A group of students participate in a yoga class at Taylor Gym on Jan. 31, 2023. Becca Cohen, '25, is the student instructor of the fitness class. (Zhang/B&W Staff)

Students teaching students: fitness classes at Taylor Gym


Taylor Gym offers a variety of fitness classes to the Lehigh community, including body pump, zumba, spin and yoga. Sometimes, the instructors teaching students are fellow students themselves.

This semester, Lehigh has nine student fitness instructors — the most student instructors to date — leading classes for their classmates, staff and faculty.

Instructors are paid an hourly rate for every class they teach, regardless of attendance. They also have the option to teach private classes to sports teams, campus clubs or Greek houses.

Genna Albano, assistant manager of Taylor Gym, coordinates and recruits instructors for the group fitness classes. She said she seeks out instructors from both the Lehigh Valley and the student community.

“We have a lot of students that take our classes, and sometimes we get students that are really interested and ask me how they can get certified,” Albano said.

She has hired student instructors at Taylor Gym since she started working there in 2014, typically employing two or three students each year.

Taylor Gym pushed to recruit more student instructors in spring 2022. Albano said they’ve noticed an industry-wide trend in instructors not returning to in-person teaching since COVID-19 surfaced, opting for online businesses instead. They also recognize that Taylor Gym is most accessible to students compared to community members.

“I’ve lost some people because it’s so hard to travel to campus,” Albano said. “Students are already here, so it’s convenient, and parking is not an issue.”

Sanj Sridhar, ‘23, instructs spin classes at Taylor Gym. She said she has always had a passion for spin and uses it to calm herself and keep active.

Starting her freshman year, Sridhar took spin classes regularly at Taylor Gym, many of which were taught by Eloise Trout, ‘22.

“I would go religiously, and I absolutely loved (Trout’s) classes,” Sridhar said. “Then she graduated last year, and I was like ‘Okay, well, if (Trout) isn’t here to teach me spin, I guess I am going to get certified and teach it on my own.’”

Sridhar inquired about instructing spin at Taylor Gym during summer 2022. Shortly after, she got certified.

Knowing how to teach spin requires more than just certification. Sridhar said she went to spin classes in her town to gain inspiration for her classes and practiced instructing on her own bike in a studio.

Sridhar said she couldn’t imagine what her college experience would have been like if she didn’t teach spin. 

“Teaching spin classes is honestly my favorite thing that I’ve done in college,” Sridhar said. “(It’s) genuinely the highlight of my college career.”

She hopes students will indulge in the 45 minute classes she considers rich for the mind, body and soul.

Becca Cohen, ‘25, is also a student instructor, who started teaching yoga in spring 2022 and now teaches two classes a week.

Becca Cohen, ’25, teaches power yoga to Lehigh students on Jan. 31, 2023. (Zhang/B&W Staff)

Her yoga journey began during her gap year before she came to Lehigh. After getting a membership at a yoga studio, she said she was inspired to get into the practice herself. 

“It just kind of stuck,” Cohen said. “I really liked it. I always thought at that point, I wanted to be certified to teach and continue doing it at Lehigh.”

During winter break of her freshman year, Cohen said she went through an online yoga instructor certification process that included an exam about body movement, body parts, stretching methods and techniques, safety guidelines and rules of teaching yoga.

Cohen said teaching yoga helps her alleviate stress and anxiety.

“I like to think of it as any stress that you bring into your yoga session stays there, and you leave feeling refreshed and feeling proud of yourself for doing what you did,” Cohen said.

Cohen said yoga is a challenge, so she aims to make her classes a welcoming, inclusive environment that focuses on positive energy. She encourages participants to learn from their mistakes: a lesson she hopes they take into their daily lives.

Casey Dolan, ‘25, is one of the students who attends Cohen’s yoga class. She said having a fellow student leading the group is her favorite aspect of the class.

“It feels so much less intimidating, and it’s so cool that she’s in my grade,” Dolan said. “ I’ve been to this class multiple times, and I will definitely be back.”

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