An ISU class can teach you how to be a hero

Senior Josh Andersen leads a warm up stretch during the beginning of Hero Training. This fitness class focuses on exercises to help during an extreme situation such as lifting wooden beams off someone during a fire. 

Emily Barske

Stay low to the ground. Lunge between the objects around you. Move as quickly as possible.

These thoughts race through your head as you rush to help others escape from a burning building, but they may also be goals while you work out.

Students can exercise and train for emergency situations all at once in the new group fitness course called Hero Training, which is offered by Recreation Services and is free for all ISU students.

Hero Training is offered from 5:10 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as 7:10 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays. All classes are in Beyer 2420.

“We have it themed, so each month we’re looking at a different theme where you can step up and be a hero,” said Kara Herbert, fitness coordinator for Rec services. “For example, if the building you were in was on fire, would you be able to drag somebody out of it? If someone was pinned under a wooden beam, would you be able to lift it off?”

The goal is that participants will be able to get themselves through emergency situations by attending multiple training sessions, Herbert said. The exercises included in each class relate to a scenario presented at the beginning of the session.

The objective of the second class last Thursday was to rescue someone from a burning building. Though the building was not really on fire, by the time class had ended black dust from the new flooring covered the participants’ hands and foreheads from brushing away sweat, making it look as though their skin was scorched from a real fire.

Sporting a white ISU sweatband with a red “I Love Group Fit” T-shirt, Josh Andersen, senior in kinesiology and health, instructed the participants who attended Hero Training on its second day.

At each station, he gave directions for the exercise and its modifications, stressing the importance of pushing yourself while maintaining proper form. The tempo of songs such as “Baby Got Back” and “Uptown Funk” that played throughout the class matched Andersen’s energy of Andersen.

After doing warm-up stretches and exercises, the participants completed five stations: incline pushups, quick steps, lunges with a weighted tube, pulls and planks. The step exercises simulated the ability to quickly run up the stairs while the rows on the TRX-brand ropes represented pulling an object off of a person during a rescue. 

“It was challenging, but in a good way,” said Elijah Gillispie, junior in political science, who participated in the class. “It really pushed me to give my all when I didn’t have it.”

Class members said they received various benefits from class time.

Dinesh Poddaturi, graduate student in supply chain and information systems, said he decided to attend the class to target particular muscle groups during his workout.

The room is set up as a functional fitness classroom with objects such as tires, weighted tubes and TRX-brand ropes filling the space. Functional fitness emphasizes proper form to ensure that as people age they can continue to complete movements for daily life, such as picking something up off the ground, Herbert said.

“It’s not necessarily about how fast you can do it or how many reps you can do,” Andersen said. “It’s about how correctly you can do it. Functional fitness isn’t just about how it’s going to affect you today or tomorrow but how it’s going to impact you 20 years down the road.” 

The idea of a functional fitness class with a hero theme had been in Herbert’s mind for years, ever since she saw a YouTube video as an intern at Notre Dame University. She brought the idea with her to Iowa State, but Rec services didn’t have the space to make the class available. But the idea for the class was still on the back burner, she said.

“When [Beyer 2420] came open, and they basically said they were going to have to gut it and start from scratch, we were like, ‘Oh can we have it?’” Herbert said. “We went and hunted down the kind of flooring that we wanted, started looking at equipment and getting ideas for different types of classes.”

About two years ago, when the space was identified, the plans for how to use the room, including a hero-themed class, were beginning to become a reality. Six months ago, Herbert brought the idea to the fitness instructors she supervises.

“During one of our meetings, she brought up the idea of a superhero class,” Andersen said. “I thought it was really cool, and I jumped at the idea right away.”

While an obsession with super heroes was the initial hook to get Andersen on board, knowing the benefits of functional fitness was an important part of his decision to be the instructor for Hero Training, he said. 

Because Hero Training is still in the beginning stages, the functional, training-room layout is not final. As he works to create a structure, Andersen is trying to incorporate new elements to the class, such as tires or using the gym space outside the functional room, he said.

“We still have the desire to add more to it,” Andersen said. “I can expand the class with just a few pieces of equipment — little things that make the class a little more fun and dynamic.”