At 61, Denise Austin still has the same effervescence that propelled her to fitness stardom in the 1980s. Now she’s bringing some of her star power to Chattanooga for the grand opening of Echelon Studio.
Austin is the brand ambassador for the cycling studio, which will access the technology of its signature stationary bikes to stream live classes to fitness enthusiasts around the world.
“I love cycling, and I love bikes, and I love that everyone can experience this in the privacy of their own homes,” Austin said in a break between classes on Friday, the first day of a two-day stay to officially launch the new studio inside the Chattanooga Choo Choo complex. Her visit continues Saturday with two classes in the morning.
The first, at 8 a.m., will be a throwback to her 1980s heyday.
“I even brought legwarmers and some old leotards,” she said. “It’s a nostalgia workout.”
Core Crushers follows at 10 a.m.
“It’s all about abs,” said Austin, whose 50-plus videos, with titles like “Fit in a Flash” and “Hit the Spot:
Rock Hard Abs,” have sold more than 24 million copies. Her career arc also includes 12 books and hosting the longest-running fitness show in television history.
“I was on [TV] every single day for 24 years,” she said.
Austin trained as a gymnast in her teens, which led to an athletic scholarship at the University of Arizona. She graduated with a degree in physical education and exercise physiology.
At the time, aerobic exercise was fast gaining popularity, powered by the release of Jane Fonda’s original exercise video in 1982. Austin was teaching aerobics in Los Angeles when she was offered a job on “The Jack LaLanne Show.” LaLanne, “my friend and mentor,” Austin said, was a pioneer of the fitness industry.
LaLanne’s show led to more opportunities for Austin, including a four-year stint on NBC’s “Today” show, appearing once a month to offer fitness tips. Eventually, she was offered her own show, “Getting Fit With Denise Austin,” on EPSN2.
Her enthusiasm for this latest venture with Echelon ties into her core belief that “anybody can find 30 minutes to improve their health,” she said. “I’m a big believer in ‘just do it regularly.'”
Her projects over the years would seem to confirm that. She has incorporated elements of Pilates, yoga and other fitness trends into her video routines and adapted her workouts to different phases of her life.
“I’ve gone through all the stages of how a woman’s body changes,” she said. “Pregnancy, after baby, fitness in your 40s, fitness in your 50s, and now I’m a wellness ambassador for AARP.”
Compared to her early years, her latest workouts have “a little less jumping and more yoga,” she said.
She insists, though, that she’s not a “die-hard” fitness fanatic.
“I only work about 30 minutes, but I do it every day,” she said.
Her go-to workout is a combination of cardio for the heart, toning for strength and stretching for flexibility. “Each has its own benefit,” she said.
The Echelon workouts can be self-tailored to any level of fitness, giving people “hope to get out of their chair and move,” she said.
“With the Echelon bikes, the leg muscles do all the work,” she said. “There’s no stress on your joints.”
The workout is centered on the advanced technology of the stationary bikes. The 40 workout bikes can be accessed in the studio by local or visiting members of Echelon, and they’re available through physical and digital retailers such as Academy Sports, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Sharper Image and TV shopping network QVC. The next-generation EXL1 was introduced on QVC in January, selling a reported 35,000 units.
An EXL3 will be available on Black Friday with more new features.
“We’re constantly trying to make it better,” said inventor Lou Lentine, president of Viatek Consumer Products Group, which has been headquartered in Chattanooga since 2011. Lentine is also responsible for such products as the Hurricane Spin Mop, the Renu-it Battery Regenerator and Night Stars, the original Christmas laser lights.
Lentine, who has built his success on online and shopping network sales, said Echelon Studio is the first physical space he has had to pitch his products.
“I’ve been producing and developing products for over 25 years, and this is the first local business I’ve opened,” he said.
Echelon had about a dozen instructors, as well as guests like Austin, who will lead classes at the Choo Choo studio. Like Austin’s sessions this weekend, the classes are shown live to global customers who have bought the stationary bike and software for their homes. Or classes can be accessed later online, along with streams of scenic rides and music play lists.
The bike is on sale. A monthly subscription to the online classes ranges from about $20 to $25. Each is designed to be used with a screen, such as the iPads connected to the 40 in the studio.
Austin said she appreciates the phone and computer screens, but she’s still nostalgic for the screens that made her a household name among fitness gurus.
“I loved being on TV,” she said. “I loved me on TV.” Get 10% off !! USE CODE “GoEchelon”