UW students champion physical culture

In May 2011, UW students Timothy Ponepal and Alec Visckneski started a Facebook group called The Gravity Chamber where fitness aficionados can post exercise videos and give advice on their daily workouts.
The name “Gravity Chamber” is inspired by the bodyweight workouts the group focuses on.

“We believe to be strong, you don’t need to have a lot of equipment, you need your bodyweight,” said Ponepal.

The workouts themselves consist of gymnastic exercises with rings and basic body weight movements such as squats, lunges, burpees, pushups and variations of them.

Weight training is also involved via kettlebell workouts. But workouts are not just limited to that, “there’s another guy who’s a floor gymnast, and he knows how to do back handsprings and backflips and teaches other people how to do that,” Visckneski said.

Members of the group announce they are working out at a specific location and that anyone is free to join them. A few people will teach classes and everyone in the group will give their input or introduce new workouts.

Their common locations range from Environment 3 to Waterloo Park. “People on campus would come and see us training outside, and they ask ‘Who are you guys, what do you guys do, can I try this out?’” Visckneski said.

They really started gaining traction at Victoria Park, when groups of people started observing their workouts. Amongst those people was former UW urban planning student Tessa Jennison, who is currently running for Ward 9 city councillor in Kitchener.

“She [Jennison] is willing to back me up, to upgrade Victoria Park, and we’re going to start a petition next year to have it,” Ponepal said.

Today, the group has over 200 members on Facebook ranging from gymnasts, cheerleaders, crossfitters, and strongmen.

“We value everyone’s knowledge. Anyone who’s into healthy active living, anyone who has something to contribute would find a home in our group,” Visckneski said.

A lot of the group’s workouts are conducted in Victoria Park and one of their main goals is to upgrade the park and make some of the equipment they use more accessible to anyone.

One of the target audiences for The Gravity Chamber is teenagers in low-income neighborhoods who want to be active but do not have the means to.

The group has also gained the attention of Elaine Tully,  a playground design and sales representative at PlayPower Canada.

“She’s in charge of building outdoor facilities, playgrounds, and in charge of park areas in the city, and she’s helping us to petition the city,” Ponepal said.

The Gravity Chamber will have a booth setup this Sunday at the <em>Fit For KW Fitness</em> and <em>Health Showcase</em> from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Waterloo Town Square.

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<em>If you would like to be involved, search &ldquo;The Gravity Chamber&rdquo; on Facebook.</em>