Student-Led Fitness

February 6, 2024 Landry French

The Fletcher Fitness Center at Hardin-Simmons University offers many exercise classes led by current students. These student-led classes provide hands-on learning for HSU students, where they learn to direct classes, develop workout routines, and build skills (and certifications) toward careers after graduation. 

Raylee Bevill stands in front of an HSU sign.

Raylee Bevill

Raylee Bevill is a junior exercise science major teaching the BURN and Aquacise classes. Outside her two classes with Group X Fitness, she also leads a Parkinson’s disease exercise group. She is passionate about exercise therapy.

BURN uses the HIIT style—or High-Intensity Interval Training. Here, Raylee leads her students through strenuous, intense weightlifting and cardio exercises at a breakneck pace. “It’s hard,” she said when asked about the course, “but it’s a lot of fun, and we have a close-knit community.” To help track progress, the participants wear heart rate monitors that link to the TVs in the Fitness Center. Along with the close community within BURN, each participant helps to encourage each other even in the high-intensity environment. 

As the name implies, Aquacise is a full-body workout using water resistance in the university’s pool. Raylee notes that it is ideal for those with injuries or older bodies that appreciate the advantages of moving in the water. The exercises include distance swimming, water weights, and rotating station workouts, which can add much variety with only the base. (For those worrying about water this time of year, do not worry. The pool is heated.) 

Madalyn Varnell standing in front of an HSU sign.

Madalyn Varnell

Madalyn Varnell is a sophomore exercise science major heading the Women’s Strength class. Since 6th grade, Madalyn has been deeply invested in fitness and did not hesitate to take up HSU’s offer to study as an exercise science major. After graduation, she wants to get into adaptive fitness training with special groups who cannot participate in standard exercise. 

Women’s Strength is a place for support and encouragement for women who want to exercise but would be hesitant to be involved with otherwise male-dominated activities. Madalyn and her students follow a pre-written workout to target every part of the body, which Madalyn helps teach each day. The exercise is independent, and intensity is relative to each student. Madalyn stated that she sometimes helps adjust and assist her students, but the primary motivation for each student is each other’s community. “We have a very strong community,” Madalyn shared, “and we help each other grow daily.” 

Jessica Buford stands in front of an HSU sign

Jess Buford

Jess Buford leads the Boot Camp program at HSU. Like her peers, she is an exercise science major, but unlike her peers, she will be graduating in December. Jess has prior experience with last summer’s Women’s Strength program and her duty of supervising the fitness center. When she leaves Hardin-Simmons, she will be pursuing a career as an athletic trainer, which she described as “the first responder for sports helping with injuries, swelling, and similar physical issues.” 

Boot Camp operates in the early morning hours (which drew Jess to teach the course). Within the course, the participants train with high interval and circuit training exercises, encouraging movement and building endurance with exercises such as mountain climbers, weighted back squats, med ball slams, and sprints. Jess loves the variety of students present, including faculty, staff, alumni, and students all at different fitness levels. “It’s a bit of a challenge keeping up with the different levels,” she explained, “but it’s a lot of fun.” The most important lessons Boot Camp has taught Jessica are how to modify exercises on the fly and create exercises for those with special accommodations 

Reach out to the fitness center to get involved with an exercise class!