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Exercise science students act as personal trainers


Teachers and students are swapping roles at the gym for a exercise science class where students act as personal trainers for faculty members who want to get in shape.

“The major goal is to give these students some real world practical experience,” said the professor of the course, JoAnn Eickhoff-Shemek.

PET 4088 puts students in groups of two to work together with one faculty member over the semester. The group meets once a week and one other day on their own time.  

For student partners Mallory Johnson and Ian Houston the experience has been great and has taught them a lot about personal training.

“It’s a really great experience and it’s such a good way to be ushered into training people one on one,” Johnson said. “You get a partner so it kind of boosts your confidence a little bit because if you fail in one thing your partner will catch it.”

The students and trainee work out for 50 minutes to an hour then the students go straight to a lecture for another hour and a half.

Johnson and Houston work together to train Sylvia Diehl, a professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders department. Diehl has been through a lot this semester and one accident left her with a sore lower back.

Johnson explained that with lower back pain, exercises have to be prepared to help strengthen Diehl’s back without causing any damage or pain.

“They listen to me a lot because I had a wreck in the middle of (training period) and have previous health problems, so they’ve been really good about deciding what I do cardio-wise, depending kind of on how I am that day,” Diehl said.

Before the course started, Johnson and Houston met with Diehl once to talk about her goals, then sat down and developed a general outline for the semester.

Each week student trainers are required to come up with lesson plans for the workouts and Johnson and Houston split the responsibility up for Diehl’s workout.

“Ian will usually make the weightlifting part and then I’ll come back in and add a lot of different core exercises for back strengthening and some cardio intervals,” Johnson said.

A normal workout will consist of cardio and weightlifting for Diehl, though every trainee is different and each workout depends on that trainee’s goals.

Diehl starts her routine with 15 minutes of cardio on an elliptical, bicycle or treadmill, depending on how her back feels.

“We do intervals; so I warm up for five minutes, then I do one minute of hard and then one minute of kind of calm,” she said. “Then after that we do upper body or lower body weights and then we stretch.”

Johnson explained that lesson plans for each week are necessary because the general outline made at the beginning of the course is likely to change. Lesson plans are based on results from the previous week and Johnson said if Diehl had good results with one machine, then they may add more workouts with that particular machine into next week’s lesson plan.

“They really know the machines and what they didn’t know, they didn’t try to do,” Diehl said.  “If I had a question or if they weren’t sure if that particular machine was good for me, they would find out.”

With each workout, the student trainers are learning as well. Though they already have knowledge of the physical aspects of the course, they are learning social aspects through their trainee.

“I think the coolest thing is learning how to convey (knowledge) to someone that doesn’t have the same background as myself,” Johnson said. “Being accurately able to convey it so they are passionate and want to apply it to their own life.”

The experience is great for any exercise science students, Johnson said, but the course isn’t just for those wanting to be trainers.  

Johnson said she wants to become a physical therapist and this course prepares her for that.

Partners help each other broaden their knowledge of exercise sciences through the semester and their trainee helps them evolve as trainers.

“I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to going to the gym before,” Diehl said. “Mallory and Ian have just made me feel so at home.”