In the 1980′s Aerobic Dancing moved into major health club chains and dance studios. As routines became more athletic it became apparent that better floors and better footwear were needed. Many instructors and class participants were sustaining injuries from non-shock absorbing floors and insufficiently designed footwear. As a result, floors with padding were developed to absorb the shock from high impact aerobics. Shoes were specifically designed to insure sufficient support for the dance movements. In essence, a whole industry of dancing wear and equipment was created to insure that routines could be done in a safe manner. At this time hand weights were introduced to increase the intensity of the workout. These weights were also used in toning the muscles, especially in body sculpting classes.
Aerobic dancing routines became much more athletic and aerobic dancing instructors were true athletes in every sense of the word. One of the best instructors in the country at that time was an instructor from Marietta, Georgia. Gin Miller had been an athlete all her life and was well known as an expert aerobic dancing instructor. A former nationally ranked gymnast Gin had won state, regional, and national aerobic competitions. Gin was also a titled bodybuilder who taught effective weight training programs to women. Gin is a fitness role model for children as well as adults. She coordinated many children’s aerobics teams, including “Tots in Motion” and “The RASET” (Reebok After-School Exercise Team). Gin was also one of the most prolific gymnastics coaches in the history of the state of Georgia. She led her teams to 12 state championships – one for every year she coached.
One day in 1986 Gin caught her foot on the carpet of the aerobic dancing floor and badly tore her knee. Her therapist advised Gin to rehabilitate her knee by stepping up and down on a stair. Undaunted by her injury Gin decided to incorporate her rehabilitation exercise in her aerobics classes. For years instructors and aerobic dancing enthusiasts had been using high impact classes to achieve the intensity needed for an effective workout. Some instructors used hand weights to increase the intensity. However, high impact was too fast paced and jarring for simultaneous weight training movements. Many enthusiasts were getting burned out or sustaining injuries from high impact classes. Low impact classes were better, but the lateral movements and slower pace did not always provide enough intensity, no matter how creative the class.
In 1987 Gin Miller developed an aerobic dancing class called “Bench Blast”. The aerobic dancing community had been anxiously waiting for something new in aerobics. Bench blasting gave the participant the intensity and the fun of high impact aerobics with the impact and safety of walking. High impact aerobics subjected the body to the jarring motion of three and a half times one’s body weight. Bench blasting resulted in a far less impact to the body, about one and a quarter times one’s body weight. “Bench Blast” was an instant success. However, a problem persisted that hampered the advancement of Bench Aerobics. The problem was the wooden bench. One of the main ways of increasing the intensity was changing the size of the wooden bench. Therefore, there were many different sizes of benches created based on the intensity of the workout desired. The sizes ranged from four to twelve inches high. It was difficult to find a place that would make the wooden benches. Another problem with the wooden bench was that they were heavy (weighing anywhere from 25 to 30 pounds), and participants would snag their leotards or bang their shins on the edge of the wooden bench.
In 1989 Gin decided to move her Bench Blast program to local health club called Sportslife based in Marietta, Georgia. The club embraced Gin’s program. However, the wooden benches caused problems for the club. Less than a month in the program, one of the club’s partners suggested an adjustable step. The partners knew it was the solution to the problem. The idea was conceived by one of the partners while watching his two sons play with their Legos building blocks. A local design firm came up with a design of a light and durable plastic step. The STEP was endorsed by REEBOK and a new division was created in its company called STEP REEBOK. The STEP platform itself is four inches and an additional block on each side increases the height by two inches. The platform weighs seven pounds and each block weighs two pounds. The famous plastic STEP was born.
Gin Miller, then an employee of Reebok International Ltd., help produce a video with the new plastic step and traveled throughout the country lecturing at STEP REEBOK seminars. Gin stared in the video leading a class through a step routine. In 1991, she was recognized by the International Dance Exercise Association (IDEA) as Instructor of the Year. Gin is the creative consultant for Step Reebok. Step Reebok motivated millions of participants into step training in health clubs worldwide. Gin hosted a Step Reebok Show that was the number one rated pan-European television series broadcast on Eurosport. She stared in numerous Step Reebok videos and introduced a new Step Reebok Athletic Circuit class in 1994.
Gin Miller continues to work improving Step Aerobics and other fitness programs. She has devoted her life improving the quality of life for countless individuals. Although she had many obstacles to overcome Gin continued to believe in her program, and after a decade of teaching aerobic dancing was able to establish her as one of the greatest aerobic dancing instructors of all time. Empowerment is the strength that comes from joining forces with others, which can empower you to overcome obstacles that once seemed insurmountable. It can change the way people see you and, most importantly, the way you see yourself. According to Gin Miller “There’s a certain strength that comes from doing something like a step class and I don’t mean just physically. It strengthens your mind as well. When you begin to realize the control you can have over your body, you see the power you can wield in all facets of your life.”
Gin is truly one of our greatest athletic heroines, not only for her contributions to aerobic dancing and other group fitness classes but also for her contributions to gymnastics and body sculpting. Gin Miller was recently inducted into the Fitness Hall of Fame.