Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 24, 2022

Hopkins’ Sound Body Challenge running full speed ahead

By ERIC GOODMAN | March 10, 2011

For junior Alex Villa, staying fit has been a top priority during his time at Hopkins. Starting this semester, the former varsity athlete hopes to make it a priority for the rest of the student body as well.

“I have always enjoyed physical activities and staying in shape so I had a predisposition to starting something like this,” he said.

Villa is the founder of the Sound Body Challenge (SBC), a campus-wide competition with the aim of helping students improve their health and wellness through a competitive, fitness-oriented program designed to improve diet and physical activity.

In just its first semester, the SBC already has close to 100 participants, a testament to both the organization of the program and the desire of many individuals on campus to get into shape.

“The SBC has given me many good incentives to go workout,” junior Matt Fernandez said. “I may not be a Calvin Klein model anytime soon, but this is the first time since I’ve arrived at college that I’ve made a conscious effort to stay fit.”

The SBC’s participants registered for the challenge as members of teams, with progress evaluated during semi-weekly fitness assessments that will measure improvements in body fat percentage, body mass index and hip to waist ratio, among other things.

Points are awarded to teams based on active participation at recreation center fitness classes, diligence in keeping up with each participant’s personal wellness plan, supporting the Athletes Serving Athletes nonprofit, and partaking in other small, health related activities. Prizes, including an iPad and other apple products, are awarded to the most successful individuals and teams.

There are three tracks for individual wellness — burning fat, building muscle, and improving athletic performance — each with its own set of parameters.

For example, improving athletic performance is being run by the ROTC, which assesses everyone based on the Army Physical Fitness Test. For the burning fat track, participants aspire to lose 15-20 pounds, up to 4 percent of body fat and improve fitness.

Villa’s inspiration for the SBC came from a “biggest loser” competition that his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, holds each semester in order to encourage brothers to stay in shape. He had the vision to try to expand this into a school-wide competition.

Villa did so with support from a combination of fraternity brothers, fellow students, the recreation center’s fitness staff (including Anne Tillinghast, the assistant athletic director responsible for fitness), the Center for Health and Wellness Education, and sponsorship from the Hopkins Technology Store and Sandella’s. In addition, he received grants from the Alumni Association and the Office of Student Life.

“I spent months and months planning this and up until midway through February it was nothing but a stack of papers and thoughts,” Villa said.

“The most rewarding part of this whole thing is that people are really participating. The fact that many people are motivated to try is just outstanding. When I look at the check in sheets for classes at the recreation center there are often 10-plus SBC participants at each class.”

One of the people who has been most impressed with the SBC is senior Max Wieder, one of Villa’s fraternity brothers and the main organizer of the aforementioned biggest loser competition. Wieder, a varsity fencer, feels that fitness challenges are much more effective than just regular dieting.

“When you are dieting it can be hard to stick with it because you may get stressed or lazy, but when you have something on the line, such as prizes, you’ll work harder for it,” he said. “The fact that there are incentives to go to fitness classes is great, and any time I’m at a class it is always completely full.”

Villa hopes one day to possibly expand the Sound Body Challenge to nearby universities, but for now he is extremely pleased with how things have progressed and hopes to inspire more students to achieve their fitness goals.

“We want to change the way some people look at fitness,” he said. “New Year’s resolutions are always great initial motivation, but we’re striving for developing lifelong healthy habits.”

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