Student instructors give Lopes a chin up on fitness

Abraham Montez (left) and Annika Balkema receive tips from student fitness instructor Jack Krochman, who helms the "DoItForYou: An Introduction to Fitness" class.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

Plank shoulder taps: They're no joke.

Go into plank position. Tap your left shoulder with your right hand, then your right shoulder with your left hand.

Again, go into plank position ...

Tap ...

Tap ...


Abraham Montez and Annika Balkema are well into shoulder tap mode in the “DoItForYou: An Introduction to Exercise” fitness class at Grand Canyon University's Lopes Performance Center. It’s 5 p.m. – fitness go-time -- and the second-floor workout area is jam-packed with students going full force on the treadmill, wailing on the exercise equipment and lifting weights.

Montez and Balkema occupy an area marked off by orange and green cones as they delve into their second week of "DoItForYou."

Bailee Babbitt, a freshman elementary education major, leads the Ladies Sculpt class at the Lopes Performance Center.

What’s different about the class is that it’s helmed by a student fitness instructor.

Jack Krochman is one of several newly added student fitness instructors leading their fellow students in a series of recently introduced fitness classes.

“DoItForYou” stems from an initiative to hire students who aspire to have a career in the sports-and-fitness field and give them real-world, hands-on experience.

“GCU has so many different entities that are run out of student ideas – we (GCU Recreation) really like to utilize the student body,” said Recreation graduate assistant Malcolm McGuire, who championed the idea of employing student fitness instructors under the helm of Campus Recreation Director Matt Lamb. “We thought, how can we take our students who are in exercise science and athletic training -- and, really, any degree program -- and give them experience so that when they graduate, they’re not like, well, now what? Maybe instead they can go with confidence into the fitness world training all types of clients and athletes."

It is the first time, McGuire said, that the Lopes Performance Center has offered a series of fitness classes led by students.

Krochman, a junior exercise science major with an emphasis in sports performance, has taken that opportunity and is running with it.

He approached McGuire about creating the “DoItForYou” class when another popular offering, boot camp, didn’t come together.

“Jack came to me a few weeks ago and said, ‘Hey, instead of the normal boot camp crowd, let’s do an intro class,” McGuire said. “‘DoItForYou’ was born out of that students-teaching-other-students idea.”

While the high-intensity boot camp attracted those who already were well-versed in exercise, “DoItForYou” targets students who might shun the gym because they’re unsure of what to do when it comes to exercise.

Students spend a few minutes in the "DoItForYou" fitness class going over the planned exercises.

With boot camp, Krochman said, “we weren’t growing in that sense because it was made up of people who already come to the gym.”

Nothing was really filling the need for those wanting to learn how to exercise.

“So that’s really what we kind of went after. We wanted to give students an outlet to not only exercise but learn how to do it and learn how to do it right," Krochman said.

“DoItForYou,” which this semester meets from 5-6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, starts with a warmup and 10 minutes of instruction. Those taking the class review the plethora of exercises to come over the 60 minutes, as mapped out on a piece of flip-chart paper posted nearby.

“We’re going to go through every single one, one at a time, and we’re going to look at why we do them, how to do them and actually do them as a class so I can help the students and cue them on their form, show them how to correct certain things, improve on certain things,” Krochman said. Following the teaching section, “we’ll actually dive into the workout and do them all – the full workout.”

He divides the workout into two major sections – cardio and strength training. Students do two sets of each.

On this particular day, the cardio section included pushups, bent-over rows, dumbbell overhead presses and burpees, and the strength training included plank shoulder taps, sit-ups, glute ham raises and bicycle crunches.

One of the major objectives of the class is to make sure students reach a certain comfort level in the gym.

“They want to exercise but they don’t know how or they’re intimidated. They get in, they’re nervous or scared,” Krochman said. “The goal of the teaching is to just take that away, make them feel comfortable exercising so that they can come in and do that themselves without that help. … This way, students are no longer intimidated by the gym. They can walk in the gym and say, ‘Oh, I recognize that!’ or ‘I know how to do that.’”

Added McGuire, who also coaches endurance athletes for Purple Patch Fitness, “I know I was intimidated by the gym all through college -- skinny and scared, that’s how I felt. If you’re new, you see a lot of weights and lots of pretty fit people; so this class is welcoming in that it’s instructing – it’s a guided practice.”

“DoItForYou” got its inspiration from another student-led fitness class, the women-only Ladies Sculpt, which launched about midway through last semester.

“We saw the demand it was filling, and we really wanted to build on that,” Krochman said.

While Krochman's class was well into shoulder-tap mode, Ladies Sculpt on the other side of the fitness center was getting pumped up to Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s “It Takes Two” and to the uber high energy of student fitness instructor Bailee Babbitt, a freshman elementary education major.

Krochman (right) is getting experience in the fitness field by leading a fitness class for his fellow students at the Lopes Performance Center.

“You guys are killing it!” Babbitt yells. “Oh my gosh, yes!"

The 60-minute session offers full-body sculpting for women using body weight, dumbbells and kettlebells.

Like “DoItForYou,” one of the goals is to get students who take the class comfortable with exercise.

“For women, specifically, they really thrive in a woman-based environment,” Krochman said.

Babbitt said of the class, “Oh my gosh, it’s just been so great. It’s a good, fun way to get your exercise in … and it’s great to have a group fitness class where we can all work out together.”

Balkema, a senior pre-med student, said she used to play sports and wanted to learn more about exercise.

“I feel like I don’t know enough workouts to keep myself going,” she said, so she decided to join “DoItForYou.” “I do better when I have a coach and other people to work out with.”

Montez, a junior majoring in IT with a focus in cybersecurity, started working out in the summer to lose weight and wanted to continue his exercise journey in the fall semester.

Although "DoItForYou" is an introductory class, “it’s a full-body workout,” he said. “I’m down 48 pounds.”

The class wrapped up, as it usually does, with a personal challenge; this time, it was air squats.

“I really like to do a class exercise where everybody can cheer each other on,” Krochman said.

Besides “DoItForYou” and Ladies Sculpt, the Lopes Performance Center offers a third student-led exercise class, a high-energy, 60-minute dance session called “Reb3l Dance.” (Click here for the center's class schedule; classes are open to anyone with a campus I.D.)

The idea for all the student-led classes is to foster a sense of comfort with exercise and with going to the gym that will build on students’ fitness foundation beyond their days at GCU.

“Creating healthy habits now in college is going to set you up,” Krochman said. “You have access to a gym that’s five minutes away. You don’t have to pay for it. You’ve got healthy food on campus that’s already made for you. You are set up for the best possible chance of success here, and getting those habits down now is what’s going to provide longevity when you graduate from college.”

And not only are the students in these classes learning important health and wellness lessons. The student fitness instructors are getting valuable experience, too, that just may help land them their first job outside of college.

“It’s really this key thing,” McGuire said. “Four words – for students, by students. They’re the reason we’re here, and when we pour into them, you never know how that impacts their life and the lives they touch down the line.”

Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.


Related content:

GCU Today: Just like that, Canyon Activities Center is a big hit

GCU Today: "Expanded fitness facilities help everyone on campus"

GCU Today: "27th Avenue Fitness Center expanded, improved"

GCU Lopes Insider: "Performance center strengthens"


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