They arrive under the shroud of early-morning darkness. One
by one, a mixed band of students, staff and faculty make
their way up to the third floor of the
O'Connor Recreation Center and head to a glossy
wood-floored room. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer the group
a treehouse view of the Homewood campus and the
Bags and winter wear promptly get discarded at one end
of the room. Then it's time to get to work--work out that
is. Seventy-five minutes and a few dozen body contortions
later, both mind and body have been energized for the long
The class is called Sunrise Yoga, and it's one of more
than two dozen increasingly popular fitness offerings at
Homewood's recreation center. Similarly, the East Baltimore
campus's Denton A.
Cooley Athletic Center also runs a series of group
exercise classes, everything from Advanced Step Aerobics to
an hourlong session called Tummy Tucker.
At the Cooley Center in East
Baltimore, a Super Sculpt class goes through its paces with
Diana Kahler, group exercise coordinator and lead fitness
While fitness classes are nothing new to either
campus, what are still relatively new are the shiny
multipurpose rooms in which they're housed. The O'Connor
Recreation Center opened in January 2002, and the Cooley
Center underwent a major renovation that was completed last
fall. The Cooley Center renovations included the addition
of group exercise rooms, enlargement of locker rooms and
the installation of a new sound system, among other
"The renovation gave us more space and allowed more
classes to be offered, because now we have two separate
group exercise rooms," Diana Kahler, the center's group
exercise coordinator and lead fitness specialist, said.
"Before, group exercise used to take place on the
racquetball courts, of all places."
In addition to their bright, attractive appearances,
the new rooms offer better acoustics, Kahler said, to
better carry the sound of the instructors' voices and
Kahler, who joined the Cooley Center staff in April,
has kept in place the majority of the existing fitness
class schedule but added Pilates and Spinning. Pilates, a
workout that has become something of a West Coast craze, is
a blend of yoga and exercise moves popular with dancers,
designed to lengthen and strengthen all muscles while
concentrating on lower back and abdominals. Spinning is a
nonimpact stationary cycling class that offers a
high-intensity workout, mimicking an up-and-downhill
Class times at Cooley are from noon to 1 p.m. and from
5:30 to 7:15 p.m. The O'Connor Recreation Center hosts
classes in the morning, at noon and from 3 to 9:40 p.m. At
both centers, participants can either pay a "drop-in" rate
per class, typically $3 to $6 (free trials are offered at
both centers), or can register for a complete session,
which runs eight weeks at Cooley and by academic term at
O'Connor. Full session pricing ranges from $30 to $75.
Kahler said the most popular choices at the Cooley
Center have been the evening Step and Pilates classes and
the afternoon Tummy Tucker sessions. Tummy Tucker is a
nonaerobic strength class that emphasizes "problem areas"
including hips, thighs and abdominals. Super Sculpt,
another class, is designed to tone and strengthen all major
muscle groups using free weights.
"At this center we have some really die-hard step
people, and that is why we offer so many step and sculpt
classes," she said. "They really like the instructors and
the music; they meet friends here. They have a lot of fun,
on top of their workout."
Anne Irwin, the O'Connor Center's coordinator of
lifetime sports, said that at Homewood yoga and aerobic
step have been very well attended, especially the Sunrise
Yoga class, which runs from 6:45 to 8 a.m.
"That has been a big success," Irwin said. "I've been
impressed that from day one we got a lot of people in the
class. Sometimes we start a class and they find a little
following, or they take some time to get going. But I think
for Sunrise Yoga we had 20 or so people show up the first
Other fitness classes offered at Homewood include
Cardio Kickboxing, On the Ball Strength and a class called
Yogalates, which fuses yoga and Pilates. Next spring, the
center plans to add training for 5k races and Ballet for
Irwin said that all her classes have increased in
attendance. Whereas in the past, five to 10 people would
register, she said, now the groups number between 15 and
30. Before the new recreation center opened, Irwin said
that on average 80 people would sign up per semester for
the seven to eight classes held in the ROTC hall. Now, more
than 30 classes are offered a week, and more than 400
individuals signed up this past fall. She attributed the
rise in popularity to the newness of the center and the
state-of-the-art facilities. She also said that more people
are looking for a way to stay fit and reduce stress.
"Health and physical well-being are very important,
but the other things we focus on here are the mental,
emotional and, possibly, spiritual aspects," she said.
"This is all to enhance people's quality of life. People at
Hopkins have some pretty big projects going on, and so if
this helps them be more productive in those projects, helps
them live their lives better, that's what we're all
MidAtlantic Corporate Health manages the Cooley
Center, which is open to all university and Johns Hopkins
Hospital affiliates, alumni and spouses. The university
operates the O'Connor Center, which is open to students,
faculty, staff and alumni and their spouses.
Kahler said that most of the classes at Cooley draw
anywhere from seven to 32 participants, who range in age
from 18 to 70.
"It certainly seems as if [these classes are] more
popular than ever," Kahler said. "I think word of mouth has
helped, and the convenience of the schedule."
Those who register for the eight-week session at
Cooley can pick and choose from the slate of classes, which
this fall included Step Aerobics (regular and advanced),
Cardio Kickboxing, Pilates (regular, mat and advanced),
Spinning, Super Sculpt and Yoga. At Homewood, users
register for a pass that covers classes for the entire
The next eight-week session at Cooley will run from
Jan. 5 to Feb. 27.
At Homewood, an intersession schedule will run from
Jan. 5 to Jan. 25. The spring session will go from Jan. 26
to the end of the semester.