SPAC's new class lineup gets all ages moving

    McCormick freshman Carolyn Bai and graduate student Audrey Turnowchyk work out at SPAC. Photo by Emily Jan/ North by Northwestern

    Running around the lake, vigorously peddling on a spinning bike or climbing stair after stair on the stairmaster can keep a workout interesting for only so long. Exercising should not feel like a bore, and with the new classes offered at SPAC, it doesn’t have to be.

    This year SPAC made three new additions to its Mind/Body and Cardiovascular/Strength exercise schedules — tai chi, Prime Time Fitness and Zumba. Each class offers a different atmosphere, energy and fitness category, which accommodates the interests and fitness levels of all SPAC members.

    “I’m really excited offering the new classes because it provides more variety to our participants,” says Melissa diLeonardo, the group exercise coordinator at SPAC.

    The tai chi and Prime Time Fitness classes are older offerings that are now made more accessible to members via a new registration system; Zumba is a new offering from SPAC. Every class has something different to offer. Tai chi is peaceful, Prime Time Fitness is a quick, efficient workout and Zumba is more like a dance party.

    “If you’re looking to slow down and center yourself, tai chi is great,” diLeonardo says. “You can get back in touch with your breathing and it’s a great stress reliever and a way to focus.”

    Instructors say tai chi do more than give your mind a much-needed break.“Over the past 10 years I’ve documented reports by the NIH — and practice on a regular basis by young adults improves the immune system dramatically, lowers blood pressure, and is good for balance because it’s great for your organs when you’re not stressed all the time and moving,” says Blair Laden, the tai chi instructor at SPAC. “You learn to balance your whole way of thinking and breathing.”

    Prime Time was originally meant for active senior citizens, but instructor Amanda Hart says all ages are welcome. “I would say anyone looking for a good, low impact, morning workout would fit in nicely,” shesays.

    Hart structures her class beginning with 20 minutes of traditional cardio and aerobic warm-up; the remainder of the class is focused on strength, balance and flexibility, using free weights, balance balls and resistance bands. Offering a wide range of physical activity, Prime Time Fitness has a lot of different participants.

    “People come in with goals ranging from weight loss to stress relief to just taking an hour for themselves and it is so rewarding to help all of them at once,” Hart says.

    Zumba, an exercise fad born in the late ’90s, is the baby of the SPAC group exercise family — but it’s growing faster than ever. Already Zumba Mondays have seen over 100 participants, and diLeonardo is looking to add another Zumba class to the schedule.

    “Zumba — I’m really proud of right now because it’s so popular but usually an extra class and people pay an extra fee but here it is a part of the SPAC membership,” diLeonardo says.

    The Latin aerobic dance mixes fast and slow rhythms with resistance training. “The great thing about Zumba is that you don’t feel like you’re working out,” says Renee Pruiksma, a music graduate student and a dedicated Zumba participant. “You’re just dancing and laughing and shimmying and shaking your booty, and you hardly notice your heart rate pumping until the end of class when you’re a sweaty mess!”


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