Led by former Stryper superfan and all-around babe Donnelle Malnik, Heavy Metal Aerobics is a workout class that takes place in the basement of Engine Works gallery on Capp Street just off Mission and 17th. If you’re sitting around thinking it sounds like some testosterone-injected version of Jazzercise, guess again. For $12 a pop each and every Tuesday evening, HMA is an oasis where you can exorcise your personal demons to a soundtrack populated by a menagerie of long-haired dudes far more pissed off than you, and sweat bullets during a mix of yoga and classic aerobics moves, with a heavy metal twist, of course.
For the main ingredients, you’ll need to squeeze yourself into some Grade A spandex, either knee or ankle length. Then find a band shirt (in a size Large or with its sleeves shorn off, and preferably that of a metal group who achieved radio airplay sometime between 1979 and 1994). If you don’t have one lying around in a pile of dirty laundry somewhere, try snatching one up at Mission Thrift or the Alemany Flea Market. The more holes the better.
Comfortable socks, shoes (a trusty pair of ripped-up Converses being the quintessential rock ’n’ roll choice, but running shoes might be more practical), and a water bottle are no-brainers.
And don’t even think about arriving with clean hair. Aside from it inevitably getting sweaty anyway, the metal gods simply do not approve of hair devoid of knots and general rattiness.
Once class starts, Donnelle will crank up the stereo and from there, you’re at her mercy. She’ll warm you up with shoulder, arm, and leg stretches to the epic doomsday ode “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Metallica and Judas Priest’s stone-cold classic, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.” That’s when your spine starts to tingle, but don’t get too cozy.
Next, Donnelle busts out the grapevine side, complete with high kicks, and one of her signature moves called the“Maiden Run” (quick shuffling side steps and hand claps) to scorchers like Iron Maiden’s face-melting “Run to the Hills” and Anthrax’s “Medusa.” You’ll want to sing along to all of them, but save your breath; this is the peak of Heavy Metal Aerobics madness. Just when you think your limbs might fall off, Donnelle gives you sand-filled PBR tallboys, nestled in neon beer koozies, which inexplicably feel like boulders in your hands. Don’t despair; the burn you’ll start to feel as you lift them upwards and outward to the beat of shredding guitars and the snarl of Guns N’ Roses’ “It’s So Easy” hurts so good. Then, with weights in hand, you’ll start in on agonizingly slow and low lunges, followed by leg lifts while lying flat on your back.
If you’ve gotten this far, the worst is over. Now it’s time for the power ballad cooldown. Serenaded by the likes of the Scorpions’ “Still Loving You,” you’ll stretch your bones out every which way and slow your heart back down to normal speed. By the end of it all, thanks to this self-administered smackdown on all your worries, aided by all that extra blood pumping through your brain, you’ll reenter the world a renewed warrior on the road of life.
But the night’s not over yet. If you’re feeling particularly badass, you can pop across the street to Uptown, throw some quarters in the jukebox and rehydrate with a few cheap beers. You’ll likely have so much adrenaline pulsing through your veins at that point, you might just find yourself smashing the empty cans on your forehead when you’re finished knocking them back. If you get weird looks from others, tell them where you’ve just been. They’ll understand.
To ready yourself for an ass-kicking workout courtesy of Donnelle Malnik's Heavy Metal Aerobics class, first you've gotta sign up, either online at Workshop SF or in-person at the class located in the basement of Engine Works Gallery. Get outfitted at thrift stores like Mission Thrift or at the Alemany Flea Market. After the workout, if you've still got energy to spare, meet your friends at Uptown across the street for a few cold ones.