Inspiration through fitness

Senior Aron Gibson goes by several nicknames; some students call him “Gibby” others call him “Book,” but Dr. Randy Keeler, associate professor of religion, calls him “Coach.”

That’s because during the spring 2016 semester Gibson served as Keeler’s fitness coach as part of a requirement for his strength and conditioning class. Gibson and six other students were matched with faculty and staff members in preparation for the certified strength and conditioning specialist exam.

“The goal for this class is to prepare the students for the next step in working with clients and athletes,” said Rhonda Gottschalk, head women’s soccer coach and assistant professor of health, fitness and sport science. “This project introduces them to the challenges that they might face while working with people, how to structure a workout and how to assess the client’s progress.”

Keeler was expecting a Jillian-Michaels-type trainer who would bark out commands. Instead, he got mild-mannered Gibson, but the two bonded over the course of the 12-week program.

“I had him for a class, but it was freshman year,” said Gibson. “Now, we’ve formed a good relationship. We talk while he’s running on the elliptical. This class allowed for that connection to happen.”

“It was an exercise for him to personalize a workout around my goals, but I really enjoyed it as a way to get to know
another student,” said Keeler. “He stuck with me and was always there.”

Edgar Gonzalez and Sara KisseberthThe opportunity would not have been possible Gibson’s freshman year because the only workout facility on campus was a cramped space in Burcky Gym.

“We couldn’t have done this back in the dungeon,” Gibson joked.

Gibson, an exercise science and strength and conditioning double major from Caledonia, Ohio, also works as the fitness center director in Sommer Center. There is a true sense of community that has developed in the facility that opened in 2012.

“There are athletes that come in, faculty, faculty spouses, non-athletes. There’s just a wide variety. This is the place on campus where you meet people you don’t have class with, that you don’t have campus activities with. This is a common place to meet people and to form connections.”

Senior Edgar Gonzalez, an exercise science and strength and conditioning double major from Melvindale, Mich., has made a similar observation.

“You see so many people from different demographics on campus,” said Gonzalez. “This facility is great. It allows more people from the campus and the community to get better in every aspect of their lives especially when they’re trying to get healthy and physically fit.”

Gonzalez is also part of the class and is training Sara Kisseberth, Bluffton’s multimedia manager.

“I really like helping people. I get a lot of satisfaction knowing I’m doing something, not for myself, but for somebody else and to be a part of something bigger than me.”

Both Gibson and Gonzalez are athletes and have trained other athletes to improve their performance. However, this class is preparing the seniors to work with clients who are trying to achieve very different goals.

“I’ve learned from my mistakes to improve on things such as changing up exercises that might not be adequate for her. I’ve learned to adjust and continue to improve on drafting workouts,” said Gonzalez.

“I have to take into consideration that she has different goals than I do. Her lifestyle is completely different than mine, and I have to find ways to be able to comfortably accommodate a program that will work for her.”

Kisseberth says she stayed disciplined because of Gonzalez’s encouragement.

“He creates a workout plan for me, and he changes it up every two weeks. So, he’s there showing me how to use the equipment, correcting my form. He’s supported me and pushed me to do what I need to do.”

And while students learn better ways to interact with clients, their clients are benefitting from improved health.

“I’ve lost inches. I’m on to a new belt. I’m definitely stronger than I was at the beginning of the semester,” said Kisseberth.