One day in 1989, Joanna Rohrback was strutting along the Hollywood Beach boardwalk near her Florida home. “A really good song came on my Walkman,” says Rohrback, who soon found her arms and legs bouncing to the beat. As she began to trot and then gallop, she recognized what had been missing in her exercise routine: some horsing around.
That epiphany led her to create Prancercise, a fitness concept inspired by equine movements that took the Internet by storm in May. Millions have watched Rohrback hop around in tight white pants and ankle weights explaining the four basic steps in a YouTube video. It’s a nice introduction, Rohrback says, but anyone who really wants to “cut the noose and let it loose” needs more instruction.
As she explains in her book, “Prancercise: The Art of Physical and Spiritual Excellence,” the overall Prancercise philosophy goes well beyond footwork and shadow boxing. This style of fitness is a celebration of self-expression. She doesn’t expect anyone to mimic her exactly, but to find inspiration from her movements.
“If you were to look at horses, they spring off the ground, using all four limbs and their heads,” says Rohrback, who’s always had a fascination with the animals. “But every horse moves a little differently, too.” Rather than follow a choreographed routine — “This is not Zumba,” she vows — Prancercisers are encouraged to explore what feels right for them.
There’s no need to use ankle weights, and people can choose their level of intensity. They can do it anywhere. (“I’ve done it on mountains and in cornfields,” she says.) All that matters to Rohrback is that students tap into muscles that are usually ignored and improve their range of motion by opening up their hips and shoulders and blowing off some steam.