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Group fitness classes aim to break stigmas

As part of a collaboration between MCAE and RecWell, two group fitness classes were offered this semester to promote fitness among students of color.

David Monterroso

Terra Brister, interim assistant director of holistic student support, said the classes allow students of color to take up space in places that have historically been known to be predominantly white, such as the gym.

The Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence (MCAE) hosted recreational fitness classes for colored students on February 6 and Thursday.

The fitness classes held at the Recovery and Wellness Center (RecWell) gave black students access to the gym to help them take care of their physical health. MCAE Director Fernando Rodriguez said he wanted students to see the resources RecWell offers, such as B. personal nutritionists and rooms for cardio and weight lifting.

“It’s difficult for first-generation people of color who already feel isolated to go to the big recovery center and then ask for help,” Rodriguez said.

When he was a student at the University of Minnesota, he said his fitness group gave him a sense of community that he doesn’t get from his classes and professors, so he wanted to provide a similar community with other students.

“I wanted to be really focused on creating opportunities for the students we serve to connect with the RecWell and their group fitness program,” Rodriguez said.

Terra Brister, interim assistant director of holistic student support, said the classes are an important way for students of color to take up space in places that are historically known to be predominantly white, such as the United States. B. in the gym.

“I hope that by offering these classes, students of color will feel more comfortable exploring different forms of wellness and training,” said Brister.

According to an email statement from RecWell to the Minnesota Daily, RecWell’s mission is to provide spaces for students to feel like they belong.

“RecWell is proud to offer integrative co-curricular programs like the MCAE LLP fitness classes,” the statement said.
Brister said the classes provide a level of comfort where students can have a good time and work out together.

“There’s a level of comfort and understanding that we don’t have to excel, we can be silly and learn at the same time,” Brister said.

However, Rodriguez said he also wants to normalize the discomfort that might come with taking a group fitness class at RecWell. Because fitness rooms are typically predominantly white, some color students are afraid to acknowledge these spaces, which are also appropriate for them.

“Everyone feels like, ‘Yes, this is ours,'” Rodriguez said. “Our goal is that we expose the students to this discomfort so that they can make meaning of this discomfort for themselves.”

MCAE held group fitness classes in 2020, but Rodriguez said they were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that there are sufficient resources and staff to conduct these classes, Rodriguez said MCAE was able to host an open house in the fall where all students could learn about RecWell and group fitness.

“It takes a lot to get students into the gym,” Rodriguez said. “It’s scary for a lot of reasons, and even more so from a representational aspect and for being comfortable and seen in the community.”

Rodriguez said he hopes MCAE can offer more group fitness opportunities in the future.

Rodriguez said he also hopes that by offering group fitness classes to students of color, students will feel represented in group fitness and feel more comfortable and experienced to attend and teach classes in the future.

Rodriguez was a group fitness coach at RecWell when he was a student at university, and he says there were only a handful of color coaches at the time.

“From my time as a Group Fitness Instructor to this day, who takes these classes hasn’t changed,” Rodriguez said. “I want to see our communities claim space in these group fitness classes and train and overcome some of the obstacles it takes to get there.”

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