Five classes in five days: a gym survival guide

Take advantage of what the gym has to offer

November 8, 2018


The Campus Recreation Center (Isabel Fowler/ Amherst Wire)

As a student who dreads workouts, I understand the struggle to get to the gym. But last week, I attended five different workout classes and lived to tell the tale. Here is a guide to my experience that should inspire you to take advantage of the Campus Recreation Center.


It is the first day of my experiment. Can I survive five workout classes in one week?

I have set fitness goals for myself before that I have failed to complete, due to a lack of interest and motivation. This week I decided to take action and utilize the campus gym to achieve my goal.

There are over 50 different classes offered at the Rec Center at the University of Massachusetts, so I made a plan to attend the classes that interest me and work for my schedule.

I asked Katie Becofsky, a kinesiology professor at UMass, for advice on my week of workouts.

“Enlist social support. In other words, go with a friend,” said Becofsky. “Set a realistic goal for yourself — if you have been going to the gym zero days per week, maybe you try to get there one to two days per week (not six or seven) to start.”

I decided to take her advice and signed up for a class called, “Total Body Burn,” with a friend of mine.

It is now a half hour before my class with instructor Claire Chang. This hour-long class at the Rec Center targets those wanting to work their “glamour muscles.”

“With fun music and high-energy, you can condition, strengthen and tone some of the biggest muscle groups,” reads the class description.

Do I want to get better arms and abs? Yes. Am I willing to have my whole body burn in the process? I’m not so sure.

Suddenly, I am searching for excuses not to attend.

Did I eat enough to sustain my work out? I only drank one bottle of water — I’ll probably pass out from dehydration. When did I get a blister on my foot and why is it hurting so much?

My phone lights up with a text from my friend that reads, “We’re still going, right?” I sigh and put on my leggings.

BREAKING NEWS: I survived the class.

Chang, who is the “Total Body Burn” extraordinaire, broke the class up into five different circuits: glutes, legs, abs, planks and arms. We did some harder exercises (burpees), and some that I am more comfortable doing (squats).

The class was filled with around 50 people, mostly women. Chang recommends going at your own pace, but I often found myself laying on the floor, mesmerized by the people around me doing 30 burpees at once.

After the class, relief washed over me. However, that feeling quickly diminished when I realized there are still four more days to go.


I wake up for my 10 a.m. class and feel… sore? I think I pulled muscles in both of my legs during “Total Body Burn.”

Today I am spinning with Brianna Wall. This class worked for my schedule, so I figured I would give it a try.

Spin can be taxing, and I sometimes convince myself the instructor is trying to kill me. But it is also inspirational. In my opinion, a good spin class is comprised of energetic music and an instructor who will convince you that biking on an incline for 10 minutes is fun.

“Close your eyes and feel the breeze hitting your face as you cycle down a road overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. You see yourself in the reflection of the water. Are you proud of yourself? Make yourself proud today,” my favorite spin instructor from home once shouted to the class.

I cried in that class.

Although I did not cry in Wall’s class, it was still a productive and enjoyable workout. Any time I wanted to turn down the resistance or spin a little slower, the perfect song would come on and suddenly, I’d be rejuvenated with energy.

Spinning targets the glutes, abs and arms. Cycling works the glutes while the resistance works your abs. In the middle of the class, the instructor will yell: “Grab your weights!” Then, you work on your arm muscles as well.

My legs felt like Jell-O right afterward, but it was worth it.


At this point, the gym is less daunting but I am still extremely sore. I decide to give myself a break by attending  “30 Minute Abs” with Allison Greve.

During the workout, she played the “Big Bootie Mix”: a mashup of popular songs, which make it easier to complete challenging ab workouts. The class went by quickly, and I felt good afterwards. Getting some definition on my currently nonexistent abs is nothing to complain about.

My friends and me at “30 Minute Abs” (Jordan Reisman/ Amherst Wire)


Boot camp does not sound like fun, but nonetheless I signed up for the class led by Kylie Furber.

My friend had warned me about the difficulty of this class.

She was right. The hour-long class is broken up into six different stations ranging from throwing a medicine ball up and down to doing sprints and lunges.

Each station is about six minutes long, and moves can vary within in each station. In the free weights station, you’ll perfect your bicep curl or work on your shoulder muscles.

My friend’s warning did not prepare me. Drenched in sweat and out of breath, I looked around the room to make sure I wasn’t the only person who needed an ambulance on call.

I felt stronger than I had at the beginning of the week, but this class is like “Total Body Burn” on steroids. It is very fast paced, and although we stretched at the end, I was still sore as soon as I left the room.  


It is the last day of my experiment. I’m sore and exhausted, and cringe at the thought of getting out of bed.

So today, I’m having fun.

I sign up for “Cardio Hip Hop,” led by instructors Elizabeth King and Emily Pettigrew. They incorporate the latest hip hop music, and if this class featured strobe lights and flashy outfits, it would look like a scene from a night club.

However, we are in a gym in Western Massachusetts, jumping up and down with red faces and sweaty workout gear.

The hour went by quickly and felt like a dance party with friends. Also, my arms and legs did not feel like they were going to fall off.

I was sweaty and had fun, and isn’t that all we can hope for from a workout class?


The experiment is over, and the torn muscles in my legs are finally healing. Working out will provide you with mental and physical benefits, whether you want to be there or not. Although I didn’t lose weight or gain any noticeable muscle (I’m not as breathless when I climb a flight of stairs now), I’m proud I won the battle against my bed and made it to the gym.

Email Jordan at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @jordan_reisman

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