By Nicola Brown
Photo by Rob Kozloff
November 11, 2014
The results are in: FitChicago had its most successful start of the year ever. On the first Monday of fall quarter, the numbers proclaim the growing popularity of the drop-in fitness program, with 12 participants in boot camp, 26 in beginning yoga, 61 in cardio kickboxing, and a whopping 220 in Zumba for a grand total of 319. The other nine classes offered later in the week had similarly high attendance.
“We’ve been experiencing continual increases in participation in FitChicago classes almost across the board,” said Brian Baldea, Associate Director of Athletics, noting that this is particularly true in some of the newer classes offered, such as Zumba.
The increase in popularity can be attributed to a number of factors. First, when the College stopped offering physical education classes as part of the Core requirements, FitChicago classes became free to students instead of costing a few dollars. Additionally, the classes are low-commitment group exercise opportunities, offering a flexible way for students to get in some cardio amidst their busy class schedules. Most importantly, they feature fabulous and dedicated teachers.
Sidra James, who teaches cardio kickboxing and yoga, has been a part of the FitChicago program for five years. She loves the way the program has grown, mentioning how sometimes there are so many people at yoga that they end up having to take a spot up at the front, right next to the teacher.
“I love the students. They’re so receptive and so willing to try different things,” she said. “I’m inspired by them. They work so hard and give back, even in yoga.”
James, who also works in the Physical Education and Athletics office, said that she looks forward to teaching on class days. She likes being able to provide a space where students can unwind and de-stress after being so busy with classes and activities. Though she enjoys working out for herself, her classes are less for her to stay in shape and more to encourage her students to stay fit.
“This is for everyone else,” James said. “It’s my way of giving back to people and I have fun when I’m doing it.”
Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel, who has been a Zumba instructor with FitChicago for the past two and a half years, has a similar mindset when it comes to teaching. She makes an effort to ensure her class is as inclusive and friendly as possible, aiming to create a space where students can get healthy and have fun, regardless of their dance experience.
“My goal for my Zumba class – and for every class here at FitChicago – is for everyone to feel welcome and appreciated and know that we love seeing you guys work hard to get fit and feel better. ”
— Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel, Zumba instructor
Students and community members have responded to Gonzalez-Cadel’s open attitude, regularly filling the huge room in the Henry Crown Field House where Zumba classes take place.
Jake Eberts, a first-year student in the college, stumbled upon Zumba on the FitChicago website while looking for something to do that wasn’t a sport. He decided to check it out and now he attends regularly with several of his friends and housemates.
“I like the fact that I can do the exercises without feeling like I want to die all throughout it,” he said, adding that he really likes the songs that Gonzalez-Cadel chooses.
Kaitlyn Bregman, a fourth-year, agrees that it’s a good way to get in some cardio without it being a chore.
“It’s not boring and repetitive the way running on a treadmill can be,” she said.
Bregman, who could be considered a Zumba veteran, has been going to classes since winter quarter of her second year. A friend first recommended it to her and Bregman immediately took a liking to it, passing on the recommendation to some of her other friends. On some days, she said, as many as ten other people come with her.
James’ and Gonzalez-Cadel’s classes showcase the benefits of FitChicago. Through the classes, students discover their own fitness routine, whether it’s high-energy dance aerobics or relaxing yoga, and get inspired to create a life-long habit.
“It’s part of our mission, not only as a department but as a university, to educate students as to how to engage in sound fitness and exercise practices and healthy lifestyles that they can maintain once they’re gone. ”
— Brian Baldea, Associate Director of Athletics
And as Gonzalez-Cadel says, enjoyment has to be a part of it all too.
“I hope my students get happiness. I hope they feel good. I hope they have fun, can relax, and make friends,” she said. “And I hope they know that this is their space, their time to have fun, be ridiculous, and just be themselves.”