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USF staff gets fit

This semester, USF faculty and staff members are participating in a new fitness course where the students do the teaching.

The course, called Individualized Fitness and Wellness Programming, has implemented a program called FIT, which pairs students from the undergraduate exercise science program with willing faculty and staff members from the College of Education. The 30 senior students in the class are paired up to train and work two-on-one with 15 COE faculty and staff members. Students serve as personal trainers and are required to meet with their “clients” twice a week at the USF Recreation Center for an exercise session.

During the exercise sessions, students implement the exercise routines they have prepared and reviewed with their instructor. The students delegate a client’s workout, assist in setting health/fitness goals and teach proper use of the machines to help attain those goals. Prior to starting their training sessions, students must assess each client’s goals and current physical shape as well as set up various workouts for each individual client. Depending on the needs of the client, sessions may include weightlifting, running on treadmills and working with exercise balls.

Aaron Brathwaite, the doctoral teaching assistant for the undergraduate exercise science program, came up with the idea to incorporate the FIT program into the Individualized Fitness/Wellness Programming course after taking a similar class during her undergraduate program.

“I thought I would take this course to the next level and give our students a hands-on experience working with actual clients,” Brathwaite said.

The FIT program isn’t just about helping faculty and staff attain their fitness goals in the short term, however. Brathwaite said she wants her students to educate their clients about health and fitness so they can continue to work on long-term goals even after the 11-week program ends.

“There are so many components to health and fitness that people don’t realize,” exercise science senior Christie Menna said. “Education is so important to make an exercise session work.”

Educating clients is also important to JoAnn Eickhoff-Shemek, a professor and coordinator of the undergraduate exercise science program. After Brathwaite came to her with the idea for FIT last spring, Eickhoff-Shemek helped fill out the necessary paperwork to make the program a reality.

Part of the program requires student trainers to encourage and communicate with their clients outside of the gym, allowing some clients to get to know their student trainers on another level.

“It’s great because you have someone to encourage you. It’s motivation,” said Brian Curry, director of the Regional Technical Assistance Center. “We’re practically married.”

While Brathwaite is enthusiastic that students are creating these bonds with their clients, she is hesitant to have the students continue to workout with their clients at the end of the course.

“It is our responsibility as health/fitness professionals to educate our clients to the point that they are both confident and comfortable in their abilities to exercise safely and independently,” Brathwaite said.

According to Brathwaite, students prepare for the first four weeks to meet with their clients. Afterward, the students begin exercise sessions where they are required to meet at the gym at least twice a week.

Students must also meet for class lectures where they complete homework, a midterm and two evaluations, where clients assess their trainer’s skill. The FIT program counts as 50 percent of the student’s final grade for the class.

Students aren’t the only ones having to pass certain requirements for the program; faculty and staff also had to qualify for the class.

Besides needing to have the available time schedule to fit in with the program, potential clients needed to fill out three sets of separate documents, including a physician’s clearance if required, Brathwaite said. Accepted participants also have to pay a $25 one-time fee to the School of Exercise Science and purchase a membership to the USF Recreation Center. The first 15 participants were selected after finishing all pertinent paperwork, Brathwaite said.

According to both Brathwaite and Eickhoff-Shemek, the program seems to be getting positive feedback from the students, faculty and staff.

“I was on the review committee for this program, and I thought it was a great idea,” assistant professor for the department of education leadership and policy studies Bobbie Greenlee said.

“This (program) gave me a great amount of inspiration to continue to work out after it’s over.”

A waiting list for next fall’s classes has also been circulated.