PE classes are not the only physically active classes offered at Wellesley. Some alternatives are fitness classes led by our fellow Wellesley students. Every week there are a range of student-led fitness classes offered to Wellesley students, including spinning, yoga, full body toning, kickboxing, barre and boot camp classes. The classes are offered at different times, both in the morning and afternoon as well as on the weekends to accommodate the busy schedules of Wellesley students. Since there are many fitness classes, students can try out the range offered and potentially find new activities they will enjoy. The student-led fitness classes are a great way to get some exercise in one’s routine and take a break from studying.
Leila Elabbady ’16 is a student instructor for FabAbs, a full body toning class on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7 to 8 p.m. Having been a competitive swimmer who did a lot of dryland workouts that focused on the core on top of training in the pool, Elabbady started a dryland program at her school in Cairo when she moved to Egypt at the age of 13. She wanted to continue this routine at Wellesley, and thus her interest in fitness and group workouts led her to instructing own fitness classes that focus on the core. The workouts in her class focus on full body toning and therefore involve more than just working the abs as they also work the back and hips, among other areas of the body. There is also a cardio component in her class which gets the body moving and the heart rate up.
Elabbady personally plans her classes, and it often takes a lot of time to organize what goes into a class. Her responsibilities range from making sure that each workout is getting at targeted body areas and muscles groups to finding appropriate songs and choreography, to accommodating to each individual who attends class. Classes are organized by a track list and each song targets one muscle group. For example, Elabbady chooses specific tracks to target muscles such as the oblique muscles, quads, arms and upper body.
“I always really like core workouts because they are really important for balance, posture and many different things. Working the abs doesn’t have to be boring. It’s a full hour class and everything you do has to engage your core” Elabbady said. “I love when after class people come up to me and, for example, ask how to do certain moves again. I love seeing people get stronger and watching their progress is really rewarding. The class is all about feeling good inside and out. I try to make sure that the main goal of the class is to become fitter and stronger, and make you feel good about yourself after a workout.”
Tala Nashawati ’17 leads the kickboxing class on Wednesday from 8 to 9 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Nashawati started kickboxing at home, practicing three to four times a week prior to Wellesley. After not doing much kickboxing at Wellesley in her first year and realizing that she missed it when she went back home, she decided she wanted to do kickboxing at Wellesley. She has been sharing her passion for kickboxing with the Wellesley community since last semester when she started to teach her class. This semester, Nashawati is more familiar with the system and understands better what students are looking for when they come to the workouts.
One common sentiment among the student instructors is that it is difficult to get people to talk in class, and it can make the student instructor feel like she is talking to herself for one hour. Yet another common sentiment is how student instructors love being able to make students feel happy and notice improvement in their sessions.
“The best part is seeing how everyone improves, not just over the course of one semester but over one session. I will teach them how to do a specific punch that they have never done before, and even though at first they can seem a little unsure of how to do it, by the end everyone is doing it perfectly.” Nashawati said. “I get really excited when people come after the class is over and say thank you because then it means I made at least one person happy. Kickboxing and exercising in general are the best way to stay balanced physically and mentally because we can get bogged down by schoolwork and we can always make time to work out.”
Nashawati incorporates what she has learned from her instructors into her class, and when she went back home over the summer she has learned new techniques. For example, she is thinking of including in her class a new combo, which involves switching feet while punching, instead of keeping both feet in the same position, to achieve a more powerful punch. She also watches YouTube videos for ideas and uses the movie Rocky as an example in her classes.
There are two different ways to get certified at Wellesley. One way is to complete Wellesley’s own training which allows you to become an instructor exclusively at Wellesley. This involves shadowing another class and instructor for a semester, doing CPR training and completing a certification training session. Another way to become a student instructor is to be certified by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) which also allows you to be an instructor outside of Wellesley.
Leigh Hunt ’17 leads a spinning class on Tuesdays from 4 to 5 p.m. Hailing from Utah, Hunt did a lot of road biking during the summer time and spin biking in the winter. In Hunt’s first year at Wellesley, she became certified to teach on campus.
“My favorite part of every spin class is typically when we reach the top of our “hill”-finish the last song at a high resistance level. There is generally a new sense of confidence and excitement, especially from those who haven’t been to a spin class before, after they’ve made it through the hardest part of the workout. It makes me feel like I can help others reach their fitness goals — even if only on a spin bike — and realize that they are stronger than they thought,” Hunt said. “From teaching, I have learned to structure my classes to allow everyone to exercise at their own level, so that they not only feel confident about their abilities, but also enjoy their workout.”
For her classes, Hunt uses her own playlists on Spotify and bases her each session on the beat of each song. Songs with slow beats are used during climbing intervals while fast tempo songs are played during sprints. Hunt also adds variation in her classes to make them dynamic, such as changing the positions on the bike and the resistance level.
Portia Krichman ’19 leads the yoga class on Wednesday 7:15 to 8:15 a.m. It is her first semester as a student instructor as well as a Wellesley student. Krichman has been studying and practicing yoga for more than eight years.
She initially took the yoga teacher certification course to deepen her practice and to learn more about the origins of yoga and its relation to spirituality. During her six month yoga certification course she taught yoga to different groups of people and facilitated the exposure of yoga to her community. Krichman, even after the certification course was over, continued to teach yoga to friends and family. At Wellesley, she attended a wellness break for mindfulness meditation during orientation week and really enjoyed it, especially after having a busy week and adjusting to a new life. Yoga is an outlet for relaxation and restoration and given her previous training, Krichman has the opportunity to share her knowledge of yoga with the Wellesley community as a student instructor.
“It’s so great to wake up on Wednesday mornings — when the majority of campus is asleep — and know that in a few short moments, I’ll be on my mat teaching. Leading a class and sharing yoga with the community here on campus are so much fun! At the end of the day, I hope to encourage my students to be mindful and explore their bodies through yoga. My hope is to allow the students to leave practice feeling more refreshed and awake. I enjoy working with all yogis and it’s incredible to see the progression each week.” Krichman said.
The yoga class accommodates both students who are completely new to yoga and students who have been doing it for some time. Krichman’s classes begin and end with a few moments of meditation, emphasizing conscious breathing throughout. The sessions allow students to engage in a full-body exercise and Krichman does not have a strictly predetermined plan for each class as she adapts the class to how each session is going.
“I have always been impressed by my yoga teachers and use them as my guides through tough situations. I am continuing to explore what this means for me, for my practice, and for the practice of students who attend the yoga sessions,” Krichman said. “I am constantly learning and growing not only as a yoga guide but also as a student of yoga. The individuals I teach have a lot to teach me and I’m constantly aware that we’re growing together.”
Photo courtesy of Laura Brindley ’16