Functional fitness: renovations in fitness center

Chloe Arciero, asst. news editor

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After undergoing large-scale renovations, South’s Fitness Center reopened for students and staff as a more organized and useful space, the administration said. These renovations, which began on Jan. 9 and ended on Jan. 23, included the removal of outdated cardio equipment and the addition of several new types of equipment, as well as artificial turf.

The purpose of these changes was to transform the Fitness Center into a more practical facility for those who use it, Steven Stanicek, instructional supervisor of the PE Department, explained. He mentioned that the PE curriculum tends to focus on circuit training, which involves short bursts of intense cardio activity and the space used for classes needed to accommodate the curriculum.

“Our philosophy has moved away from steady-state cardio, which means that [instead of] using a treadmill for 30 minutes, our [exercise programs] might be eight minutes on the treadmill, eight minutes somewhere else, [so that it’s] short bursts of cardio work,” Stanicek said.

Another goal of the renovation was to create a functional fitness space where everyday movements that use the entire body, instead of isolating certain muscles, were incorporated into workouts to help students exercise, Ryan Bretag, director of instructional innovation, explained. As a result, an important goal was to provide a wide variety of experiences for all students.

“Functional fitness is that no piece [of equipment] can only do one thing,” Bretag said. “Every piece of equipment, every floor [and] every surface is designed to [provide] multiple functional fitness experiences.”

To meet these goals, South partnered with ARCON Associates to create a facility that supported the PE curriculum, according to Casey Wright, associate principal of operations. In the renovation, more cardio equipment was added, including 16 rowing machines; exercise machines that only work one body part, such as pin-loaded machines, were removed. Some of the old equipment was kept, but treadmills and bikes were updated. Bretag explained that these changes were intended to provide more functional fitness opportunities.

“We’re no longer solely interested in working one body part for sets and reps,” Bretag said. “We’re interested in teaching students how to use their whole body in a functional way so that [students] can move better and express power better.”

The layout of the Fitness Center was also modified to be more organized and practical, Stanicek said. A corner of the facility was converted into an area of artificial turf to provide an open space for PE classes to do bodyweight exercises, such as squats or lunges and circuit training. More medicine balls and weights were added, which Stanicek explained will allow students to participate in a larger variety of activities that focus more on exercising the whole body, no matter what their fitness level might be.

“Whatever fitness level students come into my class with, we’re going to be able to work with that and improve it, instead of giving everybody 30 minutes on a treadmill,” Stanicek said. “It’ll be much more varied than that.”

To prepare for classes using the renovated  Fitness Center, PE teachers underwent a two day CrossFit Level 1 certificate course, which was led by CrossFit instructors and consisted of both classroom sessions and hands-on experiences, Bretag said. Teachers learned the theory behind functional fitness and how to teach these CrossFit skills to students using adequate coaching cues. They also discussed nutrition and sleep, Bretag added, in order to focus on other elements of South’s wellness curriculum. After the seminar, teachers became certified CrossFit Level 1 trainers. Wright added that he thought the experience was incredibly beneficial for the teachers.

“Many PE teachers said that the [training sessions] were the best professional development that was targeted toward PE that they have ever had, and [the seminar] will help them support their students,” Wright said.

Bretag emphasized that one of the renovations created a sense of inclusivity and provided many different options for everybody in a way to exercise outside of South.

“The beauty of this process is that the Glenbrook South PE Department was willing to get comfortable in the uncomfortable,” Bretag said. “It would have been so easy to replace a treadmill with a new treadmill or an elliptical with a new elliptical, and they didn’t do that.”