Kevin Stiner | September 14, 2023
Start Your Fitness Journey FAST
An Exercise Science course offers a win-win scenario every semester giving students valuable training experience and employees free training/discounted membership benefits.
Think fast! What’s the best way to get in shape at SUNY Brockport? The Faculty and Staff Fitness Training program (FAST) pairs an exercise science major with a Brockport employee or community member as their “personal trainer.”
“The Fast Program is exactly what we need to move beyond classroom learning. The opportunity to work with individuals who have their own set of struggles and goals is the greatest benefit of the program. The most challenging part of what we are learning is how to apply it to the actual people who want or need it.”
Understanding the science behind fitness is critical in order to articulate the precise details of exercise. FAST emphasizes the knowledge students obtain from both the classroom and the lab. It also offers faculty and staff members discounted memberships to the fitness center.
“A lot of students will say, ‘I had no idea I knew all that.’ All these lightbulbs go off that might not have two semesters ago on an exam but talking to their client about the concept is a magical experience for them,” Associate Professor and Co-director of FAST Liz Lenz said. “I think it’s a confidence builder and they can see it’s not the same as working in a lab with their friends.”
FAST began about a decade ago under its previous name as the employee fitness program. After the renaming in 2020, the program was also relocated to the SERC. With the assistance of SERC staff in place, student trainers directly dedicate more time to their clients’ needs rather than assisting the maintenance and function of the fitness center.
Professor emerita and Village of Brockport Mayor Margay Blackman participated in both the original and improved program.
“I think the program has improved dramatically,” Blackman said. “The close connection and attention that the student trainers pay to the person they’ve been paired to is great. There was a lot more about taking down information, talking about and deciding what things to do.”
FAST co-directors Lenz and Eric Sandler review and approve the student designed fitness programs. This grants students the luxury of brainstorming ways to approach their clients’ varying abilities of fitness.
“Building programs for someone in their 50s or 70s is a lot different than building a program for your classmate who is 21 years old, healthy, and just got done playing soccer for four years,” said Sandler. “It gives them that real world experience of ‘how do I work around this, my client said they can’t bend over, they have back pain, they had nine different heart issues in the past? How do I work around this safely?’”
Another key aspect of the training is helping students work on their communications skills with groups of individuals they may not regularly interact with.
“The program helped me get over my fear of being uncomfortable in working with an age group that I am not used to working with,” said Leah Bisgrove. “The program taught me how to think quick on my feet which has helped me in my internship because I constantly need to change the exercises I do with my subjects.”
Bisgrove assists in graded exercise stress tests, creating exercise prescriptions, working on data analysis and data entry at her internship with the Cognitive Neurophysiology Lab at the University of Rochester.