Group exercise offers fun, social workouts

Wellness Center programs encourage interactive workouts, focus on social and physical wellness.

Group Exercise Instructor Paige Birmingham shows a Zumba move at the Wellness Center on Tuesday night.  Photo by Ethan Arlien/The Dakota Student.

In an effort to combine social and physical wellness, the Wellness Center offers more than 40 group exercise classes every week.

Group exercise classes challenge students’ physical and social skills. Most of the classes, with the exception of the specialty classes, are free for students and operate on a first-come-first-serve basis. For safety reasons, class sizes are restricted based on room size and amount of movement required.

The classes, held on the second floor of the Wellness Center, are divided into three intensity levels. Level one classes such as Sunrise Yoga and Beginner Cycle are slower-paced, while level three classes such as Tabata and Classic Rock Cycle are intense and challenging.

“You’re working with people that are at totally different fitness levels,” Program Manager Laura Ahmed said. “People go to group exercise classes because they’re sick of machines. They really look to get motivated by other people.”

While Ahmed is tasked with scheduling these group exercises, the instructors are free to run classes as they see fit.

“It’s their job as instructors to lead the most safe, fun and effective class for everybody, but also to serve as a big example and a big motivator,” she said. “We’re there to push you outside of your limits.”

Aspiring medical student Billy Hoffman leads several group exercise classes, including “Boot Camp with Billy.” Hoffman started leading cycling classes three years ago. After adding new elements to his cycling classes over six semesters, he came up with Boot Camp with Billy, a level two intensity class held twice weekly.

Although Hoffman encourages his participants to push themselves, he emphasizes the social aspect of group exercise just as much as the physical.

“There’s a view that people go to the gym to look better, and I think that’s the completely wrong mentality,” Hoffman said. “It’s supposed to be a social, fun activity. People feel better when they come; they improve. It’s a personal challenge.”

UND student Jon Eaton attended Boot Camp with Billy for the first time Monday night.

“It was suggested by a friend,” Eaton said. “It has the crossfit-type training to it, the cardio and strength. I just wanted to give it a try and see if I survived.”

Hoffman, who is training for half-marathons and triathlons, continues to lead cycling classes several days a week.  Next semester, he will lead another accelerated crossfit class called “Cycling Boot Camp.”

Senior Nursing major Paige Birmingham leads Zumba on Tuesday nights. Zumba is a level three class that mixes Latin, hip- hop and salsa dance.

“I like to challenge my participants so they have something to work on and improve for the next class,” Birmingham said. “I also want them to get out of their comfort zone and feel like they are able to move their body and feel completely confident.”

Sophomore Mikelle Fetsch instructs EnCORE, Wake Up and Cycle, Night Ride and Turbo Kick.  Fetsch combines dance with combat moves in Turbo Kick, a level three intensity class.

“I tell people it’s kind of a mix between Zumba and kickboxing because you are working really hard but get to dance and let loose,” Fetsch said. “It is a great place to fit in for those who are fitness fanatics and is definitely where I have found my place at UND.”

Fetsch and Ahmed will be teaching Insanity, a new specialty class, next semester. Insanity is a longer, more intense version of Tabata, which will cost $10 to join.  Ahmed hopes by making Insanity a specialty class the participants will be more dedicated and show up for each session.

There will also be a free Viper class next semester, which Ahmed originally planned to have as a specialty class because UND will be the only college in the upper Midwest to offer this program. Viper training is used in reality TV shows like Extreme Weight Loss and The Biggest Loser.

Ahmed also is introducing a bingo-style fitness challenge in February.

“You have to complete a certain amount of group exercise classes,” Ahmed said. “The people who stay really dedicated and get a ‘bingo’ get a free T-shirt for participating.  We will nominate ‘Fit Guy’ and ‘Fit Girl of the Week’, for those who are really dedicated, and those people will get a reward — likely being a $25 gift card to Nike or Lulu Lemon.”

Along with group exercise classes, Ahmed suggests that students check out Culinary Corner, the rock wall — which is free for the first time in years — and Women with Weights.

Sam Wigness is the features editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].