Lonely Planet Writer

Find your inner Jane Fonda with Sydney's 1980s-inspired aerobic classes

Do you yearn for a simpler time, before HIIT and dark-lit bootcamps, when all you needed to workout was a totally bitchin’ leotard and a Whitney Houston soundtrack?

Shannon Dooley, founder of Retrosweat. Image by Retrosweat

Thanks to Shannon Dooley, freestyle 1980s-inspired aerobics classes have become as de-rigeur as spin, boxing, or yoga. Founder and instructor dons the whole rigout, from leotard to leg warmers and a mullet wig for good measure, to teach her inimitable brand of fitness. With a background in musical theatre, Dooley definitely doesn’t do things by half. Participants in her classes can expect to never experience the same routines twice and she insists that the workout gear is strictly vintage or fluorescent colors only.

The dress code is strictly 80s. Image by Retrosweat

In a time where every fitness entrepreneur is looking to integrate technology or futuristic elements to their brand, Dooley has amassed a cult following of workout enthusiasts who want to simply move like VHS fitness heroins. “I have always been passionate about iconic pop artists and grew up making up dance routines to Michael Jackson and Prince songs,” Dooley told Lonely Planet. “The initial inspiration was a passion for music, vintage clothing, and a view that traditional exercise took itself way too seriously.”

It’s not just the clothes that are retro, the music is too. Image by Retrosweat

Her distinctive style of sweating involves something she calls “theatrical fitness”. “I see Retrosweat as equal parts entertainment and workout. This didn’t really exist as far as my researched proved, I’m not so much passionate about fitness as I am showing people a damn good time and making others laugh and feel good about themselves in the process,” she explained.

Dance moves aside, the most integral part of the workout is of course, the outfit.

Dooley looks to the Internet, Tumblr, and checks out old books and movies for inspiration for her looks. It can be argued that the chance to don 1980s-style footless tights, scrunchies, and cropped sweaters is the reason Retrosweat has become such a success on social media. “I love making people happy, and hearing that Retrosweat was the highlight of someone’s day or week,” Dooley says. “I also love vintage clothing and enjoy constructing outfits with all my collected bits and pieces.”

You can even buy the clothes at the studio. Image by Retrosweat

The studio even sells their own branded leotards and trackie tops too. Prowess with the dance moves, however, can not be bought.