The hallway in the main fitness room at the Wellness Center is often the dividing line between two worlds. Look left and you see the world of weight training, filled with men trying to bulk up. Look right and you notice women sweating during cardiovascular training.
Vitality U, a student-driven program at the center, hopes to change that and get more UM women to cross over to the other side of the gym on a regular basis.
“Women have figured that by weight training, you’re gonna bulk up, develop into a … man,” said Dominique Ennis, assistant director of fitness and personal training. “There are many benefits to weight training. It keeps bones dense and strong. So we want to put women’s minds at ease, that you won’t turn into the Incredible Hulk.”
Ennis hopes to build off New Year’s resolutions to exercise more and gradually foster a confidence that will improve women’s level of fitness for life.
The first training program by Vitality U began this week. It is formatted in a three-week cycle, with emphasis on cardiovascular, core, lower- and upper-body training, as well as nutrition and diet. The exercises include squats, lunges and bench press, which are equally important for both gym rats and beginners.
The first week focuses on physical training; the second moves from the gym to the classroom to learn about the popular myths of the fitness world and debunk some of them; and the third week is back into the gym. The classes are repeated for four days each week, on Mondays and Thursdays from 10 to 11 a.m. and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9 to 10 p.m.
Sophomore Elaine Golden showed up Tuesday night because she said the “weight side” of the gym intimidated her.
“[Weight training] is a complement to what you’re doing in cardio, because without one, you’re missing benefits you could be getting,” Golden said. “I’m trying to learn a program I can use for the rest of my time in college … and I’m trying to develop habits that will last for the rest of my life.”
UM alumna Samantha Flanagan established the Vitality U program before she graduated last May, leaving the club in the hands of co-chairs Julie Martinez and Leela Mundra.
Vitality U was built off the Vitality City project created by National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner. Both programs are founded on the concepts of motivating healthy lifestyles. The Wellness Center website describes Vitality U as “a student-driven programming board that promotes the overall health and well-being of students by working to make the healthiest choice the easiest choice.”
“When you think about people and activity, there tends to be a focus on stereotype of gender,” said Ashley Falcon, assistant director of wellness education. “Men focus on weights; women work on cardio. We want to challenge that and make people feel comfortable to take on other aspects of fitness.”
Although the program is just beginning, Ennis envisions an evolved version of the class in the future.
“I would like to expand and make it a co-ed class and provide the incoming freshmen residents at Hecht and Stanford knowledge for the rest of college and their life,” Ennis said.
Whitney Sommerfeldt contributed to this this report.