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January 07, 2019

Resolve To Make Fitness a Priority, Gauntner Says

“We have something for everyone and we’re here to help,” says the associate director of athletics

By Bruce Gerson

If getting fit is among your New Year’s resolutions, Sara Gauntner can put you on the right track.

As associate director of athletics for recreational programs, Gauntner oversees Carnegie Mellon’s aquatics, group exercise, club sports, intramural and physical education programs. The avid swimmer also helps to manage the pool and fitness centers in the Cohon University Center and Tepper Quad.

“We have something for everyone and we’re here to help,” Gauntner said. “We have programs, instructors and beautiful facilities that the campus community can take advantage of for free. We’re on a mission to grow campus recreation and to let our community know who we are and what we offer.”

The fitness offerings have grown over the last several years, as CMU has expanded its facilities, and since October the university has been offering free group exercise classes to faculty and staff. Fitness classes have been free for students since 2016. An 8,000 square-foot fitness center and adjacent exercise studio opened in the Tepper Quad last fall to complement the Cohon Center athletic facilities.

“We have programs, instructors and beautiful facilities that the campus community can take advantage of for free."

Gauntner said there has been a 14 percent increase in faculty and staff participation since the free group exercise sessions began. New sessions have been added to accommodate the increase and there are now more than 70 fitness classes each week. The pool is open for about 30 hours per week for recreational swimming, club sports, and swimming and diving team practices.

“Last year we had over 26,000 total participants in our group exercise program and we get about 700 swimmers each week,” Gauntner said. “Some of our most popular classes are Zumba, Spinning, Yoga, Pilates and Boot Camp.”

Gauntner joined CMU 14 years ago as an assistant swimming coach and aquatics director. She came to CMU from Swim Atlanta, a prestigious club with 10,000 swimmers of all age groups and former Olympians as coaches. In 2010, after earning her master’s degree in sports leadership from Duquesne University, she was promoted to assistant director of athletics.

“I love my job and I love my department,” she said. “I love the rec staff. We have veterans, people who have been here for several years and newcomers. It’s a great mix.

“And you won’t find anyone more dedicated and committed to students than [Director of Athletics] Josh Centor. He’s so passionate about what we’re doing that it motivates the rest of us. He creates the environment and sets the tone,” said Gauntner, who often meets with Centor during 30-minute walks.

Now, back to that New Year’s resolution.

To help you get started, CMU’s annual Fitness Challenge gets underway this month with tours of the Cohon and Tepper Quad fitness centers, and free personalized guidance from Gauntner’s recreation staff on what exercise program and equipment may be right for you.

The six-week Fitness Challenge asks individuals to exercise for at least 20 minutes a day, four days a week.

“The hardest part is getting started,” Gauntner said. “It makes it easier if you find a buddy to work out with. Exercise three or four days a week at the same time so it becomes a routine, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. We have great walking routes online. Set goals and be patient, you won’t see results overnight.”

Gauntner expects to see an uptick in attendance at the fitness centers and pool this month as students, faculty and staff get back into the swing of things after the winter break. She hopes it stays that way.

“We want you to keep coming through the doors. We don’t want to lose you by February,” she said.

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