Author: Riley Kimball (Senior Writer)
Physical activity courses at Occidental round out students’ lives on campus. The one credit classes complete the liberal arts education Occidental boasts while contributing to a healthier student body. They offer students an outlet to let off steam from the hectic school schedule. They also fill a niche between formal sports teams, academic classrooms and student clubs.
“I see spin (and all of the Physical activity classes) as opportunities to engage with students in a fun, supportive, interactive way that builds relationships through shared sweat while serving to strengthen the overall feeling of community at Occidental,” Wellness Director Betsy Butterick said.
Physical activity (PHAC) courses are swelling in popularity for many of the reasons enumerated by Butterick, and yet much of the student body remains unfamiliar with the department’s offerings. Yoga, spinning, cardio tennis, karate, circuit weight training, fitness, introductory hip hop, boot camp and out-of-season conditioning are offered this semester, and each has grown in enrollment over years past.
These courses provide a structured setting for exploring sports and fitness without the intensity of varsity sports. “PHAC classes are designed to further the physical education of Oxy students,” Butterick said. “To balance the development of their minds with bodies that actively support their health and well being.”
The range of classes caters to all levels of fitness. Assistant Cross Country coach Kelli Blake teaches the Boot Camp class, which exposes students to a wide variety of exercises. In doing so, she helps them build a fitness base and repeats exercises every few weeks to demonstrate the growth they have achieved. Most students in this class are not college athletes, but Blake hopes that they will become self-motivated in maintaining an active lifestyle through her course. “Everything I ask them to do is meant to empower them to take responsibility for their own fitness,” Blake said.
On the other end of the spectrum, Out-of-Season Conditioning offers a more intense climate for athletes to maintain power and explosiveness. Interim Head Baseball Coach Luke Wetmore believes the classes are a supplement to varsity athletics. It benefits the athletes in the class, and it enhances teams whose coaches have less experience in coaching weight training. “Providing students with opportunities to develop athletically . . . strengthens the athletic department as a whole,” he said.
Yoga, hip hop dance and spinning are the most popular PHAC offerings with students this semester. “I take spinning to work out,” Alena Morris (junior) said. “It’s way harder when you take the class, a way better workout.”
These classes supplement a student’s normal academic life at Occidental. As classes outside the standard curriculum, participation costs $125. Classes typically meet twice a week for an hour or more, and they are graded as pass/fail.
PHAC credits apply not only to the special physical activities classes, but also to all athletic involvement on campus. Club sports and full NCAA varsity teams are eligible for the same unit of credit. “That one credit is recognition of the balance that a liberal arts curriculum affords,” Director of Athletics, Jaime Hoffman said.
Instructors believe this balance is an important part of PHAC courses’ contribution to Occidental’s culture. “PHAC courses are an outlet for many, removing them from the day to day stress and doing something they enjoy,” Karate teacher Victor Chico said. “[Karate is] a training process that people go through to develop and strengthen their mind, body and spirit to the height of human potential.”
PHAC courses continue to expand the Occidental community beyond its academic heart. “We take pride in the co-curricular nature of the work we do,” Hoffman said.
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