Mary Kate Halligan
Praying and working out may not be typically associated with one another, but juniors Victoria Gazzillo and Mary Kate Halligan think differently. In fall of 2015, the duo began Fit and Faithful, which at the time was a small prayer workout class offered twice a week on a racquetball court. Jumping on board with a recent trend in fitness, bodyweight circuit training, the class has since drawn in participants of all fitness levels.
“The idea is to allow each person to individualize the set to their ability. In all probability, no two participants do the same number of pushups, crunches, or infamous burpees in the timed intervals. However, each pushes themselves and each other to test their limits and pray as they power through,” is how Halligan described the concept of the class.
Because every participant states a prayer intention at the beginning and end, the workout has a component that allows and encourages seeking motivation outside oneself, the element of the class that sets it apart from a typical workout.
Gazzillo and Halligan met during their first year at The University when they were placed in the same small group for a weekly Campus Ministries program called Christian Life Communities. The two considered themselves acquaintances, but when Gazzillo wanted to start a prayer workout class here at The University, she knew exactly who she wanted to co-lead with her.
“All I knew was that she was really nice, very fit and she had a strong faith foundation; I found her take on faith to be amazing, interesting and intriguing. I knew she’d be perfect for it. We are a very good balance for one another,” Gazzillo described her thoughts when asking Halligan to be her co-leader.
At the beginning, the participants who attended were typically friends of Gazzillo and Halligan, and some days they had no one attend the class. On those days, Gazzillo and Halligan would stay and use that time to do a prayer workout together and create different regimens to use for future classes. Since then, the program has expanded to having a rotation of five different workouts and attendance being as high as 18 participants and as low as three participants; both of which Gazzillo and Halligan believe create valuable group dynamics.
“You can feel the energy change throughout the workout; you see it intensify in a positive encouraging way, where with each circuit, everyone is pushing themselves that little extra than what they did before. We always strive the idea of progress, not perfection, and it’s very cool to see people come together and work out for someone or something greater than ourselves,” Gazzillo characterizes the atmosphere of the class.
Gazzillo said her siblings back home would do prayer workouts together often. This inspired Gazzillo to want to begin a class here and she has expressed that seeing a class like this come alive and grow on our college campus is incredible.
Junior Adrian Laudani, a friend of Halligan and Gazzillo, has attended prayer workouts since the two started the class and continues to attend on a weekly basis.
“Prayer workouts is something I’ve enjoyed being a part of since the beginning. For me, I started going simply to support my friends. Now, it’s so awesome to see how many people come that aren’t part of our friend circle. The dynamic of incorporating prayer while working out is so cool. You go into your workout with a different attitude because in the back of your mind you know you aren’t doing it for yourself, rather someone else.”
Beginning this fall, Fit and Faithful has become one of the weekly wellness classes offered to students, faculty and staff under The Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW). Also for every prayer workout class run this semester, CHEW is donating $5 to the class, that Gazzillo and Halligan intend to donate to the St. Francis Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry in hopes of purchasing fresh produce, fruits and vegetables to go along with promoting nutritional wellness.
Fit and Faithful holds classes Mondays 7-8 p.m. and Fridays 6-7 p.m. in the Aerobics Room in the Byron Recreation Center.