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'Faith & Fitness' kicks off fall semester with work-out class

At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 3, "Faith & Fitness," an organization that mixes work-outs and worship, hosted its kick-off event at the Miami University Rec Center.

"I found out about (Faith & Fitness) through Mega Fair," first-year kinesiology major Haley Siegrist said. "They worship at the same time as taking care of our bodies, and I want to be part of a community that's like-minded."

Girls of all ages dressed in brightly-colored workout gear, gym shoes and ponytails walked into the Rec, water bottles in hand. A handful of girls wearing bright green t-shirts with the "Faith & Fitness" logo stood near the track, directing everyone to tables to sign in and fill out waivers.

Josie Rader, the organization's founder and advisor, stood behind a desk greeting participants with a smile, motioning to a selection of free tumbler cups. Rader, a 2013 Miami alumna, started "Faith & Fitness" in 2013 as a way to deal with personal struggles.

"It was my own battle with fitness addiction," Rader said. "I found it was becoming very negative and overshadowing my main passion, which is faith."

She started the organization to give others the opportunity to work out and spend time in their faith at the same time.

After everyone had finished signing in, girls began to make their way down the steps to the sidewalk. "Faith & Fitness" had a different atmosphere than other workout classes - outside the Rec, a guitar stood propped near a microphone and a few scattered speakers.

Dressed in athletic clothing, her light blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, Rader stood in front of the nearly 40 girls gathered on the sidewalk and began explaining the organization and its purpose.

"It tries to give fitness more than just how you look," junior psychology major and workout-leader Sarah Pankratz said. "Instead of that, we focus on joy, fun and Jesus because it's more than a workout to us."

Rader led the group in a series of exercises to upbeat music including kick steps, arm raises, and marching in place. "I need the energy to get way up," she said enthusiastically, as girls responded in claps and cheers.

The workout climbed in intensity, matching the music tempo. A few girls began getting tired and started falling out of step but were immediately greeted with encouragement from Rader to push through the pain.

During short water breaks, Rader read Bible verses. Then the group delved into other activities like squats, burpees, jumping jacks and running in place. After a few more exercises, another leader led the group in yoga while discussing her faith and sharing Bible verses.

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"I go to yoga every week," Annie Klein, a junior zoology and environmental science major said. "It's a relaxed environment, and it doesn't feel like anybody is judging you in classes here."

The evening closed with some Christian music played on an acoustic guitar. As the sunset began to fade, Rader wrapped things up and ended the event with a prayer.

This was the first "Faith & Fitness" event of the year, but the organization offers free yoga classes every Monday and kick-boxing classes every Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Ses Chapel, open to anyone and everyone.