The revival of the ‘robics? One woman’s bold endeavour to modernize the retro workout we all love from the 80s
If you've ever heard the words: 'let's get physical!', you know the visual that comes with them. Everyone's favourite 80s screen queen, Olivia Newton-John, dancing to the tune of her pop melody-sensation and decked head-to-toe in colourful lycra. After all, who doesn't love a good retro flashback?
Marlo Grover certainly does. Uninspired by the repetitive nature of the current health and wellness scene, Grover found the saturation of countless versions of HIIT, yoga, spin etc., overwhelming to choose from at best, and uninspiring at worst. So, the Australian-based founder of G-Pump decided poignantly last year, that she'd rather be the change she wanted to see than hope someone invented it. Twelve months later, Marlo now channels everyone from Cher to Madonna as she films her aerobics routines remotely on her road trip around Australia, against the back-drop of some of the country's most stunning scenic locations and beaches.
Marlo first got the idea for G-Pump when reminiscing on her childhood. She remembers watching her mother turn on the TV and work out to a classic aerobics video (like many a mum did back in the 80s and 90s) and recounts how empowering the retro-craze actually was, to an entire generation of people.
"This was a time when stay-at-home mothers couldn't get to a gym because they had small children and other alternatives didn't really exist. Maybe they weren't working either, so they didn't have the financial backing to attend external classes. So they'd put on Jane Fonda's tapes and do workouts in the comfort of their own home, enjoying their exercise and moving their body to really fun music," recalls Marlo.
When she first launched G-Pump in 2017, she was hesitant to label it as 'aerobics', afraid people would bucket her workout routines as 'goofy', or not 'serious enough', to qualify as modern-day, effective exercise. But more importantly for Grover, her focus was less on classifying her platform into a label – be it barre, pilates or aerobics and more, on clearly establishing G-Pump as a medium for helping people develop a more positive sense of self.
"It's all about the mindset. G-Pump is not about chasing an aesthetic – it's about chasing a feeling. Yeah, you can have a six-pack, defined delts and lift 200 kilos, but you might be unhealthy mentally. Aerobics is fun and joyful, doing whatever you can with what is available to you and not about the weight set at all."
And much as any entrepreneur would know – the 'yellow brick road' to success is never paved without many an obstacle. It took a lot of soul-searching and several bold steps to steer Grover on to her current path. Especially, when it came to breaking away from the notions of leaving behind success as the status quo defines it, in lieu of how she sees it now.
For over a decade, she spent her career grinding as a project manager in the marketing, public relations and advertising sectors. Whilst she was young, beautiful and successful – she began to build a compounding sense of resentment towards her job as the days ticked by.
"I didn't enjoy any of my time there [in corporate], because I'm such a creative and expressive person by nature. I always felt like within any of the companies that I worked in, or on any of projects that I was on, I was never truly allowed to be creative. Sure, I could express my ideas, but no one actually listened to them because I was 'just a project manager', so what would I have known about branding or copywriting?"
In tandem with her foray into the world of corporate, (which she cheekily describes as an 'accident'), Marlo who has spent 20 years training as a ballerina, missed her passion for dance amongst the day-to-day monotonies of the 9am to 5pm grind.
This unfulfilled reality plagued her further, when she had to transfer roles and move to Sydney from Melbourne in 2017 with then-fiancé Hugh, due to a relocation of his job. Being placed in a new team, handling new clients in a new city yet but under the same scope, soon led Marlo to what she describes as 'the lowest point' in her life. When she started turning to bottles of wine at the end of a hard day, she knew that her physical and mental health were plummeting alongside her career trajectory. She begun exploring gyms in her local area to find balance, but with classes at AUD$37 a pop and a dream wedding to plan and finance, she felt trapped between a job she didn't want and a life she couldn't wait to have.
"I never think anything you do in life is wasted – even at the worst of times. There is always an opportunity to learn and grow. Likewise, these horrible times allowed me to understand myself better. Since I couldn't find a brand catering to what I wanted, I decided to make my own – that's how G-Pump was launched," she shares, proudly.
Marlo first launched G-Pump in 2017 as a hobby and started to garner a small, but consistent following within the period of a year. However, with a saturated market still and emerging from the steadiness of corporate life slowly, she also focused on diversifying her exit strategy into another one of her passions: fashion.
Equipped with substantive insight on managing digital businesses and social media, she launched her sustainable clothing brand, 'Marlo by Marlo', full-time in the same year, well and truly venturing into the realms of self-employment. By 2019, Marlo had dressed international speakers and celebrities, had her designs featured on Vogue Australia amongst other prominent fashion platforms, and was emerging as a new face of local boutique fashion. Then, the pandemic hit, and it all stalled once more.
"Suddenly, no one was ordering beautifully tailored white work shirts anymore, because no one was going to work! Cash was tight for everyone in the early stages of the pandemic. Weirdly, the situation forced me to assess how scalable the business was and how future-proof it could be. It just didn't look like I would ever have the cash flow to expand it," Marlo reflects.
Thus, the revival of G-Pump emerged once more. As lockdowners hit their newfound fitness routines, Marlo spotted an opoortunity to re-look at her fitness business' model and relaunch – all under quarantine in her apartment in Victoria where she and husband Hugh, spent their lockdown in early 2020. Churning out videos from a small make-shift studio, Grover was over-the-moon when restrictions begun to lift, and she and Hugh could start slowly traveling around Australia. That's when she had her epiphany idea to take G-Pump on the road.
"I reflected on all these workouts I'd seen with the personal trainers down by the beach, and I thought: 'Not only is the movement joyful, but it's also the fact that it's like a slice of escapism for the day. So I thought why not with G-Pump, I could help people travel the beaches of Australia without having to buy a plane ticket, or leave their house? All whilst they get to enjoy a brilliant workout!"
Since her launch, Marlo has grown from strength to strength, amassing a strong following for her virtual streaming platform, and a sizeable social media following for herself. But as many with success will often recant, with glory, come the haters. With her infectious personality, model good looks and neonesque leotards, Marlo has undeniably attracted plenty of attention, but also plenty of judgement. Whilst for Grover, her outfits serve a much higher purpose for herself and her followers, (the 'Pump Squad' as she affectionately refers to them) helping them feel brighter and in a better mood when working out, many have been quick to critize her of sexualizing herself and her sport.
"The fitness industry is so saturated with people wearing black activewear and fashion bloggers on Instagram are all wearing white and beige, but that doesn't do anything for me. I'm going to wear whatever makes me feel good and make the most out of that 45-minute workout," says Marlo with a laugh.
She continues: "A subscriber told me the other day that she really wants to distract herself during a workout, and that my bright leotards help her with that! So yes, some days it can seem like 'why is Marlo wearing these brightly colored G-string-like bathing suits in 12-degree weather in the middle of nowhere?', but there's always going to be some conservative 'Karen' commenting. This setup is perfect for me, because even when your glutes are on fire, you won't know it."
To help you get into your boldest shape yet, Buro.Singapore has partnered exclusively with G-Pump to offer all readers a 25% discount when you sign up for a monthly G-Pump subscription.
Click here to sign up now and enter the exclusive code: LETSPUMPBURO