Mississippi State University’s Joe Frank Sanderson Center offers between 50-60 exercise classes every week. The classes, covering a wide range of workout techniques, are not only attended by students but also taught by students.
MSU Recreation Fitness Coordinator Julie Kelly, who has worked in this position for over two years, said having students lead the fitness classes helps set a great example for other students.
“The importance of the classes, really, is that students are going to see, I think, better routines and better grades and better sleep habits if they’re exercising regularly,” Kelly said. “I think group fitness classes provide a great outlet for that. I think that having students lead classes provides a good example.”
In order to attend classes, all you need is to be a student or have a membership at the Sanderson Center. To teach classes, however, you have to go through a certification process. Kelly said the process begins with an eight-week program for anyone who is interested.
Sophia Tempanaro, a junior food science and nutrition major, teaches a weekly Zumba class. Tempanaro said the training process and certification test were not overly challenging.
“It’s not too bad,” Tempanaro said. “It’s kind of like studying for a professional test.”
Will Roberts, a junior majoring in supply chain management, teaches both cycling and TRX strength training.
“The professional staff at the Sanderson is very good at making sure you know all your information, so it wasn’t that difficult. They’re good at guiding you through the steps and making sure you’re comfortable before you even begin teaching. They don’t just throw you in there. It’s very much a step-by-step encouraging process,” Roberts said.
Roberts teaches both early morning and evening classes and said the consistency of coming to classes and seeing the same faces weekly can also be a way to make friends on campus.
“People’s plans are always changing in the evening, but usually if it’s in the early mornings, you get the same people over and over," Roberts said.
Emily Beyea, a senior communication major, has attended the Sanderson fitness classes for as long as she has been a student at MSU. Beyea, whose favorite class is Zumba, said consistency in attending the classes was key in getting the most out of the experience.
“The more you go, the more you’re comfortable with it,” Beyea said.
Roberts, Tempanaro and Kelly all said they recommend teaching.
“Talk to someone about it and make sure it’s right for you,” Roberts said. “If you love interacting with people and being energetic and motivating people, definitely consider it.”
“Definitely try it,” Tempanaro said. “I danced for 14 years, so this was a good way for me to keep being active and still like doing what I love.”
“It’s just a rewarding job. You get to help people reach their goals and help them create healthier lifestyles and reach milestones for themselves,” Kelly said.
Although the teachers are students, they are trained and certified and can be trusted to give you a good workout, Tempanaro said.
Attending classes can cause a lot of anxiety about working out in a group setting, but both Tempanaro and Roberts said that they only scan the room to make sure everyone is using the correct form.
“It’s intimidating, but speaking as someone who has also taken classes, no one is watching you. They’re all watching the instructor," Roberts said. "Just come on in and go at your own pace. No one is paying attention to you.”
Beyea said the group classes offered at the Sanderson have been very beneficial to her over her years of taking them.
“I don’t really like working out a whole lot, but the classes help me to actually go. It just becomes more of a routine," Beyea said.
Both taking and teaching classes at the Sanderson can be beneficial to students in many ways, Kelly said.
“I think that recreation and fitness overall is just a really important part of a college career,” Kelly said. “I think that having students lead our classes provides a good example of that.”