Get back into shape with UMass group fitness


Alexandra Pigeon, Writer

The truth hurts. And so does my body as I’ve attempted, yet again, to get back into a healthy lifestyle with a consistent fitness routine. I’ll suddenly wake up one day with the motivation to stop stuffing my face with junk food, and to hit the Recreation Center like I’m an Olympian, just to be right back on my couch three days later. This always leaves me wondering how the people who actually make the gym a daily habit can do it. If I find out, I’ll let you know.

But for now, I’ve found that group exercises help me to stay motivated. Not only does signing up for the classes force you to show up, but they’re actually a fun time. Sure, when you have sweat pouring down your face, muscles screaming for you to stop, and your lungs fighting to catch a breath, there might be a few moments when you curse yourself for not staying home in bed. But I promise, you’ll leave feeling sore, proud and happy. I made my body suffer through some of the classes offered at the Rec. Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst; here’s the inside scoop.


If you’re wondering what possessed me to start with “bootcamp” as I tip-toed my way back into the world of exercise, I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is it’s just as hard as it sounds. The challenging (but oh so rewarding) class starts at seven p.m. on Mondays with instructor Briana Martinez. It combines cardio with strength training in a circuit style where you complete a number of exercises in a certain number of seconds, and then repeat the whole sequence a few times. About 30 of us started with the “usual warm up,” consisting mainly of jumping jacks, high knees, running in place, and some stretching. Then, the instructor introduced one circuit at a time, which was a nice (painful) mix of calf raises, squats, burpees, and mountain climbers. At some points I thought my legs might fall off, but the upbeat music blasting through the speakers helped me embrace the burn. I’ll admit I struggled to keep up, but because of Martinez’s constant encouragement and motivation, I pushed myself to my limits.

Kripalu Yoga

Next, I tried Kripalu yoga, taught on Tuesdays at 6:45 p.m. by Lily Sexton. It was a relaxing way to end my day. When you arrive, take off your shoes and socks, grab a mat, a block and a strap, and get ready to rediscover your happy place. Right away, 20 of us gathered into a silent circle and focused on the quiet positive energy in the room. Sexton’s soothing voice guided us through different stretches and helped us relax our muscles and be aware of the sensations our bodies were experiencing. This class involves a lot of twisting, bending, and balancing, and while I wasn’t out of breath or breaking a sweat, I did have difficulty with some of the poses; Sexton reminded us to modify each pose to increase or decrease the difficulty to suit our preferences. After all that bending, we spent the last 10 minutes with the lights off and in full meditation. If you’re looking for a high-intensity workout, try a different class. But if you’re looking to relax, de-stress and reflect on yourself, you may want to give yoga a fighting chance.

Try Power Vinyasa Yoga at 4:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays if you want more of a challenge.

Cardio Kickboxing

I chose to end my group exercise journey with cardio kickboxing on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:45 p.m. with Melissa Migden. It was, by far, my favorite class so far. This class offers a challenging workout that improves strength, muscle tone and endurance, while somehow still being a lot of fun. Through a series of punching and kicking sequences, as well as lots of jumping around (similar to the cardio in bootcamp), I could feel the burn in my whole body, and I loved it. For some biazzre reason, I even caught myself smiling. This class has the intensity of bootcamp, the playlist of an intense spin class and was as much fun as Zumba: the perfect combination. I found something incredibly satisfying about doing butt exercises to the song “Bubble Butt,” and only a mix of Beyonce’s best hits could get me through the ab exercises.

There’s no need to feel self-conscious in an exercise class, or to worry about showing up alone either; all classes offered at the Rec. Center are judgement-free.

You can do this.

Email Alex Pigeon at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @pigeon_alex. 

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