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July 8, 2002

Group classes make exercising more communal, fun

By Eric Rangus

With the lights down low and New Age music gently wafting around the room, it is impossible to be tense. Simply observing Rebecca Gurholt Sands’ yoga students gently roll their necks to loosen up does a lot to relax even the most high-strung spectator.

Spines perpendicular to the floor, eyes closed in meditation and reflection, hands neatly resting on knees, the 14 members of Gurholt Sands’ class are collectively hypnotized by her soft words and the airy atmosphere.

“With each exhale, just let yourself release whatever you don’t want to bring into this practice,” Gurholt Sands instructs her students. “Just let it go.”

Every movement, seemingly every breath, flows smoothly into the next.

On the top floor of the 1525 Building, high above the Emory campus, the exercise room at the Blomeyer Health Fitness Center has become an escape both literally and figuratively from the hectic pace of the world outside.

“It’s been tremendously helpful,” says Carla Freeman, associate professor of anthropology and women’s studies, of her yoga class, which meets for an hour every Tuesday at noon. “If we could do it everyday, we would.”

Not only does yoga help the mind, but its gentle stretching helps the body as well. Mary Ellen Leduc says she has been able to cut back on her arthritis medication since she began taking yoga classes at Blomeyer.

Gurholt Sands’ twice-a-week yoga class is one of 10 different group exercise classes offered to Blomeyer members. They range from the serenity of yoga and tai chi to the high-impact intensity of spinning and cardio kickboxing.

Gurholt Sands has taught yoga and other classes on campus for around 20 years. “There’s a good sense of community here,” she says about her Blomeyer yoga classes, which she has led for five years.

While many of her students have taken yoga for quite a while, new people are always coming in. Curious students, in fact, are staples of Blomeyer’s classes.

“Most classes are designed so that beginners, as well as intermediate and advanced students can come right in,” says Blomeyer manager Chan Snipes, who teaches three spinning classes and one class called boot camp, which mixes conditioning exercises like kickboxing and jumping rope with weight training.

Snipes says the best thing for new students to do is speak with the instructor before starting their first class. The instructor will tell them what to expect and keep an eye on them during the workout, helping them through the activities if necessary.

Blomeyer has nearly 1,300 members, and while the number who participate in group exercise is a just a fraction of that total, according to Snipes, it can be very advantageous.

“To make exercise a lifetime habit, you’ve got to make it fun,” Snipes says. “You can’t do the same thing over and over and expect to stay with it.”

That’s where group exercise comes in. Individuals can draw strength from each other, and the experience is always fresh. That usually can’t be said about the monotony of simply pumping iron by oneself.

“When you are part of a group, you tend to work harder,” Snipes says. “You push yourself more.”

Blomeyer’s group exercise classes are scattered over six days a week. Conveniently, the times are generally before work (6:15–7:15 a.m.) or after (4:30–7:30 p.m.). One class a day is scheduled at noon for people who want to get away for their lunch hour (yoga is the Tuesday class).

Snipes says that yoga and cardio kickbox are Blomeyer’s most popular classes, but sessions of all disciplines average around 10 or 12 people.

Fitness center membership is required for all classes (although guests are welcome for a $10 fee per day) All Emory faculty and staff members are eligible to join Blomeyer. The cost is $24 a month—which can be deducted from an employee’s paycheck on a pretax basis—plus a one-time-only $26 application fee.

More information about the Blomeyer Fitness Center visit, or call 404-727-4600. For a full class schedule, follow the “classes” link on the home page.