Gaining strength

December 19, 2013

Students take an aerobics class at HCC. Professor Patti Mantia instructs students on the use of fitness equipment in the Bartley Center.

Students at HCC can choose from among two degree programs and more than half a dozen certificates in the areas of Health, Fitness and Nutrition.

By Ronni Gordon


Cori Muddiman was an overweight Home Depot contractor from Springfield who lost more than 100 pounds and became increasingly interested in physical fitness. Omri Rachmut, a native of Jerusalem and a former paratrooper in the Israeli army, grew up as physically fit as his parents, both triathletes.

The two come from very different places, but they share a common goal - they want to help others get fit. They're working toward that goal as students in HCC's Health, Fitness and Nutrition program.

HCC offers seven HFN certificate options and two HFN degree options: an associate in science in health and fitness and an associate in arts and science with a concentration in nutrition.

Soon to enter its 14th year, the Health, Fitness and Nutrition department at HCC is as old as the Bartley Center for Athletics and Recreation, where the program is based, and where Patti Mantia, chair of the department, has her office on the first floor, just steps from the fitness and wellness area.

"It's an area that's really growing. People are starting to see how well this can be integrated. They're making space for fitness in hospitals and other places."

Although the Nutrition program was well established when Mantia introduced the HFN program in 2000, only two students initially enrolled in the health and fitness section. Today, Health, Fitness and Nutrition has 150 students, who can choose from 50 courses, from those that meet in classrooms, such as Biomechanics of Human Movement and Health and Wellness Counseling, and those that meet in the aerobic studio, such as yoga and martial arts.

Mantia attributes the program's enrollment numbers to the increasing attention people are paying these days to food, nutrition and physical fitness in their daily lives.

"It's an area that's really growing," Mantia said. "People are starting to see how well this can be integrated. They're making space for fitness in hospitals and other places."

Courses are taught by Mantia, whose background is in health and fitness, and Laura (Hutchinson) Christoph, whose background is in nutrition. Most classes take place in the Bartley Center's multimedia, high-tech Spalding Sports room, the multi-purpose aerobic studio, or the fitness center on the first floor.

Graduates who specialize in health and fitness can either begin working in the field or transfer to a four-year college.

Graduates who specialize in health and fitness can either begin working in the field or transfer to a four-year college. Those specializing in nutrition usually need to continue if they want jobs in dietetics, or they might do just the two years for personal enrichment

In addition to the two degrees, students may complete certificate programs in the following areas:

  • Health and Fitness Specialist (prepares students for a variety of employment opportunities within the health and fitness industry);
  • Health and Fitness Management (prepares students for a management position in the field of health and fitness);
  • Group Exercise Leader (designed for individuals who are interested in working as a group exercise instructor in a variety of health and fitness settings);
  • Personal Trainer / Fitness Counselor (designed for the individual with an interest in working one-on-one with clients to develop or enhance their health and fitness goals);
  • Strength and Conditioning Specialist (designed for the student who wants to specialize in the area of strength and conditioning for health, fitness and sports and/or prepare for national certification in strength training);
  • Firefighter Fitness Trainer (designed to prepare the student to assume the role of fitness instructor within the firefighting community);
  • Coaching (designed for the individual who is interested in working as a coach in sports and recreation)

While textbook learning in subjects such as biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology and biomechanics is important, so is hands-on learning.

"Students do community service and other volunteer work," Mantia said. "You have to be involved. They end up doing all sorts of things, and they love it."

Many students, including Muddiman and Rachmut, want to work as personal trainers.

Muddiman, 32, hopes to keep other men from going the way he did.

"I ate whatever I wanted," he said. "I'm Polish, and I like Polish food. And I played a lot of video games." At 6-feet, 3-inches, he weighed 325 pounds in 2009. He recently weighed in at 219.

After he became the father of two children, he took a good look at himself.

"I didn't want to be the guy who had a heart attack in his 40s or 50s," he said.

He started reading about nutrition. He started biking and weight lifting, and now he wants to develop a program to help other men lose weight.

Meanwhile, Rachmut, 25, had already known about the benefits of being strong and healthy, but when he came to the United States at age 21, he was unsure what to do for a career.

He started a small business operating mall kiosks where he sold Dead Sea products, but he didn't like it very much.

"It wasn't what I was about," he said.

Last fall, he enrolled in HCC with the goal of developing a youth fitness program.

"When you're not using your body, you're not aware of the damage you're doing," he said. "All you have to do is move, stick to the basics and make sure it's fun."

HCC graduate Tanya Ryan definitely seems to stress fun in the classes she teaches at South Hadley Town Hall and at her own studio, Tanya Gets You Fit, in Granby.

The 27-year-old Chicopee resident started instructing fitness classes in area gyms after high school. She got certified as a personal trainer upon graduation from HCC in 2008 and opened her own studio two years later.

"The health and fitness program taught me all I needed to obtain jobs in the fitness field, and these helped me gain the confidence to open my own studio."

"The health and fitness program taught me all I needed to obtain jobs in the fitness field, and these helped me gain the confidence to open my own studio," she said.

Another graduate, Mackenzie Gray, 23, earned a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Springfield College after getting his associate degree from HCC in 2009. Mackenzie, who lives in Holyoke, is working toward a master's degree in sport management from Springfield.

Having completed seven marathons, he coached track and field and cross country at HCC. He started as a music major but changed his focus to fit in more with has passion for running.

He would ultimately like to work for the Hartford Marathon Association or the Boston Athletic Association.

"HCC laid the foundation for everything that came after," he
said.

This story also appears in the Spring 2014 issue of Career Focus.

Photos: (Left) Students in HCC's Health, Fitness and Nutrition program can take classes, such as aerobics, for college credit. (Right) Patricia Mantia, chair of the Health, Fitness and Nutrition programs at HCC, instructs students on the proper use of fitness equipment at the Bartley Center. (Thumbnail) Instructor Kim Davidson shows a student the proper way to do a sit-up.

 
 

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