Upbeat pop music, color-coded dumbbells, and a cheerful face greet students walking into a fitness class led by Lecturer in Sports Studies Alesia Aumock.
“When I think of Alesia Aumock, I think of her contagious, cheerful disposition,” said Associate Dean of Women Rebekah Dell ’06, who participated in Aumock’s classes as a member of the staff. “She’s a cheerleader at heart when you’re working out with her. She never takes the smile off her face and encourages you at every level.”
Although Aumock said she enjoys working with people of all fitness levels in her exercise classes, she especially loves the challenge of teaching beginners and making workouts fun — an opportunity she’s had many times in her 33 years of working as a fitness instructor.
“I think my favorite participant or student is someone who feels like they have two left feet,” Aumock said. “I embrace challenges, and they always come out with a left and right foot, you know what I mean? The other thing is getting them in the weight room, too. Some people feel intimidated, and I try to make it fun and try to get small groups to go together.”
Even Aumock first thought the weight room looked intimidating, she said, until someone showed her the ropes. A Hillsdale native, Aumock first became interested in fitness classes when she signed up to be a participant for a research study run by a physical education instructor at the college about the benefits of weight training for women.
“I came right up here because I wanted to get into the study, and when I got here she said she signed up her last person and didn’t have any more room,” Aumock said. “But next to her was standing an assistant football coach, and he said, ‘I’ll show you how to use the weights.’”
From there, Aumock started using a universal machine and became a certified fitness instructor. In 1984, she began teaching classes at Jackson Fitness and Aerobics Center in Jackson, Michigan, and EXERFIT Fitness Center in Jonesville, Michigan.
In October 1989, Aumock helped start the Hillsdale College Fitness Program and began teaching an aerobic dance class in the physical education department. She said her position grew as time went on, and she began teaching other classes such as weight training, indoor cycling, methods of teaching physical education, deep-water aerobics, and mat science.
“Since the early ’80s, we used to just do dance to music, and then we would do more mat-pilates, but now we infuse all kinds of fitness equipment like elastic cords and bands, so there’s a lot more variety,” Aumock said. “Over the years, I’ve embraced the variety of the types of workouts because it keeps things fresh, and a variety of exercise keeps you safe.”
Over the course of her time teaching at Hillsdale, Aumock said she has taught aerobic fitness classes to all of Hillsdale’s sports teams. She remembers teaching Dean of Men Aaron Petersen as an undergraduate student during the football team’s spring training.
She also taught gym classes at the Hillsdale Academy and coached the Hillsdale College cheerleading team for several years, drawing on her experience as a varsity cheerleader at Hillsdale High School in the ’70s when the Hornet football team won the Class B State Championship.
Now, she teaches Physical Wellness Dynamics and helped teach the course’s labs when the class was first offered.
“I like to sometimes teach physical wellness in the cycle room and make everyone cycle while I’m doing the PowerPoint,” Aumock said.
She also teaches a variety of fitness classes for students, faculty, staff, and community members.
“It’s like a fruit salad — there are all kinds of different people in the fitness program classes, ranging from age 13 to 84,” Aumock said.
Beyond fostering a fun and encouraging atmosphere in classes, Aumock has also gone the extra mile to help individual students improve their fitness, Dell said.
“She’s perfect because she starts you out, she makes sure you’re comfortable, and grows you into your physical fitness journey. She’s kind of like a mom — I’ve known her to work one-on-one with students who need that extra support, and she’s great at working with them.”
Aumock said she struggled with her own fitness after losing her hearing five years ago, which required here to re-learn how to speak and teach again, and also during the past two years when she served as a caregiver for her mother. She said these times were some of the biggest challenges she’s faced while trying to teach classes and maintain her own physical health.
Though Aumock leads fitness classes, she said the classes she teaches aren’t her workout. During a typical class, she keeps busy checking participants’ safety, interacting with the participants in the back of the room, and talking — the social component of wellness, she said. To maintain her own fitness, Aumock said she enjoys walks around Slayton Arboretum and Baw Beese Lake.
“I like being out in nature and doing my cardio,” Aumock said.
Aumock said she also enjoys seeing how former students have gone on to incorporate fitness into their lives. One student, Lecturer in Sports Studies Leah Novak, became a fitness instructor after taking one of Aumock’s classes.
“I distinctly remember her in aerobics class up in the old, old dance studio long before the renovations happened to the Sports Complex, getting us to laugh when the tempo and intensity of the exercises went up. It was great,” Novak said in an email. “Incidentally, I lost 30 pounds that semester.”
Long after her students’ sore muscles have recovered, the memory of a good workout remains.
“I had never taken a cycling class before hers, so I will always appreciate the love of cycling classes she instilled in me,” Dell said. “I will never forget the sore muscles after that first class and thinking, ‘Wow, this is a good workout.’ She helped me catch onto something new and great, and that will always stick with me.”