Group fitness has wanted a much-needed makeover and now it has one! With more than a half a million people saying goodbye to the ghosts of aerobics’ past – for a new age workout to your favorite hits with a HIGH intensity and interval training. HIGH Fitness, one of the fastest-growing work-out programs in the US and Canada, transforms old school aerobics into a highly addictive, new fitness experience that combines simple, modern workout techniques with music you know at love, resulting in a high-energy, intense and crazy fun experience that leaves participants feeling HIGH and wanting more.
HIGH Fitness isn’t your mother’s workout class. Founded by friends and fitness instructors Amber Zenith and Emily Nelson, HIGH Fitness cleverly combines strong, simple and easy-to-follow choreography, with plyometric-type interval training moves (think: jump squats, burpees, tuck jumps etc.) and low, concentrated full-body toning moves to sculpt from top to bottom.
The classes are the hottest offering in group fitness and are reshaping not only participants’ bodies, but their long-standing, stale perceptions of a standard aerobics class. In just a few years, popularity for the HIGH Fitness has swelled across the US and Canada with 2,300 certified trainers offering 1,500 classes across 350 cities, 33 states and 4 provinces. In fact, 98% of participants that try a HIGH Fitness class return for a second workout with many becoming instructors.
“HIGH was born to fill a much needed gap in the group fitness space – most work outs we experienced were either super intense and easy to follow OR super fun and very choreographed,” said Amber Zenith, co-founder HIGH. “HIGH is unlike any workout today – it’s a fun, fitness-first aerobics class that offers a high caloric burn to deliver powerful results.”
HIGH Fitness is perfect for people of all ages and stages, providing a non-judgmental, welcoming environment. 60-minute choreographed classes sync with music genres and decades.
“The popularity of HIGH reinforces our passionate belief that the demand for challenging and fun fitness offerings among women of all ages has never been higher,” said Emily Nelson, co-founder HIGH, “we believe that fitness – and aerobics specifically – is a great way to empower women, no matter where they are in life, to take control of their fitness story – and have fun doing it.”
In your own words, what do you do?
5 years ago we brought the beloved aerobics back with a brand new modern spin. We teach classes, train instructors, run a subscription business and travel around teaching huge epic classes all over North America. But our real mission is to help people reclaim themselves and their lives. We’ve helped so many people pull out of dark spaces like depression and anxiety, and helped them to feel and look better all while falling in love with fitness and finding new social circles that help support and empower them. Our goal is to help everyone we meet become the best versions of themselves. We are working to change the face of fitness by reminding people that there is no “perfect”, no perfect look, 0r perfect body, that the only way to real happiness is through self love.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Our story is one of empowerment, we are 2 different women from 2 different countries with different upbringings that were brought together to change each other’s lives and in turn change the lives of thousands of others. Yes, we have brought aerobics back and people love our format but, HIGH fitness is about empowerment and proof that you shine brighter when you empower others.
This journey began with two women Amber Zenith and Emily Nelson in Calgary in 2009. After Emily recently relocated to Calgary, she took a job at a local gym to help offset the cost of her high-priced membership. Amber, more of an athlete struggled finding her place teaching in that same facility and was frustrated that her enthusiasm to teach there was often shut down due to lack of experience. Emily, a trained dancer had been having great success teaching dance fitness and was also a natural cheerleader and encouraged Amber to join her on the dance fitness route. At this point both women had taken and been exposed to hundreds of fitness formats. This gesture sparked a new passion within Amber to teach dance fitness with a more athletic and intense style.
Emily relocated back to Utah where they continued to share routines long distance. What they discovered was that together with the magic of Emily’s dance background and the simplistic intensity of Ambers athletic background along with their previous exposure to aerobics, they created something truly special. Group fitness classes had become stale, and were in desperate need of a makeover. There was no regular routine or consistency based on instructor class or facility and no balance of fun while still getting a good workout. On this journey the pair quickly realized that there was a need in the fitness industry for a workout that was both effective and fun. At this point both of us were already running successful classes outside of a gym but under another existing format. Convinced that we needed our own brand, Amber got to work and used her quick wit and natural marketing ability to come up with a name, HIGH fitness came to her like a bolt of lightning from above. Think Old School Aerobics meets HIIT training while throwing in a little Richard Simmons, LMFAO and MC Hammer all packed in to a 50-minute class. They realized this was not only fun but came with incredible results, mentally and physically. Self-funded and without a single loan, we have proven the power of our product and without a doubt it is the next big thing in group fitness. We now have over 3000 instructors in 350+ cities across North America and the classes have caught the attention of some big names such as Julianne Hough, Rachel Parcell and even the LA Laker’s cheerleaders and major media outlets.
You built a business to help inspire women to look and feel better, not just physically, but mentally. How does that help women feel better mentally?
All woman, especially moms need an outlet. The idea of staying at home with kids and having no personal identity or social circle is not good for anyone. What HIGH fitness has done is create a fun way to exercise that is comparable to a night out with the girls. It’s social, you are making new friends, listening to nostalgic music and getting out of the house! Once woman find HIGH they become so addicted to the experience and they fall in love with exercise and make it a priority to get out to a class. Sweating and getting those healthy endorphins is a game changer for your mental health in your day to day life. Major studies have proven that the best exercise for mental health is aerobic exercise. It’s win-win for everyone because when a mother is happy and heathy the entire family unit benefits. Most often our participants are so passionate they become instructors to empower others through High Fitness themselves. By teaching these classes, getting active and finding an outlet, it is not only a game changer, it is a life changer!
Can anyone do aerobics?
Yes! We can’t count how many times we have heard “I am not coordinated” but the idea that you have to be coordinated to do aerobics is false! The best part of aerobics is that you just follow along, have fun and let go of your inhibitions. Each song has only 4 moves and every song is choreographed and taught the same by every instructor, so once you start coming consistently you will really find your stride. The way we have modernized aerobics, we have made it much safer and more effective, it also caters to literally all ages and levels of fitness. Because of the simplicity of the moves, HIGH fitness is very easy to modify and cater to all levels when needed.
Since launch, what has worked to attract new customers?
Instagram and word of mouth have been our best marketing tools, people have an instant trust for anything a friend or loved one recommends. Often once someone falls in love with HIGH a new light shines within them and their friends are immediately taking notice and want to be a part of it too.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Instead of looking at this overwhelming big picture, just take it one day at time and step by step. As you grow and the business matures your stresses will evolve on a regular basis. Understand that problems and stresses are part of the process and they will make you stronger and better overtime. Start small! You do not need an incredible office space, marketing team, and staff of 20 to start a small business. We started our classes in a community center, handed out flyers in mailboxes and had a friend make a logo when were first started. Our overhead was low and our passion was high so there was nowhere to go but up! Keep it simple and make sure your brand is crystal clear to consumers, just because you understand your product doesn’t mean that everyone does. You can’t be everything to everyone as a company, stick to what you offer and allow the customers looking for something else to go elsewhere. When you try to be everything you end up with an identity crisis and that becomes confusing for consumers. Your staff and employees are fundamental to your success, find people that are as in love with your product as you are and it will be a game changer. No matter what never allow other brands or employees to sway you from your vision. From our experience following these steps will lead you to success, have patience with yourself and the process and success will be yours.
How do we find out if High Fitness is a fit for us?
Give it a try! You have nothing to lose and so much to gain! The majority of people taking High Fitness know within the first class that they are in love but, we always suggest taking it a few times to really feel its impact.
How would you describe your leadership style and what has made it so effective?
Empowerment is our magical ingredient. We truly want all of our employees and instructors to soar to the sky! Empowered women, empower other women, it’s that simple. Once someone believes in and becomes the best version of themselves there will be no force stronger than that.
Where do you get your inspiration from daily?
Each other! Because we come from two different generations, decades and countries there is an endless amount of inspiration that we get from one another. We would not be where we are without each other! Every single time we bounce ideas off each other the magic happens. We are complete opposites and that’s what is so great. When the ying and the yang of our ideas come together the most incredible visions come to life. We truly admire and respect one another and our different thoughts and views.
What is the number one secret to keep exercising?
You have to find an exercise routine that you enjoy, if it’s torture you will never go. The reason we created HIGH fitness was to get people to fall in love with fitness. We found most fitness classes were either a grind or no fun so participants eventually just quit coming. HIGH fitness is not only fun but you see results in the process so it keeps participants coming back for more. Like brushing your teeth, if you forget or don’t do a great job one day do you give up for a year? No, you would continue on the next day or the next time you remember. Do not self-sabotage, do what you can on a consistent basis and happiness and success with your health is inevitable.
Share with us the must-haves for working women.
As a working woman, you are guaranteed to have a million things going on at all times. The biggest lesson is learning when to say NO. At first every single opportunity that came our way was met with a YES but, often it ended up hurting us more than helping us. Remember to press pause. When an opportunity comes your way don’t answer right away, ask yourself if it is getting you closer to your goal, if the answer is NO then it’s not worth your time.
The second must have for working women is your mental health and “me time”. Yes, you are away at work all day but are you taking time for yourself!? Find something that makes your heart sing and do that for yourself. Being refreshed will benefit everyone in your life. We have found that the best thing for working better and smarter is to prioritize exercise. The stress relief, social benefits are endless and it will be game changer for your mental health.
The third must have for the working woman is balance. If it’s all work and no play then your relationships will suffer, including the one you have with yourself. Make sure you are setting aside time to just enjoy the things and ones you love. We find that setting work hours and family hours is a must. Put the phone away when it’s family time, that way the temptation to work will be eliminated and you can really focus on quality time with your crew.
To what do you attribute your success?
We absolutely and whole heartedly love what we do, in fact we are obsessed. Not only did we create the HIGH fitness format and culture but we have also personally benefited from it first-hand. Being busy moms with this outlet has changed our lives, we are living proof that empowering and becoming the best version of yourself leads to success. Once other women experience this, they start spreading the word.
Any final advice for women?
Be your own Hype Girl. When you have confidence without ego and a great product, the world will take notice. Just be yourself, stop with the self-doubt and that’s when your true superpowers will emerge. Look at other women in business as friends and not competitors. Ask for advice, collaborate and work together, all ships rise with the tide. Most importantly don’t give up.