It takes a wide variety of skills to lead a fitness class, and a handful of University of Richmond seniors have done it firsthand. Group fitness instructors have to juggle teaching with motivating, DJing, public speaking and correcting form. 

While finishing their final semesters of college, Meghan Scharnagl, Rebecca Pasch and Maddie Kelley are a few of the growing number of Westhampton College students who venture off campus each week to teach group fitness classes. Scharnagl and Pasch teach at The Hot Yoga Barre, a local yoga and barre studio in Willow Lawn specializing in heated classes. Local entrepreneur and owner Angie Hardison opened The Hot Yoga Barre in 2015. 

Senior Maddie Kelley poses for a professional photo on her bike at Cyclebar Greengate. Photo courtesy of Kelley. 

Kelley teaches at Cyclebar GreenGate, a high-intensity, premium cycling studio in the Short Pump area focused on statistics and in-class competition. The GreenGate location opened in 2017, but Cyclebar has locations all around the world. 

With pop music blaring and the lights dimmed, Kelley kicked off her 9 a.m. Cyclebar GreenGate class on Feb. 16 by saying: “No one came here just to get it over with. We came here for the community, for the people and we came here to work. So, let’s have a great class.”

This same sense of community is what drove Kelley to pursue teaching at Cyclebar. Kelley, a PPEL major from Cleveland, grew up swimming year-round. When she came to college as a first-year student, Kelley missed having a schedule and a supportive group of people around her during her workouts, she said. 

Flash forward to her junior-year spring semester at UR: Kelley returned to campus after studying abroad in Barcelona during the fall semester and decided she needed to get active again. Intrigued by the welcoming feeling at Cyclebar after taking class at one of its other studios, Kelley auditioned for an instructor role at Cyclebar GreenGate. 

After completing her audition, Kelley went through a Cyclebar “boot camp” in August 2018 where she learned how to command the room, perfect her form and control the lights, television, games and music in the studio. She taught her first class a month later after her final test-out video was approved by Cyclebar corporate. 

Kelley describes the atmosphere at Cyclebar as a family built on community, friendships and love.

“I feel like the riders and the community make it so much more worth it,” she said.

During her Feb. 16 morning class, riders and coworkers at Cyclebar voiced the same appreciation for the community and for Kelley as an instructor showing up for them and inspiring them weekly. Kelley teaches hour-long classes on Monday, Thursday and Saturday each week. 

As young women, Kelley, Scharnagl and Pasch have gained confidence all while promoting health, uniting the Greater Richmond community and becoming a part of something outside the confines of campus, they said. 

Scharnagl, who has been practicing yoga since she was eight years old, said she was inspired by her grandmother who still continues to practice yoga daily. During an internship last summer with The Hot Yoga Barre, Scharnagl completed her 200-hour certification and became a yoga instructor there. 

Twice a week, Scharnagl teaches a class titled “Hot Power Yoga,” a fast-paced class with upbeat music and the temperature cranked up to 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Once she became accustomed to teaching and realized she had valid things to say, it became really fun, she said.

Senior Rebecca Pasch poses for The Hot Yoga Barre’s latest instruction manual. Photo courtesy of Pasch. 

Pasch, a double major in cognitive science and psychology with a dance minor, followed a similar path to The Hot Yoga Barre. Growing up as a classically trained ballerina and competitive cheerleader, she had always been extremely active, she said. She came across The Hot Yoga Barre as a first-year student when she was looking for places to work out off campus to vary her routine. 

Two years later, Pasch spent the summer in Richmond and became a certified instructor at The Hot Yoga Barre after three months of training. Pasch said teaching off campus is a chance for her to take a break from school and focus on something else. Both Pasch and Scharnagl said they were drawn to the heated studio as well. 

Each Wednesday, Pasch teaches a class called “HIIT The Barre,” a combination of barre and high-intensity interval training. She said she is motivated by her clients and their excitement, hard work and results-driven attitude. 

“I think some of the best moments while teaching at the studio are the clients that take class for the first time and tell me how my class has changed their mind about how they want to work out,” Pasch said. 

Sophomore Haley Davis is a loyal attendee of Pasch’s weekly classes at The Hot Yoga Barre. 

“Not only is she knowledgeable and well-trained, but she makes working out fun and you are in a better mood for the rest of the day,” Davis said.

All three women mentioned the meaningful connections they have created through their experiences as instructors, as well as the confidence and leadership skills they have gained outside UR’s classrooms in their respective fitness studios. 

Contact contributor Megan McNitt at megan.mcnitt@richmond.edu.