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Health Conscious


ONU student fitness group helping build a healthier campus with popular workout program.



Sometimes a traditional push up just won’t do. Especially when you can stand on your hands and do one that’s far more difficult.

For a new breed of health-conscious Ohio Northern University students, traditional exercise in general just won’t do. These students, members of the new ONU student organization PolarFit, take fitness to a whole new level with exercise regimes modeled after the immensely popular CrossFit® craze that is popping up in gyms all over the country.

The Kinghorn Classic

On Sunday, April 7, PolarFit and ONU hosted the first annual Kinghorn Classic fitness competition. The event attracted 25 participants —students and nonstudents alike — from as far away as Michigan. The competition featured three events: Olympic lifting, skill work and a metabolic challenge.

Scroll down for photos from the event

While CrossFit® is a brand name, it has become synonymous with the style of fitness training that is characterized by a diverse array of high intensity, high repetition exercises with short rest periods in between. These workouts push athletes to perform at long periods of maximum physical exertion. It has become the preferred regimen of the United States Marine Corps, and many police and fire fighters.

PolarFit co-founders Nick Pataro, a junior exercise physiology major from Saline, Mich., and Cory Martin, a senior exercise physiology major from Akron, Ohio, are firm believers in this new kind of exercise, and formed the club to introduce it to ONU students. The club has grown in membership throughout the year to 50 dues-paying members, and Martin and Pataro both see it growing even more.

“There are plenty of people that work out here, but not many really know what it is like to do a high-intensity workout. It’s addictive. When you do it once, you are going want to come back and do it again,” says Martin.

Pataro has always been active. An athlete all his life, he ran and lifted weights as prescribed by a traditional exercise routine. He began crossfit training about a year ago and quickly noticed a difference.

“You move better in every way. You feel better in every way. You start to feel really, really good after only a month or so of doing it,” he says.

Pataro also credits this new training with completely healing a knee ligament tear he suffered his freshman year. Before his knee had been consistently achy and sore. After his first month of training, the pain was gone and he had increased strength and range of motion.

“It’s rehabbed my knee without me having to rehab it,” he says.

Some of the exercises used at the Kinghorn Classic.

If PolarFit seems too good to be true, rest assured there is science behind it. Sara Terrell, Assistant Professor of Exercise Physiology and PolarFit faculty adviser explains:

“What happens in a workout session is incredibly functional for all walks of life and is exactly what I would preach in my kinesiology classes, such as loading the body through the ground, working in multiple planes of motion and incorporating whole body movement patterns," she says. "Just watch a workout and you will see people working on muscle strength, muscle endurance, power, agility, coordination, balance, pushing, pulling, squatting, at an intensity that really pushes anaerobic conditioning, which also improves your aerobic conditioning. These workouts crank up EPOC, or excess post oxygen consumption. Basically, because you have worked all these areas at a higher intensity your body burns an incredible amount of calories long after the workout is over. “

Actual PolarFit workouts can vary greatly in both the type of exercise and intensity. As instructors, Pataro and Martin apply their education in exercise physiology to ensure students are safe and receiving proper instruction.

A healthier campus

PolarFit is the latest initiative at Ohio Northern to improve health and wellness on campus.

For employees of the University, ONU HealthWise provides access to knowledge about their health, which empowers them to make better choices.

Benefits of the ONU HealthWise program include:
   • One-on-one coaching with health care professionals
   • Improved knowledge about health and wellness
   • Disease state and medication management


Traffic Light Plus
This new vending machine labeling initiative encourages healthier eating habits on campus by providing students, faculty and staff with food for thought before buying that favorite snack.


“We bring the knowledge to make sure they are using correct form — we’re never going to have someone do incorrect form, especially for a workout like this — and we know how to progress or regress an exercise to meet the ability of the student,” says Martin.

Terrell is proud that her students started PolarFit to be more than just an exercise club. Martin and Pataro want it to be a vehicle for junior- and senior-level exercise physiology and athletic training majors gain leadership experience while expanding the scope of the club to include more forms of exercise. For instance, if a student is involved in yoga and has mastered proper form and technique, her or she could teach a yoga class under the PolarFit name.

“The part that I like most is that these guys saw a need in the student community and responded to it, not to mention, they are teaching and instructing and learning how to take these workouts and apply them to all skill sets. That’s where the industry can go wrong sometimes is that you have people in the exercise field who can’t adapt concepts to meet the needs of a variety of abilities which is problematic for our profession. Nick and Cory see the concept, make changes as needed to meet the variety of skills of the participants, all while creating this incredibly supportive environment that encourages and facilitates campus camaraderie,” says Terrell.

This supportive environment is certainly a factor in the explosive growth of the club. As word spread around campus throughout the fall more and more students would show up for classes. Before PolarFit, Martin says that he’d see maybe one female student in the Kinghorn weight room in a week. Now he’s is bringing in PolarFit classes with 10 to 15 female students, introducing them to weights and exposing them to free weight exercises they hadn’t experienced before.

PolarFit posts class schedules through its Facebook page
and maintains an active Youtube channel.

If a sense of camaraderie brings a student to a PolarFit workout, the results keep them coming back. Busy college students are finding that they can get the same or better results from a 20-minute PolarFit workout than they can from 45 minutes running on a treadmill. Martin says that students are reporting less soreness after workouts than when they workout on their own, which is the result of being instructed on using proper form.

Pataro and Martin dedicated much of their lives this year to PolarFit this year. They run three to four classes a day, and as the club has grown they find themselves running out of time and space. Yet they still want to spread the word and get more students involved because they know how good it is for them. PolarFit is improving health and wellness on campus and quite literally, building better students. It might seem overwhelming if it wasn’t so much fun.

I absolutely love it, I absolutely love teaching people how to do this stuff. And I love doing it myself.” says Pataro. “If it was up to me I would probably hang out there all day.”