King’s students teach safety and support in weight training

Bryson Morris does a squat during the October session in the King’s weight room. (Benjamin Blum photo)

The University of King’s College has converted a seminar room in its gymnasium building into a well-stocked weight room, complete with new equipment.

But knowing how to use the equipment properly is a skill that separates ripped physiques from torn ligaments.

King’s students Rachael Bethune and Harry Critchley are familiar with weight rooms. Critchley is a former member of the Dalhousie’s swim team while Bethune has been doing strength training for several years.

The two have joined together with the school’s athletic department and residence council to ensure that the weight room will be used frequently and safely.

“The goal of this programming is for anyone to feel comfortable in the weight room at any time,” says Bethune, a don in the Alexandra Hall residence at King’s.

After an anonymous alumni donation financed the renovation, Critchley and Bethune approached the athletic department separately with the idea of an introductory class. After discovering they had the same goals in mind, Bethune combined her $80 in funding from the residence council’s athletics budget with the $80 Critchley received from the athletic department.

“I had a suspicion that despite the weight room being new and exciting that didn’t necessarily mean that it was being well-trafficked, particularly by women,” says Bethune.

Bethune and Critchley ran two classes in early October. They hired Kevin Parfrey, a trainer from the ACCEL Physiotherapy and Sport Performance Centre in Halifax, to introduce students to key exercises.

“A free-weights program would speed up the process of developing the proper techniques,” says Critchley, who experienced the learning curve for weight training while rehabilitating an injury.

The first hour was allotted to women, the second to men. The decision to have separate classes was important to Bethune, who hopes the women who attended will feel comfortable working out no matter the setting.

“It was meant to be safe and also to be empowering.”

King’s student Lisa Corey attempts a squat with support from Kevin Parfrey and Justine Gauthier. (Benjamin Blum photo)

The mental health benefits of working out are another reason for the classes. The Canadian Mental Health Association says that physical activity can assist in dealing with stress, especially when done in a positive environment.

For Critchley, this is especially true in a university setting.

“There’s nothing better than having class for three, four, five hours and come out and get to do something totally different,” he says, adding that he forged close bonds with the people he works out with.

Lisa Corey, a second-year student who attended the session, said she feels energized and refocused after working out. As well, she said she benefitted from the women-only session.

“It’s important to create safe spaces for everybody,” says Corey. “I have gone into the room and not been sure what to do and it’s embarrassing.”

Seventeen women attended the first session and 10 men attended the second. Critchley and Bethune hope to have a similar session at the beginning of the winter term. Hosting weekly sessions with a trainer would be too expensive.

Critchley feels the team dynamic is important while exercising.

“There’s a nice social aspect about all of it,” he says. “Having other people there who can watch you lift and get you psyched up is a huge benefit.”