Changing students' perception of fitness

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Students participate in the Zumba TeXercise class in the Aerobics South dance studio in Gregory Gym on Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. TeXercise classes allow students to exercise in a friendly atompshere that can be less intimidating than the weight room.

Photo Credit: Jack Myer | Daily Texan Staff

Any given person working out in Gregory Gym could be a collegiate athlete. For some, that possibility could be exciting.

For Plan II and journalism freshman Eliza Pillsbury, it was nerve-wracking.

“I didn’t know how to use the equipment,” Pillsbury said. “The idea of very obviously struggling next to people (that) could be athletes for the University was intimidating.”

So, instead of facing the weight room alone, Pillsbury decided to buy a TeXercise pass.

TeXercise passes cost $96 and give students unlimited access to a variety of fitness classes taught on campus. For many students, these classes provide a more comfortable, engaging exercise experience than the workout room in Gregory Gym.

Neuroscience junior Han Nguyen purchased the TeXercise pass during the spring of her sophomore year. Prior to purchasing the pass, she worked out in Gregory Gym. She said while she felt comfortable in the treadmill area, as a woman, she frequently felt judged while lifting weights .

“If I was there, I didn’t ever really stay that long,” Nguyen said. “I just did what I needed to do and then I left as soon as possible.”

Nguyen said the majority of students in her TeXercise classes are women and that the classes are perceived as being geared towards women because of the teaching methods.

“The majority of instructors are female, and the classes emphasize positive verbal encouragement,” she said.

Nguyen said that in other, more stereotypically male workout programs, such as outdoor bootcamp Camp Gladiator, instructors tend to be more aggressive and critical of participants.

Special education freshman Natalie Taylor takes the F45 Training, a high-intensity interval training class every week. She said the gender balance of the classes can create a more comfortable environment.

“If I’m working out alongside a bunch of guys, I might feel lesser,” Taylor said. “You pick a weight that’s what you want to do, and if I was picking weights lighter than a lot of people, I might feel bad about myself.”

For many students, TeXercise classes also foster a sense of community that is absent in the workout room of Gregory Gym.

Biology freshman and Yoga Sculpt instructor Ingrid Villarreal said her TeXercise classes have allowed her to meet a variety of different people who share a similar interest in fitness.

As both an instructor and student, Villarreal said she feels the sense of community in classes allows participants to push themselves further than they would on their own.

“It’s a non-judgemental zone, so you can do anything you want and test it out,” Villarreal said. “If you want to try a 10-pound weight, you can do that. If you need to drop them, no one cares.”

Regardless of participants’ level of fitness, Villarreal said simply showing up and setting aside time to exercise in a friendly environment is important, particularly on a college campus.

“As students we’re always focused on what we’re going to do next,” Villarreal said. “These classes really give you a break to focus on yourself and allow you to just reflect.”