Freshman 101: Choosing The Perfect Fitness Class

Whether you’re a gym rat at heart or just trying to keep the Freshman 15 off, exercise can quickly become an essential part of your daily routine at Penn State. You’ve already snagged that gym membership, but are you taking advantage of all the perks?

Surely you’ve heard of Power Remix! and Washboard Abs, but there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Penn State fitness courses.

Jill Garrigan, Assistant Director of Campus Recreation for Fitness and Wellness, told us all about the different fitness classes offered at the White Building and the IM Building. Not all of these classes are offered every semester, but we created a comprehensive guide to all 23 to help you in your quest for #gains.

Butts and Guts

What it is: Butts and Guts is a classic fitness course at Penn State. All the exercises in the class are meant to target your and strength your legs and glutes, obviously.

Who it’s for: The class is a good starting point for beginners and is very straightforward. “It’s a great class for someone who is a little intimidated by dance,” Garrigan said.

Circuit Conditioning

What it is: Circuit Conditioning is a coached class created to be like a boot camp or gym class-style workout. The room is often set up with stations where you do various exercises that change week to week.

Who it’s for: This class is great for participants of any experience level because it allows you to choose your intensity. Garrigan also said it’s a perfect class for those who don’t like to self-pace.

Calorie Killer

What it is: Calorie Killer is a semi-coached, 45-minute class created around intervals. Bursts of high intensity are offset by short periods of recovery. The class consists of both cardio and muscle toning workouts.

Who it’s for: Garrigan said this class can be intimidating for a beginner because it utilizes moderate to advanced exercises. If you’ve been hitting the gym for awhile and are looking for a class to hop into, this may be the one for you.

Washboard Abs

What it is: It’s all in the name — Washboard Abs is a short, 30-minute class designed to work your core and your back.

Who it’s for: Garrigan said Washboard Abs is doable for beginners and not a bad place to start. “It’s great as an addition to a cardio workout for runners and joggers and also good for people who enjoy group exercise,” she said.

The Yogas — Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, and Fitness Yoga

What they are: Campus Recreation split up yoga into three categories to introduce it to students at Penn State. Hatha Yoga is slower and much more meditative, while Vinyasa Yoga focuses on syncing up your breathe with your movements. Fitness Yoga is a blend of the two and utilizes some kinesthetic stretching.

Who they’re for: These classes are all okay for beginners, but Garrigan recommends keeping an open mind and trying each one to find your perfect fit.

Full Body Workout

What it is: Full Body Workout is what Garrigan called a “catch-all class.” The class consists of cardio and muscle conditioning in a typical group setting. “You’ll often stop the cardio after 20 minutes and pick up hand weights, and then do muscle toning,” she said.

Who it’s for: This is another class that works for exercisers of any experience level.

Indoor Cycling

What it is: Indoor Cycling is another self-explanatory class. You’ll hop on that bike and ride your stresses away for about 45 minutes. You’re required to bring a towel in order to participate, so be prepared to sweat.

Who it’s for: While this class is on the moderate or advanced level, Garrigan said it can be dialed back for anyone. “As the user, you control the resistance knob, so you control how hard it is,” she said.

Kickboxing Aerobics

What it is: Kickboxing Aerobics is a class designed to be an intense workout. It’ll be easy to get your heart rate up as you work your way through several kickboxing combinations. Garrigan said it’s a class that can help anyone relieve some stress.

Who it’s for: Beginners are welcome to this class, but be warned — it’s designed for more advanced exercisers.

TRX Training

What it is: TRX is a trademarked exercise routine offered at Penn State. The class uses suspension trainers hanging from the ceiling to create a bodyweight workout designed to work muscles all over your body.

Who it’s for: This is a perfect class for someone adventurous looking for a new challenge. This class is different and advanced, but instructors can teach at all levels. “Just don’t come in expecting to be like Cirque du Soleil on day one,” Garrigan said.


What it is: Pilates employs a calmer, more deliberative environment during exercise. Instructors don’t use advanced equipment, but they do modify some exercises to make them more intermediate.

Who it’s for: Pilates at Penn State is best for students who enjoy more focused setting during a workout.

Power Remix!

What it is: Power Remix! is a dance fitness class that allows you to get loose and get your blood pumping. Instructors create choreographed moves to your favorite songs from the radio, but don’t worry if you’re not in sync with everyone else. This class is just about having fun.

Who it’s for: This class is open, accepting, and freeing. Exercisers of all ages are welcome to shake it at Power Remix!


What it is: STEP uses the typical block to create a controlled cardio workout. Garrigan said it’s a distinctive class that offers variety to anyone’s exercise regimen, even though it isn’t offered very often at Penn State.

Who it’s for: This is another solid class for fitness newbies, but it might not be for you if you’re on the clumsier side.

Total Body Tabata

What it is: Total Body Tabata instructors use specific 30-second intervals and drills during the 45-minute class. Campus Recreation describes it on its website as a workout that uses exercises “often done during sports practices or training sessions.”

Who it’s for: If you’re not someone who enjoys a boot camp style workout, you may want to skip this one.

Total Muscle Control

What it is: Total Muscle Control is a cardio class, but not one that aims to get your heart very high. This class is slower and less dynamic than a regular cardio workout, created to work all your muscle groups.

Who it’s for: This class is yet another good choice for beginners.

Cardio Blast

What it is: Cardio Blast is another all-cardio workout, but isn’t as choreographed as some other classes are. This course is still designed to get you moving, but uses more typical aerobic moves.

Who it’s for: This class is a little more moderate than Power Remix! is.


What it is: X-Training is another boot camp-style, interval-based fitness course. The class uses props to create another inclusive workout.

Who it’s for: Newbies, rejoice! This class is another good pick for beginners.


What it is: If you couldn’t tell by the name, this class is a mix between yoga and pilates. Garrigan said the class does a good job of balancing the two and doesn’t do too much of either.

Who it’s for: This class is a perfect match for anyone who is afraid to dive too deep into yoga or pilates, as well as — you guessed it — any beginners interested.


What it is: If you’re trying to choose between Zumba and Power Remix!, know that Zumba always uses a blend of more international rhythms (read: cha-cha, salsa, and merengue) with hip-hop moves.

Who it’s for: Zumba is another great dance class meant for anyone who wants to shake their hips.

Barre Fitness

What it is: According to Garrigan, this ballet-inspired workout is a “new, huge movement” focused on posture and balance. Your own, portable barre is always there to help you if you need it.

Who it’s for: Because you can work as hard or as easy as you’d like, this class is a perfect pick for anyone open to trying a new class.


What it is: HIIT, or “High Intensity Interval Training” is exactly what it seems — intense. Intervals in HIIT are composed of bursts of energy, but the short recovery is an almost completely “off” rest period.

Who it’s for: This class is quick, so it’s perfect for those who don’t have a lot of time or don’t want feel like they’re spending the whole day at the gym.

Barbell Training

What it is: Barbell training is another class made to add variety to your weekly workout. This is one of the only fitness classes that totally revolves around weightlifting. Weight plates are used on both the barbells and as their own individual loads.

Who it’s for: This class is for anyone, beginner through advanced. If you’re not comfortable lifting weights or working out in a group environment however, steer clear.

With all these options, it might be challenging to figure out which ones are perfect for you. Luckily, Garrigan gave us some tips on how to determine your dream fitness class:

  • Be open-minded and try classes before you say “no.” What you’re good at and what you like aren’t always the same thing when it comes to fitness.
  • Ask someone beforehand what a class is like or talk to an instructor when you first arrive. “Instructors who know you are new will adjust and work with you,” Garrigan said.
  • Don’t view the allotted time as absolute. You can always go for the first half of class and stop if you need to.
  • There’s success in numbers: Find workout partners who will hold you accountable. When you don’t feel like getting out of bed for class, friends can motivate you.
  • Get to know yourself and know what you’re into and the rest will fall into place.

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About the Author

Gabriela Stevenson

Gabriela is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism and Onward State's former student life editor. She is from Norristown, PA, which she normally refers to as "30 minutes outside of Philadelphia" (she looked up the exact driving time). She enjoys really enjoys eating cereal at night, in case you were wondering. To contact Gabriela, e-mail her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @GabiStevenson if you want to feel young again.

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