Features Health Special Issue

Finding communities outside of the gym

Willa Rydall, a sophomore film production major, climbs the Doti-Struppa Rock Wall.

When Samantha Dressel started practicing aikido — a Japanese form of martial arts that uses locks, holds, throws and the opponent’s own movements — it was to avoid the traditional physical education class.

“My college had a gym requirement, and I absolutely hated high school gym,” said Dressel, who is a Chapman English professor. “I thought to myself, ‘What can I deal with for 10 weeks? Martial arts sounds not awful,’ and I ended up getting really into it.”

Now, Dressel teaches classes in aikido, offering an alternative form of exercise that people can find outside of the gym. At Chapman, some students have found that through atypical ways of working out, they are able to stay in shape by participating in activities they enjoy, while also joining a community of people with similar interests.

Dressel said she challenges herself by trying to improve every time she practices. This can be as simple as entering the dojo in a bad mood and leaving in a better one.

Through aikido, which is also a form of self-defense, Dressel said she is able to achieve a state of mental and physical health that she could not find at the gym.

“It keeps me fit,” Dressel said. “But it also keeps me mentally balanced in the way that it is physically training me to respond to conflict. It is also training me to mentally respond.”

To maintain her training, Dressel leans on the community aspect that aikido provides. Dressel is motivated by people she practices both with and against, which is an element she said isolated gym workouts often lack.

“You can’t practice aikido alone, it is very much a community activity,” Dressel said. “On days that I don’t feel like going, I always know people are counting on me to be there, and so if I’m not there, it is affecting a larger community.”

Travis Yoguez, a sophomore business administration major, practices hot yoga. This form of yoga causes your pulse rate and metabolism to increase, which allows blood vessels to become more flexible and calories to burn more rapidly. He used to run and occasionally lift weights until he tried Yoga Sculpt, which combines free weight lifting and core power yoga poses, when he was a freshman.

“We do cardio, weightlifting, core and stretching combined into one workout,” Yoguez said. “It’s everything that you need to do in a workout, but what would take three hours, you can do within an hour.”

For Yoguez, Yoga Sculpted offered something that the gym could not: familiar faces.

“At first, it was more so I’m doing it to benefit myself,” Yoguez said. “But once you start going to more classes and recognizing the same faces and seeing the same instructors, it makes it a community thing, and you trying your best also makes others try their best.”

Willa Rydall, a sophomore film production major, traded in the gym for the Doti-Struppa Rock Wall, located in the basement of the Sandhu Residence and Conference Center.

“When I’m rock climbing, I have people that I exercise with and it’s something that I enjoy doing every day,” Rydall said. “If you’re going to the gym, it can be an isolated activity, which is great for alone time, but it’s cool that I have a community of people I can exercise with.”

Rydall, who has been rock climbing since high school, gets a complete workout from solving a “problem,” which is what climbers call the process of scaling up a particular route on a rock wall or cliff.

“You’re using almost every muscle in your body, depending on the climb,” Rydall said.“Each ‘problem’ involves tons of different moves, so basically, each time you climb a route, you’re doing a complete workout combined into one.”

For Rydall, the benefits of rock climbing are not only physical.

“With rock climbing specifically, you can get over a lot of fears, like being out of control or being up high,” Rydall said. “It also strengthens your mind in terms of critical thinking and being able to solve the problem.”

Ultimately, Rydall returns back to the rock wall for the love of the sport.

“I’m motivated to come because I enjoy it, as opposed to going to the gym. I don’t enjoy going to the gym as much,” Rydall said.

Leave a Comment