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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 15, 2003 | Vol. 33 No. 15
Sunrise Yoga, Cardio Kickboxing, Tummy Tucker and More

At Homewood's O'Connor Recreation Center, instructor Sosha Devi leads her Sunrise Yoga class through a floor maneuver.

Growing slate of fitness offerings at Homewood, East Balto. drawing crowds

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

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 Ralph S. 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 soon-to-be-rising sun.

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 day ahead.

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 specialist.

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 enhancements.

"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 music.

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 ride.

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 day."

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 Jocks.

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 about."

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 semester.

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.


Denton A. Cooley Athletic Center

Location: 1620 McElderry St., East Baltimore campus

Main number: 410-955-2513 Hours: Monday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday, 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Group exercise and specialty classes: Contact Diana Kahler at

Web site:


Ralph S. O'Connor Recreation Center

Location: Homewood campus, next to the Newton H. White Athletic Center

Main number: 410-516-5229

Hours: Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-midnight; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

Fitness and instructional programs: Contact Anne Irwin at 410-516-4413 or

Web site:


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