By: Lauragrace Allen, Derek Denneny & Lee Ammer
Myra Ugaz has been a regular at the West Virginia University Student Recreation Center since enrolling in August 2008.
Although she’s spent countless hours in the gym, she’s never gotten involved in the programs offered by the recreation center until this year.
“I booked a trip to Punta Cana for spring break and needed something new to keep me motivated to get in shape for the trip,” Ugaz said. “I heard about this Physique Seven program and figured it would be perfect for toning up for break.”
Physique 7 is a program offered at the Student Recreation Center that gives students an opportunity to get in shape – and win prizes – by participating in a seven-week body transformation contest.
Although Ugaz didn’t have any specific goals in mind as far as weight loss, she was concerned with looking her best for the trip.
“Six weeks later I’ve reduced my body fat two percent, which is something I’m proud of,” Ugaz said. “I feel good about myself and can’t wait for the trip. I wish I joined the programs here earlier, because it was a lot of fun.”
Many WVU students looking to either get that “beach body” ready in time for Spring Break, stick to their New Year’s resolutions, or stay in shape.
With Physique 7 students have the chance to work one-on-one, or in small groups, with a physical trainer and a nutritionist throughout the seven-week program.
This is the second year the WVU Student Recreation Center has run the program, which is a spin-off of the “Body for Break” program.
“It’s [the program] basically a seven week body transformation contest we use to educate and hopefully provide lifestyle change to students,” said Nancy Oliverio, Manager for Wellness and Fitness at the WVU Student Recreation Center. “We look for overall involvement and transformation just to see how far you can push yourself in seven weeks.”
The program ran from January 30 until March 17, and each participant is guaranteed at least one workout per week with a personal trainer from the WVU Recreation Center staff.
One way Oliverio and the training staff keep participants motivated is with weekly prizes provided by sponsors from the Morgantown area. Students qualify for the weekly prizes by working out at the Recreation Center three or more times a week. Grand prizes at the end of the seven weeks are awarded to the students with the biggest overall transformation.
“With this program in particular, we really look at body fat loss and weight loss,” Oliverio explained.
“Its great for the students,” said Bassam Abulaban, one of the physical trainers for Physique 7. “Some of the prizes are really cool, and all they have to do is work out a few times a week. I really enjoy helping people reach their goals so they feel good about themselves, and this is a great way for me to do this.”
Although some students take the program more seriously than others, Oliverio feels it is important to get the right message out to all of the participants.
“The habits that college students develop now normally tend to carry over into their adulthood,” she explained. “So, it is our hope to provide lifestyle management and healthy behavior modification so that they learn healthy lifestyles so that when they go off and get a real job and are a part of society they are maintaining that.”
Oliverio also feels it’s easier to develop a healthy lifestyle while still in college than beginning one later in life.
“It’s hard to get out of a habit once you do it for four or five years when you’re in college,” she said. “So it’s better to start early, because as you age you get set in your ways.”
Kyle Blair, a physical trainer for Physique 7, stresses to his clients that although it is important to exercise, eating healthy is just as important – if not more important – in the long run.
“You can come into the gym everyday and work as hard as you can for hours but you’ll never get the results you’re looking for if you’re not putting the right things into your body,” Blair said. “I see people come in all the time and work really hard but leave here and eat fast food. That’s just a waste of time and effort.”
One of Oliverio’s favorite parts of the program is teaching students that eating well doesn’t mean starving yourself or not enjoying a meal out with friends.
“We really want them to realize it doesn’t have to be just chicken and tuna,” she said. “Eating healthy can be delicious, and you can still go out and have fun and you can still go out with your friends and go to dinner; you just have to consciously make healthy choices.”
Although the program helps out a lot of students, the Physique 7 staff admits that it can be challenging to give everyone individual attention.
“I get sometimes three, four, even five clients in a class sometimes; so it’s tough to really focus on what everyone is doing,” Blair said. “But I really love helping people get in shape, so I do whatever I can to help out. It’s all about patience, and it helps when my clients are enthusiastic and eager to work hard.”
Abulaban stresses that having fun while exercising is key to a student’s success.
“I like to keep everyone loose and keep everyone in a good mood,” he said. “I get some outgoing groups who really like to encourage each other and that really helps everyone out. Sometimes, I have to help people break out of their shells, but I know whatever I do will help everyone in the long run.”
While seven weeks may seem like a short period of time to see dramatic results, Oliverio encourages participants to stay motivated and dedicated. She continues to stress that the long-term benefits will always outweigh the short-term pleasures.