Panting heavily, her T-shirt soaked in sweat, Latarsha Johnson flipped a car tire weighing nearly 20 pounds end-over-over in the parking lot outside the Vatterott College campus.
“Come on, ladies!” Johnson exhorted late Saturday morning to the cluster of women straining to keep up with her.
Thirty minutes later — following sets up push-ups, squat jumps and quarter-mile runs — Johnson looked like she had caught her second wind.
“I feel good,” she said. “I’m hyped. We should do it again.”
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Johnson joined nearly two-dozen men and women who had shown up for the fitness challenge Vatterott sponsored to showcase its personal fitness trainer program.
Rauslyn Dye, the program director, served as the event’s host, simultaneously filling the roles of cheerleader and drill sergeant as the volunteers went through their grueling paces.
After leading her charges in sprints between plastic cones, and then squat jumps across a big parking lot, Dye stopped and pointed to a row of mats lined up on a sidewalk.
“We’re doing push-ups!” Dye exclaimed.
“How many are we going to do?” Linda Osborne, breathing hard, asked skeptically.
“Only 15,” Dye said.
“Only 15?” Osborne asked.
“You got this,” Dye said to Osborne, then turning to face everyone else huffing and puffing their way across the parking lot. “Y’all got this!”
Dan Sanchez, the campus director, looked on proudly, occasionally shouting encouragement or answering someone’s questions.
Personal fitness is a rapidly growing program at Vatterott, a trend driven in part by the explosive growth of organized programs such as CrossFit, a functional training regimen that emphasizes weight-lifting and personal body-weight exercises, according to Sanchez.
But many adults just want to improve their own level of fitness, he said.
“People are realizing they want to get in shape,” Sanchez said. “And they realize it’s not all about looking good. If you’re healthy, you live longer.”
Nick Hoelter, 24, of Collinsville, signed up for Vatterott’s personal trainer program because of his struggle with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that hinders his breathing ability.
By learning to get in shape, and educating himself on what it takes to maintain his health through diet and exercise, “I figured this would help it,” said Hoelter, whose lungs work at 58 percent of normal capacity. “Plus I like working out.”
After the last flip of the car tire, Hoelter paused a few moments before embarking on another quarter-mile run. A few feet away, fellow student Sylvester Glover, 49, instructed a woman in how to hold a kettlebell — an iron ball with a handle on top — while hoisting it off the ground and hitting a thigh-burning squat.
Glover said he got interested in personal training through his nephew, who is already a personal trainer. Glover’s goal is to work with older people and kids, especially the latter, and combat the epidemic of obesity that’s afflicting America’s young people.
After a brief rest, the group left the parking lot and filed inside to finish their work-out by torturing their abs, through partnered sit-ups and then belly twists.
“How many we doing?” asked Loletha Bevly, of St. Louis?
“Only 50,” Dye said.
“Only 50,” Bevly repeated.
Bevly seemed unfazed. A survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that affects the circulatory system, she seemed to speak for everyone in the room, telling her partner, “We’re at our own pace. We got this.”
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2533.