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Students lead RecSports fitness classes for their peers

Carolyn Garcia | Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Between schoolwork, socializing and extracurricular activities, many Notre Dame students turn to fitness classes to incorporate personal fitness into their busy schedules.

But some students take that commitment to fitness even further by working as RecSports student fitness instructors.

Senior Caitlin Kinser channels her interest in dance by teaching Zumba, a dance-based fitness program that involves routines set to international music. After attending her first Zumba classes with a friend two summers ago, Kinser continued pursuing her interest in the program through a RecSports class the following fall and became a licensed instructor that October.

For Kinser, the decision to become a student instructor instead of a class participant was an easy one.

“I said to myself, ‘Okay, I could either pay to take the class or I could get paid to work out and do something that I love,'” Kinser said. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Kinser said student fitness instructors are responsible for creating unique routines and workouts for each class meeting and are free to choose accompanying music for the classes. As a member of the Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN), Kinser said she receives CDs and DVDs with suggested songs and choreography.

Although the provided material would simplify Kinser’s role as a Zumba instructor, she said she prefers to choreograph most of her own material set to her favorite music, even if it requires more time and effort to do so.

“I really enjoy [choreographing classes], but at the same time, it’s the hardest and most time-consuming part,” Kinser said. “My classes are one hour, but it may take me all day to make up new routines.”

Senior Allie Hamman decided to become an indoor cycling instructor after her own instructor of two years encouraged her to pursue the opportunity through RecSports. To qualify for the position, Hamman took a grueling indoor cycling instruction course that involved six hours of biking and a written exam. She is now completing her second year as a RecSports instructor.

Although indoor cycling is essentially an individual sport, Hamman said her role as an instructor has allowed her to encourage class participation in common fitness goals.

“Normally, working out is more of a personal thing and instructing’s more about projecting what you want people to do,” Hamman said.

Both Kinser and Hamman said they faced some initial difficulties leading their first few classes.

“Having the microphone on definitely took some getting used to. I think that was the hardest thing,” Kinser said. “Because I did a lot of dance in high school, I’m used to learning and doing choreography, but when you’re dancing you don’t have to tell people what’s coming next, you just do it.”

However, Kinser said those challenges gradually disappeared as she became accustomed to teaching her classes.

“After teaching for about a month, I got comfortable with it and started being able to have fun when I was teaching, so now I’ve kind of got my own style,” Kinser said.  

Though developing class workouts can be challenging, Hamman said she tries to motivate her students by providing them with fresh, interesting workouts each week.

“You never want someone to come to a class and think, ‘I could have done this on my own. Why am I here?'” she said. “You want to be pushing them further than they would normally push themselves, which I think is the goal of having a fitness instructor.”

Whatever the difficulties of their respective positions, Kinser and Hamman agreed the rewards of seeing students improve outweigh the challenges of their jobs.

“There were people that I could see a physical difference in, and that’s really rewarding, because ultimately you want to see your students succeed and you want to see them getting fitness results,” Kinser said.

It’s always rewarding to see people doing something I enjoy and knowing that they are feeling the enjoyment that I am trying to project,” Hamman said.

Students can visit recsports.nd.edu for more information on student-instructed fitness courses and other RecSports fitness programs.