Moving the Mind and Body: Halas Group Fitness Theme Weeks Bring the Best of Both

Taking a break from midterms to get the body moving and slow down the mind, Loyola students make their way to the group fitness program.

Fill up a water bottle and grab some sneakers — the Halas group fitness program (GFIT) is a different way to get the mind and body moving. GFIT offers peer-led workout classes Sunday through Friday on a first-come-first-serve basis. Classes are divided into three topics — mindfulness & flexibility, strength and cardio where each class is designed for all levels of experience and instructors offer modifications. 

For senior Nuala Blaise, fitness is a source of motivation. She is one of the instructors for GFIT’s Tonilates class, a combination of yoga, pilates and toning created by a past Loyola graduate.

The biomedical engineering major said she became an instructor to avoid the discipline of sports while preserving her positive feelings toward fitness. 

“There’s a lot of beauty in being able to create a space where people feel safe, motivated and ready to work,” Blaise said.

One week per month, GFIT offers themed classes, which allow instructors to choose different topics such as specific movies and musical artists to base their classes on.

Halas has seen an increase in traffic this academic year, The Phoenix previously reported. There has been a 62% increase in GFIT classes as opposed to the same point in 2022, fitness program coordinator Aaron Carlson wrote in an email to The Phoenix. 

“It has been an honor for us to host them and to see so much positive feedback,” Carlson wrote. “Our team of 35 student group fitness instructors appreciate all of the support.”

While in line for a Taylor Swift themed LUCycle class, students Isabella Fiore, Rose Segadelli and Lilia Provost barely missed the cutoff to get in. Class capacity depends on the room and type of class that is being offered. Despite their feelings of despair, the group remained dedicated to GFIT classes and said they would be returning the next hour for a Selena Gomez themed LUCycle. 

Segadelli, a sophomore, said she recommends arriving 45 minutes to an hour early for themed classes. The draw-in of themed classes, Segadelli said, is knowing what type of music she’s walking into.  

Taylor Swift songs blared loudly through the cycle class speakers as patrons adjusted the bikes. Singing patrons and instructors could be heard nearby as the energized cycle session began. 

Spin instructor Sophie Herbig said themes aren’t always the easiest to plan, but she likes the challenge of limiting herself to one artist. The political science major said she loves the energy of theme weeks and giving patrons the opportunity to sing, dance and engage with the class. 

“GFIT classes are a great way to figure out what you like and what you don’t like,” Herbig said. 

Senior Sarah Atwell is no stranger to the GFIT program. Throughout the semester, the marketing major tries to attend at least two classes per week. Atwell said the pre-planned workout gives her an extra boost to keep her body moving and stay motivated. 

Physical movement isn’t the only important aspect of GFIT classes — there’s also an emphasis on moving the mind. Meditation instructor Anton Jahn-Vavrus said physical fitness is an activity to progressively get better at — much like mental fitness. 

The sociology major said he proposed the idea of a meditation class to his supervisor at the time, and mediation has become a staple to GFIT ever since. Meditation classes have been part of the GFIT schedule since August 2022. 

“I love group fitness because I get to come with my best friends,” Kennedy Mallory, a regular for the GFIT meditation classes, said. (Xavier Barrios | The Phoenix)

On Wednesday during the February theme week, Jahn-Vavrus led an Inner Child themed meditation class. Patrons brought stuffed animals and wore pajamas to set the scene. Throughout the class, Jahn-Vavrus instructed patrons to connect with their childhood selves as a form of healing. 

Jahn-Vavrus said some people may be dealing with body insecurities or having a rough day. Building a healthy community within Halas remains a top priority for the 19-year-old.

“Respect the space,” Jahn-Vavrus. “For everybody coming into Halas, remember it might not feel as safe to you as it does to other people.” 

Meditation regulars Samarah Souffrant, Kennedy Mallory and Kaseba Chibweth each brought their favorite stuffed animals with them to the Inner Child themed meditation. The group said regardless of their busy schedules, they always meet at the same time and place for the Wednesday meditation class. 

Chibweth, a senior, said Wednesday meditation is perfect for a midweek reset. Knowing there is a specific time and place to be with her friends gives the 21-year-old a space to unwind. 

“I love group fitness because I get to come with my best friends,” Mallory said. “It helps us build our friendship and strengthens the bond we have.” 
GFIT classes have an updated schedule that can be found on the Halas Recreation Group Fitness website along with class descriptions. Theme weeks happen once per month throughout the semester, wrote Aaron Carlson.

Featured image by Xavier Barrios | The Phoenix

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