The 5 Unique Rec Programs from Around the U.S.

When you walk into the University of North Dakota’s campus recreation center, instead of lifting weights, you might see students gathered around an island, listening to an educator mix ingredients into a blender. At UCLA, students walking near the rec center can see professors and staff squat loops around the track. And at The Evergreen State University gym, students can walk by a room and find their peers martial arts dancing to elevator music.

While unique in their own way, whether it’s their name or type of exercise, each of these college or university recreation programs is centered toward promoting a healthy lifestyle on campus. Each program is offered to either students or staff members throughout the entire school year and are recent addendums to the recreation curriculum and schedules.

Take a look at five unique programs various campus recreation centers are offering students, faculty and staff around the United States. If you think your university offers a unique program or class, reach out to us on social media with a small description and image of the program! We want to hear how you are engaging your students in your recreation facility.

1. Pepperdine Universty – Sandbell Slam

After graduating from a boot camp that used sandbells frequently in its exercises, Denton Jones, director of campus recreation, wanted to incorporate them into Pepperdine University’s fitness program. Last semester, he created Sandbell Slam, a class that allows students to “punch, kick, throw, toss, etc.” canvas, disc-shaped bags filled with sand to complete a total body workout, including cardio and strength training.

“It’s just fun. There are a lot of things that you can do with sandbells that you couldn’t do with a dumbbell. You’re not going to be throwing a dumbbell and catching it. It’s something that not a lot of people have done before or never tried,” Denton said. “You can do a lot of great partner work and group work. It can create a sense of community in a small rec center at a small campus.”

2. UCLA – FITWELL Program

The FITWELL Program at UCLA is available exclusively to the university’s faculty and staff. It is a 12-week long fitness/behavior change program, according to Elisa Terry, FITWELL director. It involves daily workouts, twice-a-day emails of workouts staff can do at a desk and meditation.

In addition to workouts, the FITWELL Program hosts workshops for different departments that explain injury prevention. Terry says she has seen over 50 percent of participation from the entire university staff.

“It’s a great investment of the university, to prevent costs down the road,” explained Terry. “I think that UCLA is on the forefront really realizing that it is smart to make these investments because you end up paying a lot more money when you have people who are not feeling well, who have injuries. They’re probably not as productive at the work environment (exercising) is probably not as attractive to anyone.”

3. University of North Dakota – Culinary Corner

When the University of North Dakota renovated their facility in 2006, with its opening came the Culinary Corner, which is meant to provide cooking classes that are healthy and engaging to students and staff.

Nutrition students teach the classes by putting together a lesson plan and running the recipe by the recreation wellness staff. Stephanie Hoffman, coordinator of fitness and nutrition, says there is so much misinformation out there and many diet fads individuals can try, she wanted to provide credible information to UND students.

“Because nutrition is a huge part of the wellness scope, we here at the wellness center look at the seven dimensions of wellness, and physical is just one of them. And that’s your fitness and your nutrition. We know that they go hand in hand together and you can’t have success without the balance of everything together,” Hoffman said.

4. University of Maine – Butts & Guts

Caitlin Caserta, assistant director for fitness, believes the self-explanatory name of this class is a large reason why enrollment is so high.

“They know exactly what they’re going to go in and get,” she said. “Sometimes classes have some kind of catchy name, but are kind of ambiguous. You’re not sure what you’re going to get. But this is butts and guts. You know exactly what you’re going to work.”

And despite its blunt name, Caserta says more faculty and staff actually attend this course because of the noon-time it is offered and its low-impact appeal. Hardly any equipment is used, or if a workout calls for it, small weights and cardio balls will be pulled. Caserta tries the limit the equipment so attendees can learn to do the exercises on their own if they cannot make it to class.

5. The Evergreen State College – Capoeira Angola

 For over six years, The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, has offered Capoeira Angola, an Afro Brazilian martial art that combines music, dance, rhythm and acrobatics. And Chris Ertman, recreation coordinator, says the class continues to see growth each year.

“The intricate movements of Capoeira Angola weave tradition, history, spirituality and philosophy into a uniquely beautiful ‘game.’ Played in a circle (roda), the game (jogo) of Capoeira Angola is an improvised combination of movements, a mix of acrobatics, rituals and dance. The players respectfully demonstrate their skills in Capoeira while singing songs in Portuguese and playing instruments,” Ertman said.

Capoeira Angola is a total body workout, using body control and balance. Ertman says the unique class allows an outlook of expression students who are not interested in cardio, lifting or swimming may not have had.



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