By BECCA TURNER
I used to be in shape, I think as I watch my tired face turn purple in the mirrors. In high school, I played lacrosse, soccer and tennis, but exercise was put on the back burner after tearing my ACL in my last high school game. Now, in my third year of college, I’m taking my first UT exercise class.
I’ve selected the fifty-minute Friday Boot Camp class in the new gym. UT recreation staff more than doubled the number of classes per week, now offering 52 to the previous 27. Staff hope to increase this to 60 per week by midway through the semester, according to Coordinator of Fitness Brittany Schrader.
“It was the intent to create a facility that is a one-stop-shop for all things fitness by providing a wide variety of Group Fitness classes,” Schrader said. Some other classes are cycling, kickboxing and yoga. Barre classes are also in the works, according to Schrader.
The Boot Camp class is geared toward all levels from beginner to advanced, and it hits on several key concepts including cardio, muscle endurance and agility, according to the UT recreation website.
Before the class, I distract myself from my nerves by talking to freshman international business and entrepreneurship major, Alexandria Medico. She took a spin class earlier this week, but it’s her first Boot Camp too. Unlike me, Medico seems a little more prepared for the challenge, saying her friend compared it to CrossFit and that she has done that before.
“I’m hoping to get a really good workout in,” Medico said. “I want to improve my strength a lot and still do cardio, so hopefully it will be something that get’s me energized for the day.”
The instructor is Keturah Smith, an enthusiastic, energized graduate student studying exercise science and nutrition. She blasts Top 40 songs and yells out encouragement throughout the class.
“I really love all of it,” Smith said. “I just love the full-body aspect of [Boot Camp] and giving everybody a great workout. Giving that energy is fun.”
To start, we all put mats down on the floor and pick out the heaviest and lightest weights we can handle. I recommend sticking to the lighter side if you have never been to a class—you’ll be using them throughout. I select the six and two pound weights, but mostly end up using the light weights for the exercises.
We begin slow with some quick warm-up exercises that get my heart pounding and prepare our bodies for the challenges ahead. I weigh more or less the same that I did in high school— but my heavy breathing and aching muscles tell me that no longer practicing five or six times a week has taken its toll.
Smith breaks the class up into sections with short breaks in between. Each of the three rounds offers new challenges with short burst of running, bouncing medicine balls to a partner and wall-squatting with weights. Throughout, Smith cheers us on and I try my best to keep up.
About halfway through the second round, I retreat to the back of the room to catch my breath and rest my knee as the rest of the class shuffles while trying to beat each other to marked points in the room. After the group pauses for some water, I join back in. After cycle three, we quickly repeat all of the cycles as Smith emphasizes the importance of repetition in exercise.
It’s been so long since I have pushed my exercise limits that I had forgotten what they were. The fatigue is starting to set in and I have to break and take a breath a little more frequently, but I try to do at least part of every exercise interval.
Finally, we’ve reached my favorite part: the cool-down. It means we’re almost done and that even though I didn’t ace this class, I made it through. We stretch out on our mats, helping soothe the muscles that are starting to feel like Jell-O.
As suspected, Medico fared better than I managed, looking like she could go again, though she says she too can “feel it all over.” My main concern is when I’ll be able to shower and take a nap.
“Overall, I would recommend it for anyone that wants to get a good workout in the morning and just feel good for the day,” Medico said.
While I agree it was an excellent workout with a great instructor, it was quite challenging for a first class.
“It can be intense at times, but it depends on how you push yourself,” Smith said. “I will do variations and you can modify it if you need to. So, it’s really for all. Just always know that you can push yourself a little bit more each time.”
Even though at times during the class my out-of-shape body felt a little like it was dying, it was fun to workout with a group of people again. I think the group is what ultimately made me not give up and leave halfway through like my tired body so desperately wanted me to do.
“Group exercise is a great way to get into that camaraderie with everybody and get to know other people that love working out as much as you,” Smith said.
In fact, it reminded me a lot of the pre-season conditioning workouts my high school teams plugged our way through so that we could be faster and stronger for our first games.
While I hope to go back to Boot Camp again and tackle the whole class without extra breaks, I think for my next class I’ll try something a little less cardio-intensive — maybe yoga.
Becca Turner can be reached at email@example.com