Atlantan Gin Miller, 53, created the Step Training fitness phenomenon in the late ‘80s, and her concepts and creativity laid the foundation for “step aerobics,” earning her the worldwide reputation as a preeminent fitness program creator and exercise professional. It all happened because she injured her knee doing high-impact aerobics. Her doctor told her to strengthen her knee by stepping up and down on a crate, and in the process, she realized that it was a great athletic workout. The workout has an appeal to men as well as women, is simple enough to attract newcomers to exercise and still delivers benefits to seasoned fitness participants. She won the 1991 IDEA Instructor of the Year award, among many other honors, and was named one of the “25 Fittest People in the World” in 1994 by People magazine. She now owns a production company, works as a consultant with Fitness Em and Kaiser Permanente and continues to teach fitness classes.
What’s been your favorite part of your career?
Interacting with young students who were learning to become instructors and giving them insight into tools and techniques that I had learned through trial and error. Having learned a lot through my own mistakes, it was a thrill to pass along the tricks and fixes.
Your least favorite?
Traveling. All the things that go along with planes, trains and automobiles—transitional layovers, bad food, typical traveler woes. I always loved when I got there and hated it when I left—but was always happiest when I made it home to be with my family.
What do you see as the keys to being your “best self”?
Listen to what others have to say. Always try to stand in the other person’s shoes and empathize—not necessarily advise.
How did you come to this point in your career?
Trial and error. You start to understand that giving people what they want is better than trying to give them what you think they need. You just figure out a way to sneak in the need with what they want.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve ever learned?
That I’m wrong sometimes, and that you can’t please all the people all the time. Sometimes people just want you to listen, and it’s not always about what you know; it’s more about what you don’t know, and listening and compassion are key to really helping people be the champions of their own change.
What has been your greatest achievement?
My proudest achievement is my son, who has a true zest for life, incredible integrity and immense understanding of the human condition. I’m also proud of my father for fighting the good fight—he’s not well and he’s not complaining. He’s trying to give us as much of himself as he can and is doing so in a noble and honorable way. All in all, true achievement has little to do with work. At the end of the day, it¹s more about your relationships in life and love.
What’s your No. 1 health and fitness secret?
I’d rather be outside on the mountain, on the trail, on my bike any day of the week.
What are the keys to your health regimen?
Consistency. No matter what, I exercise every single day for at least 30 minutes.
How has the fitness industry changed since you started your career?
It’s become more people-oriented and less instructor-oriented. Overall, it’s become more responsive to client needs, rather than showboating. If you can’t talk to the least fit and the most fit at the same time, you’re not a true professional.
What is your cause of choice and why?
Cancer research. Having the disease affect both of my parents and several friends, I realize that it’s imperative that we do all that is possible to see this disease go away once and for all.
What is your favorite thing to do for fun?
Watch movies and sew … can I say ride my bike again?