Student trainers

Junior Madeline Hiegel leads a triple fit class Feb. 14 at the UREC Fitness Center . During the class she works participants through a core strength and cardio regiment.



Thursday is Junior Madeline Hiegel’s favorite day of the week. While she has no academic class on her schedule, she still sets her 8 a.m. alarm Wednesday night before she sleeps. She has a full day of work ahead of her.

Hiegel wakes up early and picks two outfits for the day. The first is office casual, which she wears when she goes to the Health, Physical Education and Recreation building (HPER)  to begin her office job as the University Recreation’s Program Assistant for Fitness and Wellness.The second outfit includes a pair of gym leggings, which she changes into to teach two separate fitness classes at both the HPER and the UREC Fitness Center.

Hiegel is a full-time student who is passionate for teaching fitness classes and has been teaching since her sophomore year. When she is not in class, she can be found working 10 hours a week in the HPER office, co-coaching a new class called small group training or teaching a public group triple-fit cardio class, she said.

In her position as a UREC Program Assistant, Hiegel is responsible for supervising the day-to-day operations of fitness and wellness programs, such as personal training, small group training and group fitness, as well as being responsible for hiring, supervising and evaluating the UREC staff in these areas, Hiegel said.

Hiegel enjoys the challenges that come with teaching student-led classes, she said.

“It’s all about scheduling,” Hiegel said. “Even though it is challenging sometimes, it is a nice break from class and studying to go to work and to teach.”

Because her fitness classes are offered to all university students, Hiegel often faces challenges when planning her class’s workouts, she admitted.

“I definitely have to really work hard to cater my triple-fit class to all fitness levels,” Hiegel said. “There is always someone in my class who it is their first time to exercise in a long time, and someone who is really fit and wants a challenging workout. So that’s where I have to find a balance and progression of moves to make the class challenging for all levels.”

A daily workout can often be the last thing on the minds of students with a full schedule of class and extracurricular activities.

Freshman Michael Fuhrman, who began attending Zumba classes in college, said regularly attending student-led UREC fitness classes encourages him to work out and is necessary for a study break, he said.

“It makes the room feel more comfortable,” Fuhrman said. “Even with adults sometimes, the idea of having a personal trainer is stressful because you feel like you’re meeting somebody else’s quota for you, and it is more relaxed when you are with someone who understands all the same school stress that you are going through.”  

Sophomore Katie Allen is a regular barre and spin class attendee, but she did not attend these classes until coming to college. As a former high school athlete who played soccer and basketball, Allen said that she finds student-led classes to help her get through her daily workout.

“Our instructor is not an adult, which makes all of us at barre want to do it more,” Allen said. “It feels less like being back in high school and taking orders from an authoritative figure and more like having a fun time with friends.”

Attending student-led classes helps her refresh from a stressful day and get back into her studies in the evening, Allen said.

Freshman Duru Erkan is a former competitive swimmer who said she enjoys attending student-led classes for both the community aspect and the good energy of the classes.

“I tried working out by myself, but going to classes becomes more fun and stress-relieving,” Erkan said.

Erkan met her future roommates by going to a Zumba class, and they all continue to attend it together, she said.

“It is how we schedule in some bonding time during the week,” Erkan said.

A schedule with details on different fitness classes can be found on the UREC website and the URECarkansas mobile app, where students can also sign up for classes.


Leen Abochale is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where she has been a staff reporter since February 2019.

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