Third Floor Abs, a force for good.
John Darr | Sunday, March 20, 2016
That’s when Moby’s “Flower” thunders forth through the third-floor hallway of Cavanaugh Hall. Rainbow lights dance across the walls and laughter ripples through the crowd, and most of the attendees are already in push-up position on the carpet. The infamous “Sally” exercise, like the signature yellow tank-tops and contagious goodwill, is a Third Floor Abs staple. In case any students are new, Third Floor Abs founder and “coach,” Carroll Hall Resident Assistant (RA) Carter Boyd, explains the exercise for the crowd: every time the song bellows “bring Sally up,” ab enthusiasts go from a plank to push-up position; on “bring Sally down” they go back into a plank. After the exercise, which ends every session of Third Floor Abs, there’s a lot of back-patting and good-natured complaining among students. “Coach Carter, I’m dead,” groans Cavanaugh RA senior Emily Belin, who helped organize the collaborative exercise event between the two dorms. But she can’t help but smile with the rest of the students as they mill about for a much-needed break after the session. The positive spirit surrounding Third Floor Abs is a product of the key elements that make exercise a force of good in the lives of those who embrace it: health and a community of support. This past Monday, I had the chance to talk to Boyd about just what makes Carroll Hall’s Third Floor Abs the force of nature it has become today.
John Darr: How did Third Floor Abs start?
Carter Boyd: There’s a long tradition in Carroll, of “doing” abs. [It was] started by soccer player Conner Miller my freshman year and it kind of fizzled out. But every third or fourth week after hall government there would be second floor abs, and we only did it probably three or four times. One of the RAs the next year, Tim Brazleton, did it a couple times, and it kind of fizzled out after a year. But this year, it’s coming full force, better and bigger than ever.
JD: So what’s different?
CB: What’s different? We’re scheduled. We meet biweekly, every Monday and Wednesday, 11 p.m. Mondays and 11:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Last semester, we were in Carroll Monday and Wednesday, but we figured we wanted to branch out and spread Abs to the greater Notre Dame community. So we’ve been traveling on Mondays. We’ve visited eight dorms at this point and we’ll get to all the girls’ dorms at the end of the year. We do Mondays on the road and Wednesdays here in Carroll and we’re getting a great showing at both locations.
JD: How’s the reception been at the dorms you’ve traveled to? And what’s needed for a great session of Third Floor Abs in another dorm?
CB: I think it’s all about marketing. Third Floor Abs has been really lucky. Early on we filmed a short video which we were able to send out and post in our Facebook group and that got a lot of people excited. Third Floor abs was also lucky to partner with the physiology lab here on campus and there’s actually a scientific study that suggests the effectiveness of Third Floor Abs workouts. That all gets sent to the girls’ dorms, the RAs and the hall governments to get people excited and advertise the event. Then everyone shows up and has a great time.
JD: From beginning to end, what exactly goes on during a session of Third Floor Abs? Is there a workout schedule that has certain exercises or does it change week to week?
CB: I would say on the road we have a set group of exercises. We go ten minutes. We have ten different exercises and we do thirty reps of everything. It gets the heart pumping and everyone sweating. Then we finish with post-abs fraternization where everyone gets to enjoy the community aspect of abs.
JD: Is the session here in Carroll longer or harder?
CB: We go a little longer, closer to fifteen minutes here with a few exercises to work some of the different muscles we’re not targeting during the workouts on Mondays.
JD: Have you seen any sort of impact that Third Floor Abs has had on the community of the dorm? Carroll’s culture has changed a lot this year; would you say that Third Floor Abs is more a result of that change or a facilitator of it?
CB: I would say that it’s certainly a facilitator for the community. On Monday and Wednesday nights, guys after doing their homework are in their rooms, watching T.V. or playing videogames. It gets the guys out of their rooms, into the hallways, and after that, people are hanging around, joking, and talking about their days. It gets all sorts of conversations going. I think that’s where the real community aspect is of Third Floor Abs.
On the back of each custom Third Floor Abs yellow tank top is a quote from ‘Coach’ Carter that has come to define the activity: “Third Floor Abs is a culture, a lifestyle, one might even call it a social experiment.” It’s quite clear that the experiment has been a success. Given the vibrancy of those who have taken it on as a lifestyle, there’s little doubt that Carroll Hall’s Third Floor Abs will be a force for good in the Notre Dame community — and in the definition of its students abdominal muscles — for years to come.