The weight gains women want

Friday, January 14, 2005

Fitness instructors and personal trainers know that women and weights mix like oil and water.

But some new choreographed weightlifting classes at HealthPoint Plaza Fitness Center and Fitness Plus are changing that. The classes are full of women -- and some men -- who want to sculpt and shape their bodies for the new year.

BodyPump is a strength endurance class offered at HealthPoint Fitness that is designed to give maximum results in a short time by working the entire body in one hour. The program is sold by franchise only, and all its instructors must meet specific requirements.

Rep Reebok is also a trademarked class that Fitness Plus offers. It's as fast-paced as aerobics but focuses on using barbells, dumbbells and medicine balls to work all the body's muscles.

Each BodyPump class starts with a warm-up and then moves into exercises for legs, the chest, back and hamstrings, triceps and biceps and shoulders. Weight can be adjusted between each track of exercises.

Rep Reebok is based on six volumes of exercises -- each targeted to a specific muscle group -- that change every six weeks.

Because the classes are always changing, "it's challenging the body differently, and you don't get used to doing the same things over and over," said Toni Craft, a health and assistant at Fitness Plus.

BodyPump instructor Amy Sutherlin reminded her class to "listen to your body" as members moved through the routine Wednesday morning, adjusting their weights accordingly.

Ann Marie Miller of Jackson added more weight to her barbell during the class Wednesday and could feel the difference.

Miller has been coming to the class since it started in mid-December and has noticed vast changes in her daily routine because of the strength she's gained. "I have more energy," she said. "I'm happy. It's a total mental adjustment."

The morning exercise classes three times a week also have made a difference in her weight. She's started to drop pounds.

Miller admits that she wouldn't have tried free weights or any weightlifting routine without the BodyPump class.

Instructors know that's part of the appeal. More women than men joined the classes at Fitness Plus, and instructors are trying to figure out how to add more group sessions to their schedules, Craft said.

Sutherlin was a little leery about starting the classes in December with the holidays coming but knew that January would be a strong month. Attendance hasn't decreased since the first class. In fact, "it's exceeded my expectations," she said.

More than 30 participants, mostly woman of varying ages and weight, joined the class Wednesday morning.

BodyPump is used by more than 3 million people worldwide during a single day. It's ideal for a new exerciser because it works all the body's muscles and follows a predictable routine set to fast-paced music.

New participants are encouraged to take a 15-minute techniques class before joining the group exercise session. The technique class offers pointers for beginners so that they don't cause themselves injury and provides recommendations for what size barbell weights to start with.

Move quickly

Because the routine is set to fast-paced music by Linkin Park, KC and the Sunshine Band or the Pointer Sisters, the hour session moves quickly. About half-way through the lunges portion, Sutherlin tells the class, "Keep it going. I know it's getting hard."

And it will get harder. From the lunges, she moves quickly into a biceps/triceps routine that includes push-ups and fast moves.

There is always another instructor trained in BodyPump in the group classes at HealthPoint so that a beginner or person who needs extra attention gets it.

One of the benefits of BodyPump isn't just that it's attracting plenty of people to the gym but that it's also created a better staff for the fitness center, said Sutherlin, who is also the center's fitness manager.

"It's brought us all to a better level of instruction," she said. Among the nine instructors they have 200 years of experience. And seeing them improve their teaching techniques has been an added benefit.

After taking BodyPump, "people feel empowered to do whatever they want to attempt," Sutherlin said.

For Miller, that meant a challenge to lose weight and get in shape. She attends a BodyPump class three times each week and does cardiovascular exercises on the alternate days.

"It's a routine that I love and gives me the energy so I feel great," she said.

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