The lights go down and the ‘whooping’ begins. All around me neon shades strike out of the darkness - green leggings, pink tops, even orange facepaint - lit up by the disco lights on all sides.
The energy in the room is electric and I, along with the 60 other women in the room, raise the flashing glow sticks in my hands above my head, and wait. Right on cue, the music bursts on - and we’re off. Welcome to Clubbercise.
As a 30-something working mum, getting up the energy for a workout at the end of a long day isn’t easy. But I’m not thinking of any of that now; I feel 18 again.
Bopping along in the near-dark auditorium of Barnsley Academy, to the music of my early 20s, this feels more like a night out on the town than a fitness class. But that’s exactly what this is - the latest fitness craze sweeping the region. And the woman on the stage at the front is like no instructor I’ve ever seen.
She whoops, she sings, she dances, she laughs, and she never stops moving for the whole hour. She’s more like the best mate you hit the town with, dragging you out onto the dance floor for every great song; but rather than downing cocktails, you’re burning calories.
“This is your time for you,” self-proclaimed ‘Mrs Motivator,’ Sonique Smith explains after the session.
It’s a throwback to the nights out we all had when we were young and, above all, it’s fun
“This is not just a fitness class, it’s an experience and it takes you on a journey. Nobody is judging - thanks to the darkness, no one is even watching! It’s your time to be exactly who you are, to sing, whoop, dance like a fool and have a good time.
“It’s a throwback to the nights out we all had when we were young, and above all, it’s fun. And the best part - we’re smashing out calories!”
Sonique - who teaches Clubbercise in locations all across South Yorkshire - is also the lead master trainer for the company she helped establish in 2014.
She personally trained about 70 per cent of the 2,000 instructors teaching Clubbercise across the UK. And, two years on from its launch, the company now has classes all across the globe - in locations including Australia, Bangkok, Singapore, France and Germany.
“People’s reaction to this is amazing; they just completely let go.
“I love motivating people and this class reaches such a wide market, because it’s not about being super fit,” adds the 42-year-old mum-of-two, of Doncaster.
“I’ve been that person, an overweight and unhealthy mum who’s too busy looking after her kids to think about herself. I know how hard it is. But that’s why this one hour a week is your gift to yourself.”
And nobody knows that better than Sonique’s partner-in-crime, her co-instructor Sharon, who joined Clubbercise as a participant 18 months ago.
“I’ve lost three stone since I started taking Sonique’s class,” smiles Sharon Adams, age 38.
“I completely fell in love with the concept; you can be whoever you are when you walk in the door.
“I’m a ward nurse by day and this class is my time to let my hair down.”
Sharon has now undertaken the Clubbercise instructor course and has begun leading sessions in South Yorkshire along with Sonique.
“I love the energy, I love the music - it’s my era, I was a 90s girl out on the town, so this is a complete throwback for me.”
And the pair says this is a class that is truly for everyone, no matter their age: “We have a 73-year-old participant who comes and does a two-hour back-to-back session on a Wednesday - she’s awesome,” grins Sonique.
PR director Adelle Draper has been attending Clubbercise Sheffield classes for the past four three months.
“Clubbercise appealed to my self-conscious side because it’s in the dark - hurrah!” laughs the 30-year-old.
“I’m a member of Graves Leisure Centre and went along to a class there with a friend for moral support - I’ve been hooked ever since.
“There’s a real mix of people who attend - all different ages, shapes and sizes - and my instructor, Gayle, is an enthusiastic ball of energy. I spend the whole time grinning and go home buzzing. I’m not a great dancer and having a desk job means I’m pretty inactive, but it’s a great way to let go, de-stress and have loads of fun.”
It’s not until the class ends an hour later, I realise I’m shattered, wet-through, and, according to my watch, I’ve burned 350 calories. Amazing.
Sonique adds: “My job is getting people comfortable in their own skin, getting them energised and engaged and making a connection.
“I’m not up on that stage as an example of some great dancer, I just dance my heart out and try to get everyone doing the same.”
And it works, the ultimate girl next door certainly has me feeling like I wanna be in her gang.
So if you’re feeling disheartened, struggling with the idea of getting back into a fitness routine, to quote one of my favourite dance anthems, ‘I’ve got the key, I’ve got the secret’ - it’s Clubbercise.
Search Clubbercise and the name of your town or city to find information on local classes.