Strengthening Bodies and Lives Through Group Fitness

Invigorating the Group Fitness Program

Students leave Christina Coleman’s group fitness classes not only sweat-drenched and physically exhausted but invigorated and cared for.

Sarah Goodwin, Christina Coleman and Lisa Padgett at a group fitness event
Coleman (center) works with Sarah Goodwin, group fitness coordinator (left) and Lisa Padgett, assistant director of group fitness (right) to run the program at Auburn. They put on special events like Move on the Green, picture.

Coleman, a life-long fitness enthusiast and assistant director of the group fitness program at the Auburn University Campus Recreation Center, worked alongside her co-worker Pam Wiggins to build the program from the ground up in 2012.

The two combined their experiences teaching different formats and Coleman’s interest in fitness expos to create the numerous class styles. Members can choose from a wide variety of formats and times with the purchase of an unlimited class pass for $50 a semester.

A Mentor for Student Instructors

As assistant director of group fitness, Coleman oversees 70-90 student instructors every semester. Each fall, Coleman and her team host a training program to teach the new instructors the different class formats.

“My very favorite part is working with the students, teaching them to be an instructor and fueling the passion they already have,” Coleman said. “To watch a group of untrained students suddenly become competent instructors is huge. I’m thrilled every single time.”

Coleman teaching a class
Coleman teaches her own classes and trains instructors in a variety of formats.

Coleman said that working as an instructor gives students skills that are “transferable” to any career field. Instructors can also take on responsibility as a program assistant or squad leader.

“I get to see them grow from someone who may have rough skills in communication, time management and giving feedback, to someone who is more polished and prepared to go into another job,” Coleman said.

Laini Vermillion, a group fitness instructor and senior in nursing, said Coleman serves as a mentor to her.

“She taught me how to be a great motivator and friend to my participants,” Vermillion said. “I only hope that I can be half the instructor she is one day.”

Benefits of Sweating It Out Together

Group fitness helps students to reduce stress, build community, be a better student and take care of themselves.

“If I came and worked out on my own, I’d be highly likely to cheat and give up,” she said. “The culture mentality of group fitness is that I’m a part of something. I’m in a group that cares, I want encouragement and I want to hear that I can do it. That extra push might be what I need to accomplish something I didn’t think I could do.”

Students can gain motivation for long-term fitness goals from Coleman and other faculty and staff members that attend the classes.

“Students think, ‘She’s my mom’s age and she’s out here doing air jacks.'” she said. “So if I can be an inspiration to young people to just stay with it, that’s what I would like to do.”

Making a difference
Coleman at a yoga event
Coleman inspires students to work towards their life-long fitness goals.

Coleman’s class is sure to be a fun, energizing workout, according to Holly McDaniel, senior in horticulture.

“Since she’s always in such a great mood, it never ceases to rub off on everyone in the class,” McDaniel said. “One of the best things about her classes is that she chooses a word at the beginning, such as ‘awesome’ or ‘fantastic.’ She’ll ask us how we’re feeling throughout the workout, and we’ll all shout that word.”

Coleman sees her job as an opportunity to share her passion and give to others.

“My life has more purpose because I’m able to have a meaningful conversation with a student,” she said. “Moreover, I realize I have an opportunity to share what I love, encourage people and give them skills. I can’t always see the impact I’m having on others’ lives. To me, that’s impactful.”

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