Break a sweat

Franklin Jazzercise has been keeping southsiders of all ages in motion for three decades and counting

by Jon Shoulders  //  photography by April Knox

You can see it in her face.

As Becky McInerny exits the room where, moments before, she finished leading a Jazzercise workout session, there’s a glow on her face that speaks to much more than just healthy physical exertion.

“I love this stuff,” says McInerny, who owns Franklin Jazzercise and serves as lead instructor. “It’s the members who come here every week that make it fun, and I enjoy encouraging and motivating.”

In the age of here-today, gone-tomorrow fitness trends, Franklin Jazzercise has stood the test of time on the southside for more than three decades. According to McInerny, such staying power is due to more than simply the dance-based workout itself; it’s the result of the friendships that have been forged among members over the years — friendships that go all the way back to when Jazzercise was launched in Franklin in the late 1980s by Shelbyville native Marianne O’Neill.

“We have customers who have been here for 30 years, and what’s fun for me is to help create and continue those relationships through the shared experience here,” says McInerny, who began taking Jazzercise classes back in 2009 before becoming an instructor three years ago and assuming ownership of the Franklin franchise in 2018.

“We make it fun; we’re dancing the whole time, but you’re getting a serious workout,” she adds. “As instructors, we’re there giving cues and making sure everyone’s staying safe. And there’s lots of friendships that are formed, and people will go on to hang out outside of Jazzercise.”

Mixxing it up
McInerny, like her fellow Jazzercise franchise owners throughout the world, combines strength training and dance-based cardio moves in each of her workout sessions. She and her three instructors currently hold 11 classes per week at Franklin City Church on Commerce Drive and Custer Baker Intermediate School, most of which are 60-minute Dance Mixx classes — a combination of 35 minutes of cardio-based training followed by strength training. Each dance move and strength sequence is choreographed to a specific contemporary song.

“I knew when I came into my first class that I loved it and would probably one day want to be an instructor,” McInerny says, adding that child care is offered for her morning classes. “With four kids, it was hard to find time and I wish I would have done it sooner, but I’m glad I eventually took that step.”

These days the Franklin Jazzercise group consists of both newcomers and longtime, dyed-in-the-wool devotees like Jo Hartkorn, a lifelong Franklin resident who’s been attending for 32 years.
“I originally started when I was home on summer break from college and have been doing it ever since,” Hartkorn says. “I loved the fact that it was local and that it is a good workout. I’ve met a lot of great people through Jazzercise, and of all ages.”

McInerny says that while the diversity and effectiveness of the workouts draw customers in, the bonds that are formed among members keep them coming back.

“We’ve had four ladies here battle breast cancer, and one with ovarian cancer,” she says. “One of my customers lost her husband, and a couple of us went to the funeral. We try to gather around people in those situations and send them cards. It’s things like that that remind us that we’re a little community, our own little family.”

All the right moves
Founded in 1969 in Illinois by a dance teacher named Judi Sheppard Missett, Jazzercise is now headquartered in California with franchises spanning the globe. This year, company leaders marked the 50th anniversary of its founding with a celebratory weekend in San Diego that included special classes and limited-edition apparel.

“I love the format of Jazzercise where you dance to current music,” Hartkorn adds. “It’s a complete workout that includes both cardio and a strength component with weights, and it’s a great balance. I don’t really have a favorite type of workout, but I do like the fact that we have four different instructors, so your music and routines are always different.”

As with all Jazzercise franchises, McInerny’s classes incorporate some of the moves that Missett came up with in the early days of the organization’s founding, while continually evolving to include elements of Pilates, yoga, kickboxing and general strength training.

“You can Google Jazzercise and there are some funny memes of Missett from the ’70s and ’80s, and the leg warmers and all that,” McInerny says. “The fact is, some of the moves from back then, like step aerobics, are timeless and effective, but we’ve kept up with the times. It’s become an effective modern class. We typically burn at least 600 calories in a one-hour class.”

Priyanka Verma relocated to the southside of Indy from Tennessee last year and decided to join Franklin Jazzercise about six months after her move. She says meeting locals from all walks of life has been as enjoyable as the health benefits themselves as she settles into life in central Indiana.

“I love the group that is there, and it seems like more than just a class with the way everyone interacts like friends,” Verma says. “It’s a welcoming atmosphere. You see people in their 70s and 80s, and in their 20s too. Becky had a program for kids last summer, and I sent my 5-year-old son there. He loved it.”

Hartkorn says the bonds formed among members not only extend beyond the gym walls, but also help everyone get an optimal workout, as the closeness of the group allows members to motivate each other in ways not possible amidst a larger, more impersonal gym setting.

“There is obviously a health benefit, but more importantly I have developed a lot of friendships in the group,” she says. “You become connected and not only get to know other people but also their families.”

For more information on Franklin Jazzercise, visit