Pop music drives the movement in IU Recreational Sports’ new group exercise classes at the Student Recreational Sports Center.
“We wanted to give our participants a little something different,” said Emily Gartland, assistant director of fitness and wellness for group exercise.
The new classes, Barre Fitness and Pure Strength, use music as motivation and offer strength-training without adding cardio. Only two strength classes were previously offered as group exercise sessions: Strength Core and Core. Barre Fitness is offered four times per week, and Pure Strength is offered three times per week.
The classes have each drawn 20–40 people since the start of the semester. Gartland said they provide alternative workout choices when students find the weight rooms overcrowded. They are covered by the student activity fees included in tuition.
Ten minutes before her 9:00 a.m. class Wednesday, instructor Katie Landrum set up barres — which are props used for balance — in the center of the room and started playing an upbeat version of Ed Sheeran’s "Shape of You." Landrum introduced herself and explained the structure of the class as new participants arrived.
Gartland said the Barre Fitness classes are based off of the International Ballet Barre Fitness Association curriculum, through which Landrum and Gartland are both certified.
Although participants set up yoga mats and weights perpendicular to the barres, they only began using them as props 20 minutes into the 45-minute session. For the rest of the time, Landrum led the class through a series of gentle warm-ups, arm exercises, floor-work, and cool-down stretches.
Despite it being a group session, Landrum encouraged participants to tailor movements to their personal needs. As the arm exercises increased in intensity, a few participants walked to a storage room to switch out their weights for lighter or heavier options.
“We want anyone to feel welcome, even if you've never strength-trained in your life,” Gartland said. “If you've never picked up a dumbbell, you should be able to come to all of these sessions and find a level that works for you.”
Before teaching Barre Fitness, Landrum taught Barre to the Beat for IU Recreational Sports. She said the new class is more beat-based, uses barres as props and doesn’t include cardio. Compared to other strength-training sessions, Landrum said Barre Fitness focuses on small, high repetition isolated movements instead of large muscle groups.
“Barre Fitness targets smaller muscles that people may forget about,” Landrum said.
Der-Wei Huang, a first-year Ph.D. student, returned to Barre Fitness after trying it for the first time last week.
“I'd never expect that high repetition of lighter weights would have an impact on my muscles,” Huang said.
Instructor Torie Striebel describes Pure Strength as a beat-based strength class.
In addition to changing the tempos of repetitions to match the beat of the music, Striebel uses music as a point of reference for the amount of exercises left in a section. She calls out cues like, “Last move of this song!” and “Only two more songs of arms!”
IU Recreational Sports offers other dance-based classes, but none are as comprehensive a workout as Pure Strength, which targets legs, shoulders, back, biceps, triceps and core.
“Zumba and hip-hop are awesome, but you don't feel like you're exhausting every muscle group,” Striebel said.
Thirty minutes into Striebel’s Wednesday evening class, participants were out of breath and snatched water bottles between repetitions.
Though Striebel completed most of the movements along with her class, her smiling face contrasted her participants’ gaping mouths and focused expressions.
Sophomore Heidi Holtsclaw said she decided to try Pure Strength because it sounded a little more intense than the other classes offered.
"I was going to Total Body Conditioning, so I thought I'd try this because it's more strength-based instead of cardio," Holtsclaw said.
As the class wound down, sighs of relief and thuds of weights dropping to the floor added new beats to the fading pop music.
“What really makes the class is the participants, every time,” Striebel said. “If they're energized and happy about the class, then I'm energized and happy about the class.”