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Clockwise from top: Traci Bickelhaupt, right, guides students through an outdoor session of the Functional Fitness class, scheduled twice weekly at Magrath Sports Complex. Alyssa Wolfe keeps the energy high and the music loud during a recent Zumba class at Magrath Sports Complex. Leigh Feathers leads a group through a traditional spin class outside Magrath Sports Complex. The classes are offered through Fort Drum Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Sports, Fitness and Aquatics Program for Soldiers and DoD cardholders (17 or older). (Photos by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Fort Drum FMWR instructors again offer
fitness classes for community members


Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs


FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Sept. 18, 2020) – Fitness classes made a gradual return to Magrath Sports Complex this week, but they look a little different from what Fort Drum community members may recall before the pandemic.

The current schedule includes Zumba, Spin, and Functional Fitness classes, which are modified to meet COVID-19 safety protocols. That means registration is limited to 10 per class, participants are physically distanced and sessions are held outdoors if weather conditions cooperate.

“Ultimately, we wanted to bring the fitness program back, but we had to come up with the best way to do this safely,” said Jon Burnard, Sports, Fitness and Aquatics director. “We’re going to make sure everything is in order and that all the health guidelines are followed.”

When classes need to be moved indoors, Burnard said that patrons will sign in at the front entrance, wearing their masks, and then have their temperature taken. Masks can be removed once they reach their workout station.

“This isn’t quite getting us back to normal, but maybe somewhat normal,” he said. “Everyone who took the first class seemed to love it. So, we’re hoping that word of mouth will get others interested too.”

There is already some evidence of that happening. At least four people in the evening spin session Sept. 17 had taken a class earlier in the week. And no one is more excited than the three fitness instructors.

“I was very happy when I heard the news,” said Leigh Feathers, spin instructor. “I was like, ‘Yes, I can teach again!’”

Feathers has been teaching spin classes for the past two years.

“I’m a cyclist by nature,” she said. “I compete in triathlons, so I treat these classes very much as if I’m riding my bike on the road and doing the things that keep me in shape.”

She begins each class by helping individuals adjust the spin bikes so that they are both comfortable and in correct form while seated or standing.

“You should never be in pain while taking a class,” Feathers said.

The class combines the different spinning movements that cyclists would do on the road in both seated and standing positions. Feathers said that individuals control their own resistance level on the bikes, based on their abilities.

“I feel like this is very much like having a personal trainer,” she said. “Because everyone who comes to class, I’m gearing it toward them. I think what’s cool about spin, at least in my class, is that you can have a complete beginner riding next to someone who has been doing this for years and they both will get the same great workout.”

Zumba instructor Alyssa Wolfe moved to Fort Drum with her family just days before the COVID-19 travel restrictions began in March that would have prevented them from leaving their previous duty station.

“I taught my last class in (Fort Huachuca) Arizona a day before I hopped on a plane to get here,” she said. “We just made it, thankfully, in the nick of time.”

But then it would be another six months before she could begin instructing again.

“I’ve mostly been doing home workouts … or go running with my husband and the kids,” Wolfe said. “My kids are 5 and 3, so you keep busy even if you’re not working out.”

Now she’s ready to share her passion for this cardio fitness class with the Fort Drum community.

“Zumba is so positive and upbeat, and it makes you feel comfortable,” Wolfe said. “We just want people to have fun and enjoy themselves. We think of Zumba as a dance party.”

But Wolfe said that you don’t have to be a good dancer to get a good workout.

“Each song is choreographed with four or five movements that are progressively repeated so people can easily pick up each movement,” she said. “The moves are simple enough for everyone to follow.”

During her first class, participants warmed up to bass-thumping remix of The Jackson Five’s “Blame it on the Boogie” blasting from the speakers. Wolfe said that Zumba originated as a Latin-based workout, but it has expanded into all genres of music.

“You could have Bollywood classes, country music, pop, Korean pop – the Zumba fitness program really broadened into world music,” she said. “Every instructor sort of ties it into their own personality, so no class is going to be the same. Personally, I like the classic rock music and old-school hip hop music.”

Wolfe’s first class was held inside because of inclement weather. However, Traci Bickelhaupt was able to teach her first two Functional Fitness classes on the athletic turf at the track.

“I’m a big outdoors person, and if I could do all my classes outside, I would,” she said. “It’s just a different feeling. Honestly, I was so ecstatic just having a class again.”

The functional fitness class combines strength and cardio training at a “go-at-your-own” pace. Throughout the hourlong session, Bickelhaupt explains each exercise and what muscles they target. She demonstrates proper form and makes corrections when people need help.

“As the weeks go on, the classes should get a little more difficult,” she said. “Instead of running in place, we might do burpees for 30 seconds or jump squats. But the nice thing with all these exercises is that if someone new comes into the group, I can easily adapt the exercises to meet their fitness level.”

Bickelhaupt was a personal trainer at a local gym before the pandemic caused every fitness facility to shut down. She taught some classes at Thompson Park earlier this summer before starting her new position at Fort Drum.

“It’s nice to be doing what I honestly love doing, and that’s helping people,” she said. “It felt really good just getting back into the community and being able to talk with people, working with them and getting them out of this quarantine slump that I feel like a majority of people got into.”

Bickelhaupt is also a certified TRX instructor, and she hopes to start a class in October with an introductory workshop explaining the specifics about suspension training. Magrath Sports Complex has six TRX stations.

“It’s a total resistance workout that allows the mind and body to work as one,” she said. “I’m not saying this in a bad way, but sometimes it takes people a little more time to get into it. That’s why you have to start with a workshop.”

Burnard said that there will be some trial and error with the fitness class program, and he anticipates that changes will be made when needed.

“We’ll see how everything works out in the next few weeks,” he said. “We expect it will be a slow start, but hopefully people like what we’re doing. Then, eventually we can switch it up – add more classes, maybe have a class on the weekends again.”

The three fitness classes currently available are open to all active-duty Soldiers and DoD cardholders (17 or older). Reservations can be made at Magrath Sport Complex at least 24 hours before class time.

For more information, call (315) 772-6663 or 772-4806.