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Belles for Fitness get into shape

Caitlin Housley | Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The women of Saint Mary’s gained 134 new BFFs on Monday — Belles for Fitness, that is.

The Belles for Fitness program, created in 2008, encourages participants to exercise 200 minutes per week over a five-week period.

Bridgette Van Schoyck Clark, fitness instructor and Belles for Fitness director, said the unhealthy fitness behaviors of some students prompted her to create the program.

“I started this program in 2008 because as I would spend [about] three hours per day in the Angela [Athletic Facility], I noted that one to two weeks before Spring Break the students were in there killing themselves with these ridiculous marathon workouts to lose their holiday pounds before [bikini season],” Clark said. “I decided to develop a program that would help them shed their holiday pounds safely over a [five] week period instead of two.”

Clark said Belles for Fitness helps students safely shed their winter break weight by encouraging participants to form teams of two to 10 people for motivation and moral support.

“Research has proved over and over that women have a greater chance of success with the support of their friends and family; thus, the teams,” she said.

And the choice of a 200-minute weekly fitness goal was no accident either, Clark said.

“The goal of 200 minutes comes from the recommendation of the American College of Sports Medicine that we need to exercise 300 minutes per week to prevent weight gain,” Clark said. “So 300 minutes minus about 100 minutes of walking on campus to and from classes equals 200 minutes.”

Clark said various types of exercise count as fitness, including cardiovascular and strength training, flexibility, fitness classes, exercise videos and sports.

Teams are also encouraged to exercise and meet outside of the Angela Athletic Facility.

“[Teams] come together once a week for a ‘team huddle’ to keep each other motivated,” Clark said. “[They can] share Shape Magazine ideas, recipes, new ab routines, or discuss the helpful information put together for each huddle.”

Clark added she is trying to freshen up the routine with new activity offerings for participants this year.

“I’m trying to change it up and keep it fresh and fun, so [teams] will be getting free passes to some of the local facilities to change up their workouts,” she said. “They can go to the ICE [Athletic Center] for a Piloxing class, Memorial [Health and Lifestyle Center] to swim in the pool, Solace [Yoga Studio] for Hot Yoga and the Kroc [Corps Community Center] for the rock climbing wall. I also have guest trainers coming in on the weekends to take the girls through some fun Belles for Fitness workouts.”

Clark’s creative ideas have produced positive results for Belles for Fitness. The program’s record turnout over the past four years is 150 participants, and this year’s pace is on track with that record, with 24 teams totaling 134 students and faculty members participating so far.

As a team-based initiative, Belles for Fitness helps students push themselves to work out not only on an individual level but also as integral members of a team.

“In January and February, we can easily go ten days without seeing any sunshine, which makes it easy to hibernate in our nice warm dorm rooms and eat comfort food, cooped up with all the germs that run rampant through campus,” Clark said. “This program gives the girls that little extra push to get out and exercise, relieve some stress, build up their immune system, work the kinks out and exercise their most important muscle ¾their heart.”

Clark has a simple message for students considering joining the initiative: “Just do it.”