Georges, foreground center, teaches Cranked Up Cardio,
which was created by Baltimore native Janice Armstrong,
not pictured, who uses Baltimore Club dance moves as a
form of working out.
In the ’90s,
she’d hit the dance floor. Today, she’s helping others work
up a sweat to Baltimore club music.
1990s, Janice Armstrong spent most weekends like many other
Baltimore natives: sweating it out on the dance floor at the
student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County,
Armstrong would gather friends for College Night at the
18-and-older nightclub in the Carroll-Camden Industrial Area,
the city’s epicenter for all-night dance parties. Informal
dance battles between friends, crews and strangers often drew
onlookers, and Armstrong was more than ready to show off her
the time, I was one of the only females that would get on the
floor and battle against a bunch of males," said Armstrong,
now 39. "I tended to provide a shock factor back in the
later, Armstrong is still using the dance moves she crafted at
the Paradox, but in a new way. Inspired by her love of Baltimore
club music — the city’s frenetic dance genre that combines
elements of house and hip-hop at 130 beats per minute —
Armstrong created Cranked Up Cardio, a fitness program that
mixes aerobics steps with club dance moves.
the local soundtrack, the partylike atmosphere or the calories
they burn without realizing it, people young and old, familiar
with club music and not, in Baltimore and across the state, are
using it to work up a sweat.
have instructors who span from Clinton … all the way up to
Edgewood," Armstrong said. "I have participants that
will come to each and every event that I do because they just
enjoy the atmosphere. They enjoy the fact that it is
personalized to us and our city. They might not go clubbing
anymore, but it feels like the club every time I have an
hourlong workout begins and ends with 10 minutes of warm-up and
cool-down motions to reggae, R&B and funk. But for the 40
minutes in between, the focus is on learning and executing
old-school aerobics steps. As students get more comfortable,
they gradually increase their speed and intensity. The goal is
to "crank it up" to a Baltimore club dance step.
song "Pull Ya Gunz Out" by Miss Tony, for example,
"We’ll do a grapevine into a basic knee-lift, then a
grapevine, knee-lift, jump (twice) and then we put our guns up
with our hands to complete," Armstrong said.
workout’s height, Armstrong said, participants can burn up to
600 calories. She does not guarantee weight loss — mainly
because each body reacts to cardio differently, and factors like
diet play significant roles in dropping pounds — but she does
promise a high-energy workout that will burn calories and
increase heart rates.
who view working out as a chore, Armstrong — who credits the
program with helping her to lose more than 50 pounds —
believes Cranked Up Cardio is a solution.
want people to feel comfortable in knowing it’s something that’s
fun," she said.
initial idea for Cranked Up Cardio came in 2006, when Armstrong
would exercise by creating step routines to club music in her
basement. She knew her steps had potential to reach others, but
life got in the way — now a Waldorf resident, Armstrong has
two children and has been married for 13 years — so she
shelved the idea.
Then at a
college reunion party two years ago, an old friend spotted
Armstrong owning the dance floor like it was the Paradox all
was like, ‘You still move!’" she recalled.
encouraged Armstrong to develop her dance moves into a fitness
program, despite her lack of experience in the field. (Calling
herself a "full-time hustler," Armstrong currently
works as a management analyst in Washington, an adjunct
professor with Prince George’s Community College and a
leadership trainer for LiHK Consulting, her own consulting
developing a pilot program with the help of friends and family,
Armstrong debuted Cranked Up Cardio in April 2014 at the Let’s
Get Serious: Health, Wellness and Fitness Expo in Baltimore.
was the longest 20 minutes ever," Armstrong said with a
laugh. "By the end, I was totally out of breath because I
was too excited."
Gregg attended the expo and fell in love with Cranked Up Cardio.
The Reservoir Hill neighborhood resident grew up with club music
and was immediately drawn to Armstrong.
was like, ‘This is what a workout should be,’" said
Gregg, 42. "Every old dance I could think of, she did it. I
said, ‘Stop! Oh, I’m in. I love this.’ And I’ve been
telling everybody ever since."
curriculum approved by the American Council on Exercise, Cranked
Up Cardio has been expanding ever since. Now, nearly 30
instructors are certified teachers of Armstrong’s program and
lead hourlong classes throughout the state. Armstrong also hosts
bigger monthly parties, including one on Nov. 22 at the Forest
Park Senior Center.
business model for Cranked Up Cardio is straightforward.
Potential instructors pay Armstrong to become certified, and
starting in January, they will pay her a monthly licensing fee
to use the brand’s trademark, she said.
month, April Georges began teaching Wednesday nights at Mortimer’s
in Baltimore’s Reisterstown Station. The feedback from
students, she said, has been enthusiastic and positive so far.
next day I get messages on Facebook talking about how sore they
are, but they love it," Georges said. "Everybody is
smiling at the end of class. It’s like a big party. They enjoy
told Will Jefferson about Cranked Up Cardio, but he was
skeptical at first. The Cedonia neighborhood resident had tried
a Zumba class once, with disappointing results.
was a whole lot of gyrating the hips and popping your back out.
I didn’t feel comfortable and I didn’t go back,"
Jefferson, 33, said. "But the first time I went to Cranked
Up Cardio, it wasn’t that. It was totally the opposite. It fit
It fit him
so much that Jefferson, who said he’s lost 70 pounds thanks to
Cranked Up Cardio and other fitness programs, became an
instructor in June.
Gregg’s and Jefferson’s encourage Armstrong, but they no
longer surprise her. She’s eyeing eventual expansion, hoping
to apply the "Cranked Up" brand to other fitness areas
like yoga and muscle toning. And she wants to cater programs to
other homegrown dance subgenres such as New Jersey club and
Armstrong, who grew up in Ednor Gardens, looks outward, her
hometown remains a large reason why she continues to push
Cranked Up Cardio. She thinks Baltimore has been misrepresented,
especially after the death of Freddie Gray, and wants to remind
others "we also have those diamonds that make us Charm
new to all of this — developing a fitness format and a fitness
business — it can get discouraging sometimes," she said.
"But just knowing people are impacted by it — they give
me positive feedback, they look for me to come to town, they
find an instructor that really gets them grooving — that stuff
really keeps me motivated."