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The power of fitness

Recreational Services at the University of Iowa offers diverse recreation opportunities for students and members to be physically active. The fitness department, in particular, offers personal training, group fitness/mind-body classes, and specialty fitness programs like TRX and fitness barre.  

Strength in numbers

Over the last several years, Recreational Services fitness programs have flourished through partnerships with UI Wellness and continual adaptations in the services offered. The personal training program has nearly doubled the number of personal training sessions offered annually from 4,500 in 2013 to 8,422 in 2018. Additionally, the group fitness program as has increased from 39,275 participations in 2013 to 72,197 in 2018.  

Change in participation rates over the past five years

Participation Rates
Personal training participants 4500 8,422
Group fitness participants 39,278 72,197


“Having a lifestyle that is physically active is associated with powerful benefits: mood, stress management, improved memory, and sleep,” says Megan Hammes, director of UI Wellness. It is not surprising to see such growth in the fitness programs over the last five years.

“Having a lifestyle that is physically active is associated with powerful benefits: mood, stress management, improved memory, and sleep."

Using the correct technique

The success of these programs, however, did not happen overnight and required an intentional change in the model of services offered as well as in employee training. “In the past, we provided a service to teach people how to exercise.  Now, we focus on building relationships and, of course, teaching people how to exercise safely with scientific-based programming, but most importantly, we thrive on providing an experience for our clients, not a service,” says Angela Charsha-Harney, assistant director of fitness. As this model of teaching has evolved within Recreational Services, so have the services provided.  Today the department offers unique classes such as WERQ and Pound as an opportunity for individuals to connect fitness to what they love and the results have been powerful. One participant stated in an anonymous survey, “These classes make me feel included and a part of something. These instructors may not know it, but they really encourage and challenge me to step out of my comfort zone. Since the beginning of the year, I have noticed that I have a lot more confidence in myself and my abilities. I always leave these classes feeling proud of what I have accomplished and I am slowly making friends!”  

Finding the right coach

Across the fitness department, 90 employees help create this welcoming culture.  One of those individuals is Drew Federer, a personal trainer, who has been on staff with the fitness department since July 2016.  This year Drew received the Student Employee of the Year Certificate of Distinction for his commitment to his clients and their experience.  Drew, however, is not your average personal trainer, as he has a disease called Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy which takes away a person’s ability to see.  Drew has used his resilience to overcome this disease and to relate to his clients. Learn more about Drew and his remarkable story in the video below:

Video about Drew Federer, one of Recreational Services Personal Trainers


2018 Year In Review

This article is part of the 2018 Year in Review, which highlights some of the Division of Student Life's accomplishments from the previous academic year.

Go to Year in Review