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January 31, 2000

Getting--and staying--in shape

By Jennifer McNulty

Since its opening January 4, the new Fitness Center has quickly become one of the most popular facilities on campus. Boasting two floors of shiny new equipment, the center is a bright, airy place to realize your fitness goals. For the next few months, Currents Online will follow two members of the campus community with varied fitness backgrounds as they "just do it."

Photo of Switkes
Chemistry professor Eugene Switkes (top) and Career Center adviser Katrina Cope (bottom) are making fitness part of their workday routine. To send words of encouragement to Katrina Cope, e-mail her at kcope@cats.ucsc.edu.
Photos: Jennifer McNulty
Photo of Cope
New to campus, career adviser Katrina Cope began working in the Career Center last November. It didn't take her long to scope out the Fitness Center's free lunch-hour "Express Workout," a 40-minute weight-training circuit taught twice-weekly by center manager Ryan Andrews.

"This appealed to me, doing a lunchtime workout," said Cope, as she and about seven others did their warm-up stretches with Andrews on a recent rainy day.

Staying with a new fitness program is always a challenge, and Cope figures "going public" will help keep her on the straight and narrow. In the past, Cope has been an avid hiker, cyclist, and backpacker, but she found that having a child 11 years ago really cut into her time for exercising.

"Having a child slows you way down," said Cope. "Between working full-time, having a child and a husband, it's been hard to fit exercise in."

Inspired to get back in shape, Cope is realistic about her fitness program. It has to fit into her schedule without interfering with her family, she said.

"I have to be able to incorporate it into my daily routine," she said, recalling past attempts to take aerobics classes that added time in the car traveling to and from classes, as well as the class time itself, into her already tight schedule.

For Cope, who works in Hahn Student Services, the Fitness Center is about as convenient as it could be. She and a "fitness buddy" in her office walk over for the workout, and they have started taking lunch-hour walks on their "off" days.

The drop-in class is fast-paced but fun.

"It's not boring. That's why I never used a gym before, but Ryan is really encouraging," said Cope. "I think it's great to have a coach, and the group energy helps me."

Andrews, who keeps a tight grip on his stop watch throughout the workout, is watchful and helpful, correcting posture and helping his students adjust the machines for the right fit and maximum benefit. At the end of the fourth session of the class, Andrews has a message for his students. Now, after two weeks of gentle workouts, he wants them to start pushing themselves.

"Start making it so when you get to 40 seconds, you're tired," he said, referring to the 40-second intervals students spend on each machine. Forty seconds doesn't sound like much, but after two circuits, most students have broken a sweat, and all seem relieved by the prospect of cooldown stretches.

Cope's goal is clear. "If I can do two days a week in the gym for the quarter, I'll be really happy," she said. "It'll be two days more than I've been exercising during the last two years."

Unlike Cope, chemistry professor Eugene Switkes has played tennis regularly for 30 years and enjoys running, too. A few years ago, Switkes said he got the bug to expand his routine to include the weight room. Maybe it had something to do with his 52nd birthday, he grins. Now he tries to play tennis a couple of times a week and rounds out his fitness program with hour-long gym workouts three times a week.

"I'm definitely not an ironman," Switkes said as sweat dripped off his brow during a stint on the rowing machine. "It's just a way to feel better."

In fact, feeling better is what keeps him coming back for more. Sure, he said, it can be hard to get motivated, but it's the memory of how much better he feels after a workout that keeps him going. That, and pride.

"If you look at the dials, I'm running all these machines on the 'fat burn' setting," said Switkes, grinning again.

Switkes revels in the new surroundings, having worked out in the old weight room for years. "This is great," he said, admiring the center's equipment and the expansive views. "(OPERS Director) Dan Wood did a great job. We have him to thank for this--and the students, who voted for it and are getting a great return."

Switkes admitted to having been intimidated at first by all the fancy electronic settings on the new cardiovascular machines. "I was born before the advent of the VCR, so I didn't know how to work the machines. It took all my Ph.D. smarts to figure them out," he joked. Now he sets each one for ten minutes and tries to burn about 140 calories per machine.

But challenges remain, even for Switkes. Next, he plans to tackle the state-of-the-art computerized Technogym machines, which offer complete preprogrammed, customized workout information. Stay tuned.

And don't be put off: Instructors are available to teach newcomers about the machines and how to maximize their workouts. In addition, the Fitness Center offers classes and equipment orientations to help get you started--and to keep you going. For more information call (831) 459-2995 or visit the Fitness Center's Web site.

"Express Workouts" are offered on a drop-in basis Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:15 to 12:55 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 6:10 p.m.

The Fitness Center grand opening will take place on Monday, February 14. The open house is from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Check in next week's Currents Online for a complete listing of events.

Previous Currents story on the Fitness Center:

Ring in 2000 with a workout: New Fitness Center opens

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