An uplifting community

by Tate Slater and Olivia Whitaker, Sports Reporters
photo by Levin Brenner

For junior Luca Del Porto, who joined junior Suvi Talvitie to lead Beginner’s Lift club in September,  lifting became an escape when the uncertainty of the pandemic threw off many of his routines.

 “A typical day for me would look like: waking up, going on Zoom and throughout the day just eating … I was really only moving around the house,” he said. 

Lifting turned out to do more than just structure Del Porto’s day: it improved his mental health, he said. 

“When you do a big lift and you reach your goal of any kind, your serotonin levels rise. Studies have shown that you really see an increase in emotional wellness and health when you go to the gym,” he said.

According to a 2018 article published by Nature Communications, increasing levels of serotonin, a hormone that naturally regulates stress and is linked to feelings of happiness, can increase the brain’s ability to grasp and learn new information — benefits that especially extend to students. 

Through the years, the Fitness Center has garnered controversy and complaints, but new programs like Beginners Lift offer students confidence in South’s gym. The culture is changing. 

Del Porto said the goal of Beginner’s Lift is to make the gym more welcoming. Open to all students, Beginners Lift meets every Wednesday during WIN block.

“The goal was to make the gym more approachable, for everyone,” he said. “We love going to the gym, and we want to give that opportunity to other people.”

 Wellness teacher Alan Rotatori advises and supervises Beginners Lift. He said that having a gym at the school helps students learn to lift safely so that they can lift confidently in other places as well. 

“It’s all about teaching kids the right form and techniques so that they can go off by themselves and feel comfortable about what they’re doing,” he said.

Outside of WIN blocks, South’s fitness center is open to students after school until 6 p.m. 

For many students, especially those with after school activities, the weight room makes working out a feasible possibility. 

Senior and nordic ski team captain Mariel Shapiro brings the nordic team to the weight room to workout during dryland practices. Shapiro said that her schedule is often packed with school and extracurriculars, so having a gym inside othe school gives her and the rest of the team a convenient option for workouts.

Shapiro said that lifting with the nordic team fosters unity and makes working out fun.

“If I did [go alone] then, especially at the very beginning, it could feel intimidating, but if you are with friends or in a team, it is not really intimidating. It is just a lot of fun,” she said. 

Freshman Nora Prasad says that she started using the gym once her friends began going, and she wanted to learn more about working out.

“I had friends that were doing it and I thought it’d be an interesting way to use the gym because I’ve only used dumbbells before,”she said.

Freshman Thayer Bialek said that he finds the weight room a valuable place to learn important lifting tips. 

“[Weightlifting] just a useful skill and you can take advantage of it here … I think it’s helpful to learn how to use the equipment safely and what’s the best form,” he said.

Rotatori said that although joining a program at the gym can be daunting at first, he believes that students get more comfortable with the environment over time. Going to the weight room can help to increase their confidence.

“It can definitely be intimidating when new people walk into the weight room and hear the sounds of weights falling, but I think that over time people get used to it and start liking the sound,” he said. 

As Beginners Lift welcomes students into the gym while showing them the importance of lifting, Del Porto said the club can be beneficial to anyone interested in the practice. 

Rotatori said he believes that the gym is constantly improving, and the South community is  fortunate to have such a large and clean fitness center. 

“I really think that we are going in the right direction as a community and as a program in the weight room,” he said.“We are extremely lucky to have the opportunity to use a state of the art facility inside our school.”