Keeping fit and healthy in a remote environment

HACC PE profs aim for flexibility in teaching fitness courses


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Bedrooms become home gyms during the COVID-19 pandemic

The global pandemic of COVID-19 has changed the ways of daily life. For students, classes that were once in person are now online. Health and Physical Education classes have changed drastically because of online classes. Physical Education professors have to modify their teaching to ensure the safety of their students.
HawkEye Media interviews Physical Education professor Jodi Kain about how her online gym class is operating.

Many people are confused about how online gym classes operate; what does a typical class day look like?
“For me, I usually do one day a week where we lecture the whole time, and then the other day, we work out the whole time. This way, the students get a really good workout, instead of trying to squeeze half [lecturing] and half [working out].”
What benefit do physical education classes offer college students?
“The wellness classes help students tremendously. If you have attended, they always learn stuff that they thought they knew, but later realize they don’t know. For example, they should warm up before they stretch. They think they should stretch their muscles before they work out. Getting active and being active in class is, also, a good stress reliever. Everybody in college has tests and it’s stressful. So, doing some kind of workout or physical activity, is a great stress reliever.”

How do you accommodate those who are unable to do certain activities?
“Usually, the students let me know ahead of time if they are having difficulties or have an injury, or any physical situation, we talk about that one-on-one. It is a private thing.
I give them modifications if that is appropriate. Or sometimes they just do what I call “sit on the sidelines.” This is where they are there, but they don’t actually perform the activity, but they still hear all the information. Because while we are active, I still teach. I teach what muscles are used, whether they are shortening or lengthening them, etc. Even if the person is not active, they still are getting the knowledge I’m teaching during the activity.”

What has been most challenging for you while teaching an online gym class?
“For me, when I am teaching online, I have to cue a lot more. This means I have to talk a lot more. For example, at the beginning of class, we do a thing where we lunge left and right, and if we’re in a gym, I can say left and right and look in the mirror and know everyone’s got it, so I don’t have to keep saying it. But, when I teach online, I feel like I need to constantly say ‘left’ ‘right’ ‘left.’ I cue a lot more, which means I talk a lot more. I know it’s hard, but it doesn’t matter whether you go right or left as long as you’re actively moving and participating. It’s like you’re at home, it’s not like we’re in a gym and you’re accidentally going to hit someone if you move the wrong way.”

How do you verify that your students are exercising properly?
“Because believe it or not, I actually watch the little boxes on Zoom. The student[s] know, because sometimes I stop and move closer to see what they are doing. I also check their form to make sure they do everything correctly so no one gets hurt. I can see them just as much as they see me, so I can tell if they are active. I can’t tell as nearly as much if we were in a gym, but I can tell. Maybe I’m just lucky, but all of my students give it 100 percent effort and they do what I ask them to do, which is great.”

What do you miss most about in-person gym class?
“Sweating with everybody. Sweating with everybody adds so much to the work-out, it is amazing. My students, most of them are working 100 percent or more every time, they’re giving it their all. But, when we’re in the gym, sweating becomes contagious. Sweating may start with just a handful of students, but very quickly, everyone starts sweating. I’d say about 99 percent of the class is having a good time while working out. I also miss the students and how they do not have access to workout equipment.”

When campus reopens, what are you most excited about?
“Working out in the gym with everybody, and being able to use the various equipment in the gym. With online, I have to teach them to just use body weight, or I give options if they have weights, or even just gallon jugs as weights! Or even soup cans! I give options. Using equipment is something I miss. I teach in Harrisburg and we have various equipment and studios to use for working out. Like the ballet studio, I can see everyone in the mirror and can make sure everyone is doing everything they should be. I miss the mirror where I can see everyone is in good form.”

What should students know about before beginning a fitness class at HACC?
“It doesn’t matter what level you are at. You can be someone who hasn’t been active forever and you can take part in class, or you can be a gym junkie and take part in the class. Especially in my class, you know, you can take part at any level. You can make it as hard as you want or make it easy. Also, there are all types of fitness classes. You are certain to find something that fits your level of fitness and what you like to do. There are all types of different classes. You can work out really hard or take it easy. Either way, you’re still being active and getting exercise in. At any level, you’ll find something that suits you.”

Physical Education classes at HACC have been modified due to the fact that the district is operating online. Kain, as well as many other Physical Education professors, say they miss in-person classes. Yet, they say they strive to be flexible under the circumstances brought about by the pandemic.