#ActiveBadger Spotlight: Alex S

Those of you who have attended Group Fitness classes may be curious about the individuals who teach these classes. Now is your chance to get to know some of the individuals leading the #ActiveBadger lifestyle on campus!

This week’s Active Badger Spotlight is Alex S. If you have taken a fitness class at the SERF, you have most likely taken a class led by Alex.  At the SERF, she is known for her grueling, high intensity workouts and sick workout beats. Outside, she is just as impressive, working towards her Ph.D. and living a diverse, active, and healthy lifestyle. So, we sat down with Alex to ask her for some insight into her life and her responses will amaze you. Keep reading to get to know her!

1). What is your current status at UW-Madison and what are you going to school for?

I am a 5th year graduate student. I have a BS in Physics, MS in Medical Physics and am working on getting my Ph.D. in Medical Physics.

2). What Group Fitness classes do you teach and which is your favorite?
This semester I teach kickboxing, group strength, cycling, cardio interval, and HIIT. Although, I’ve taught almost every class on the schedule except for Mind-Body classes and Zumba, including classes that no longer exist like dynamic strength, Cardio (aerobics), core crunch (now called hard core), and Shallow Aqua! I also teach cycling classes as training for the UW Swim team athletes.  My favorite class to teach was dynamic strength (one of our first fusion of high intensity drills with lifting) but now I love every class I teach!
3). How long have you been with Rec Sports?

7 years, since 2010!

4). Have you always been passionate about fitness?

Actually, no! I never did sports growing up and was sedentary and the most un-fit person in every gym class that public school forced me to take. I did not value physical activity or exercise because people told me I didn’t have to work out because I didn’t have to lose or manage my weight. I thought only dieters and athletes had to exercise and never envisioned myself categorized as either. It wasn’t until I started college that I figured it might be beneficial to work out (all my friends did it and everyone seemed scared of this thing called “the freshman 15”) but I had no experience exercising. Like with any subject, I figured the best way to learn was by going to the fitness classes offered at Rec Sports. I fell in love with the group atmosphere, the simplicity of only having to show up to get a great workout and when it was announced that RS was holding instructs tryouts I thought this would be a wonderful way to give back and help others the way that classes helped me find a passion for fitness and wellness. Ever since, I feel honored every day to be a part of this team; teaching classes is the best part of my day and fitness has truly become a lifestyle.

5). What is your favorite song to work out to?

“Ay Ladies” – Travis Porter (any trap music or song with a sick beat drop). If it doesn’t inspire me to move I won’t listen to it or put it on a class playlist!

6). Do you do any fitness activities outside of Rec Sports? (play sports, dance, run, crossfit…)

Absolutely! I teach classes at KAMPS in Madison (next to Hub Apartments) and I started a company with two other former Rec Sports employees/instructors/trainers/coordinators called Innervate. We offer in-home personal training and fitness programming in downtown Madison. While I’ve been an instructor, I represented the Wisconsin team at the American Collegiate Intramural Sports (ACIS 2013) Fitness National Championship at the US Olympic Training Center in San Diego. We took 3rd place in the Navy Seals Obstacle Course. I also was on the Wisconsin team last year as a competitor at the BattleFrog College Championship in Atlanta, GA that was on ESPN this past summer. In the summer I couldn’t live without my bike as it is my favorite mode of leisure transportation.
7). Name some healthy foods you love.

There are SO many. One of my favorite salads to make consists of raw cabbage, kale, lime juice, cilantro, red grapes, a meat (like pulled pork or chicken) and an apple cider vinaigrette that I make. I eat it almost every day. I love sushi/sashimi, beets, sweet potatoes, making cauliflower rice-risotto and so much more. Cooking is one of my major creative outlets and I cook a variety of foods from Jamaican jerk pork with plantains, pasta carbonara, honey garlic chicken, bison and beef short rib chocolate stout chili, pad Thai, coconut curry, cucumber salad with lime/cilantro/fig/jalapeño/cashews. I think food is one of the most beautiful art forms so my Instagram page is full of bright and colorful food pictures! It serves as my recipe book to help remind me how I made certain dishes, but at the same time, I want to share those ideas with others. Too often people think “healthy eating” means steamed spinach and tilapia, or lettuce with some kind of bottled syrupy dressing or fake “low-calorie” ice creams and protein bars with artificial sweeteners. It is my hope that everyone can find joy in fitness and in eating well. When it no longer becomes a chore, it’s much easier to make it a lifelong habit.

8). What is your favorite guilty pleasure food?

I firmly believe that “guilty” and “food” are terms that should not be associated with one another. Living well means removing negative emotions from dining experiences, so I don’t believe in “cheat days” as much as I prefer to avoid the term “clean eating.” Removing stress from making a dietary decision can help  people rely more on internal signals of feeling full. When the brain senses deprivation it can overwrite intrinsic signals of satiety (and thus can cause binge or disordered eating behaviors). I eat a variety of foods. When I desire a dish, I have it. Fuel your body but also satisfy your soul.

9). What is your favorite muscle group to work and some exercises to go with it?

Glutes! I love doing weighted glute bridges and hip extensions. Posterior chain workouts are my faaavorite.

10). What advice would you give to students in order to motivate them to make healthy choices?

Try many exercise modalities and settings to find something that will make it truly enjoyable. Try kickboxing, HIIT, cycling, Zumba or Yoga. Madison has a growing boutique fitness scene, so sometimes the best thing to keep us motivated is to get out and explore our community. Try ultimate frisbee, hop into the PTC to climb the ropes, or play basketball. When people come to my class, if they can laugh, feel distracted/removed from outside stresses (school, relationships, work, anything) and forget that going to the gym was something they had to do, it begins to transform into something they want to do. Overtime, we may start to feel that transformation – growing stronger physically and mentally. Every class I teach, one of the most rewarding things is watching someone continue to keep working with a few words of encouragement that perhaps they would have stopped otherwise. I’ve seen people meet their best friends and partners; I’ve watched them undergo transformations; I’ve seen them smile through challenges and persevere  to accomplish more than maybe they thought they could before they came through our doors. The comfort zone is a solid place to begin, but if we stay there we can only grow so much. Defy your own boundaries and try new things to keep learning and growing.

So now that you know more about Alex, go tryout one of her classes and stay tuned for the next #ActiveBadger spotlight!