Ninety-two runners, grouped according to speed, gradually emerge from the woods on a dwindling, hilly trail marked by rocks and roots. One by one, each runner routinely drops down into a plank position on the muddy ground. It's 6:30 a.m. and as the sun peers above the tall treetops, the only sounds that can be heard are the flowing of the James River, birds chirping, heavy panting and a trainer's booming commands: "Down in a plank! Let's go! This isn't a walking class! Tell them to hurry up back there!"

Among the sea of sweat-saturated black and orange shirts in plank position is Samantha Frazza, an orange team member and a junior at the University of Richmond who breathlessly, yet tryingly, yells out to the stragglers, "You got it! You're almost there!" Each person holds the plank position until the last runner arrives, when, all together, the group rises and propels into jumping jacks.

This is X-Team Fitness, an outdoor boot camp-styled fitness program that meets Monday through Friday, at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., at different locations in the Richmond area. Frazza said it was the most fun and intense, but still safe, physical activity she had ever tried, and the unique team aspect pushes her harder than she would push herself at the gym.

Such off-campus exercise options are plentiful and not too many Richmond students are even aware. While the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness boasts state-of-the-art facilities, 27 different fitness classes, personal training and nationally recognized certification workshops, the Richmond community offers even more.

Brooke Knetzger, a recent graduate, tried the core barre class on campus, but now practices a few times a week off campus at Barre Richmond, a barre method studio conveniently located at the intersection of Libbie Avenue and Patterson Avenue, a five-minute drive from campus.

"The classroom where UR's barre class is held is so spread out that the instructor cannot see everyone in the room," Knetzger says. "Barre Richmond is a much more intimate environment." She says the intimacy factor, between student and teacher, is directly related to the quality of the workout.

Senior David Weissman works out at Crossfit RVA three times a week. He said for exercise during the rest of the week he did Crossfit workouts at the Weinstein Center. "The biggest thing for me is competition," Weissman said. "Crossfit not only has specific equipment, but it also has an incredibly competitive atmosphere, which I need for pushing myself...a gym cannot compare."

Molly Parsons, a senior and student-athlete on the track and field team, has tried many fitness trends but is currently practicing hot yoga about twice a week at Hot House Yoga. "Hot yoga perfectly complements my running routine," she said.

Seth Hickerson, fitness manager at the Weinstein Center, said he stayed on top of fitness trends by attending conferences and workshops, tuning into buzz in the media, continuing his education credits and being open to accommodating new things requested by students. He does all this in an effort to provide the Richmond community with the best variety of fitness classes. "No matter who you are or what you like, I promise we have it in a class here," Hickerson said.

Still, there are some things with which our gym cannot compete. In my opinion, the city of Richmond has a lot to offer. It has charming neighborhoods, friendly people, remarkable restaurants, beautiful architecture and compelling natural landscapes. By getting off campus to exercise, one may explore this community and take advantage of the city. I have done hot yoga and a boot camp off campus, and I have met so many nice people as well as discovered hidden gems. If it had not been for the boot camp, I would not have known about some of the spectacular parks and breathtaking views of the James River that make Richmond unique.

There are pros and cons to engaging in fitness on and off campus. Exercising on campus is convenient and the facility is of high quality. There are many different types of fitness classes at varying times so students can accommodate fitness into a busy schedule. Also, there is no cost to students. Any fitness option off campus will cost some fee and will be more of a commute than walking several minutes across campus. Off-campus options, however, may offer a more competitive and exciting environment.

There is something special about getting way from campus and into the city. I am very pleased with on-campus fitness options, but I love the feeling of breaking out of the "Richmond Bubble" and indulging in something new and invigorating.

Contact contributor Molly Frane at