics beckons.

Punk rock aerobics — or, if you're cool, PRA — is the brainchild of two Boston women. Participants are encouraged to dress punk and show off their body art while sweating to Le Tigre, Jane's Addiction and other music not heard at most gyms. In 2004 the founders published Punk Rock Aerobics: 75 Killer Moves, 50 Punk Classics, And 25 Reasons To Get Off Your Ass And Exercise as a guide for rockers everywhere.

Tampa personal trainer Seven Mitchell came across the book and now offers PRA classes at the Sweat Shop, a new gym next to the Tampa Theatre.

"Punk rockers do not particularly care about their health too much. They're kind of eating cheese pizza and drinking beer. In a generalized sense, that's usually good for them," Mitchell said. "So I'm trying to make it cool. I'm trying to be like, 'Look, you're not going to be 18 forever.'"

Mitchell, 27, used to work out too sporadically to justify investing in exercise clothes. When he did go the gym, he felt out of place with his street wear, 15 tattoos and two holes in each ear.

At PRA, Mitchell plays up his rocker side and encourages participants to do likewise. Some are students still heavily into the punk scene, some are partiers-turned-soccer moms looking to relive their glory days for an hour, and others are straight-laced folks who probably prefer Mozart to the Misfits.

"I'm sure that there are some accountants in the crowd," Mitchell said. To make mainstream folks feel welcome, his playlist includes the occasional punk version of a well-known song, like the Social Distortion remake of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire.

But make no mistake. This class is no joke. Although Mitchell welcomes all fitness levels, be prepared to sweat. (The Sweat Shop is so named because there's no A/C.)

I runs regularly but still struggled to endure the hour-long workout. Along with two other participants, I stretched to the White Stripes' The Big Three Killed My Baby and did insanely fast knee lifts to a cover of Rihanna's Umbrella by All Time Low. There was head banging and air guitar and a "mosh pit," a.k.a. running frenzied laps. Then we lifted weights — bricks stenciled with PRA — followed by more cardio, leg and abdominal work and stretching. Thankfully, the hyped-up music and Mitchell's quips kept us laughing. It's hard not to smile while doing a knee lift called the Teenage Skank or a hip-thrusting move dubbed Slut Butts.

By the end of the class, my fellow exercisers were also exhausted but in good spirits.

"I'm burning," said Michelle Gonzalez, 23, of Tampa. A pre-med student at USF, the untattooed Gonzalez wore exercise clothes similar to what she normally wears to Harbor Island Athletic Club, but with a special accessory for PRA: an Ed Hardy cap with a rhinestone skull.

"I love the music," said Keith Sherwood, 30, of Tampa, who enjoys Joan Jett and Iggy Pop. Sherwood is a regular at Lifestyle Family Fitness in Hyde Park. "Sometimes I get a little bit intimidated by big classes. All the music's dance and stuff I just don't listen to. When I heard it was going to be punk rock music, I was like, 'Well ... ' I don't always fit in at the gym, so it seemed like a good twist."

Sherwood has no tattoos but plans to get a deer crossing sign on his left forearm when he loses 10 more pounds. He said he'll return to punk rock aerobics, which is all Mitchell hopes for.

"It's about the music," Mitchell said, "but it's about fitness first and foremost."

Punk rock aerobics

The class meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. Saturdays at the Sweat Shop, 715 N Franklin St., Tampa. Free for members or $10 for a one-day pass. (813) 413-5348, myspace.com/punkrockaerobics.

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Punk rock aerobics: crunches with punch 09/18/08 [Last modified: Saturday, September 20, 2008 10:31pm]

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