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Humans of Oxford | Free group fitness week finds success

By Megan Bowers, Senior Staff Writer

In room 275 of Upham Hall, first-year Sarah Martin sits anxiously on the edge of her seat, counting down the minutes until her sociology class ends so she can go to Vinyasa Yoga.

In correspondence with the first week back after winter break, the Recreation Center is hosting Free Fitness Week. This means all group fitness classes are free, everything from strength training to cardio.

"It's our way to say thank you to the students, welcome them back and show them what services we provide," said Olivia Ellis, director of group fitness. "It gives them a look at what they are in for the rest of the semester."

Martin has been practicing yoga since her sophomore year of high school and found the free classes to be the perfect way to kick-start the semester.

"It was a hard first day because you are getting back into the routine," said Martin. "But as soon as I got there I felt relaxed because I could leave my stresses at the door and take a mental break while also getting a good workout in."

Many students try group fitness classes during the first week in an effort to relieve stress and let out energy. The fact that the classes are free is an added bonus, one that tends to raise attendance and often can alter the typical class layout.

"I try to be prepared for beginners," said Vinyasa Yoga instructor Scott Williams. "I want to give them a taste of what this yoga class is while still making it accessible to people who have never been in a yoga room before."

The calming atmosphere of the yoga class encompasses you before you even step into the room allowing you to be at peace the entirety of the class.

Soothing music plays in the background and the wall of windows provides the unique opportunity to watch the sun rise or set over the course of the class.

Each of the fitness classes offers a similar feeling of belonging that causes many people to return the next week and pay full price.

"Our instructors get so excited seeing everyone," said Ellis. "It is really neat to see the connections made between the instructors and the participants."

The experience is incomparable in that it introduces students to types of fitness they wouldn't have thought to explore previously.

"If I didn't know exactly what the class was, I probably wouldn't pay for it," said Martin. "But I am now considering buying a pass because I really liked the instructor."

A single class could even lead to a lifelong passion.

"Free week is kind of hectic and not what we do all the time," said Williams. "But I actually found out about yoga in a free week so I think it is a really good thing. People will try something they never have before."

The students in Fitness Room B lay on their mats, completely still. The instructor talks to them softly, helping them get into the most comfortable position.

His voice eventually fades away, giving them the ability to soak in the music and let go of all stress and tension in their lives. They then lie at peace until the class comes to an end.

In stereotypical fashion, each student bows to the instructor and those around them before leaving, saying, "namaste."

Every group fitness class at the Rec is free through Sunday.