Whenever you see Nancy Kuhn, she’s always smiling. Whether she’s instructing a BodyWise class at the gym, helping students with Disabilities at the CSD or receiving an $8,000 IDEA Grant (with two of her friends) to fund a project to create assistive technology, Kuhn is always cheerful and energetic, ready to capitalize on whatever opportunity presents itself to her.
Though the sixth-semester pre-physical therapy major is busy all over campus, you might have seen her teach X-Fit, pilates or Pack (a small group training class) at the gym. Kuhn has been a BodyWise instructor there for a little over a year now and loves her job.
“It’s like, yeah, it’s a job, but it’s also like an escape from all the stress,” Kuhn said about her enthusiasm for teaching BodyWise. “All the instructors that do it love doing it, so it’s like you’re getting away from all that school and stress by doing your job.”
According to Kuhn, the participants in her classes and her friend group with other instructors are the best parts of being a BodyWise instructor. While her fellow instructors have become Kuhn’s friends outside of the gym, her participants are the ones who keep her energized during a fitness class. Their enthusiasm in her sessions and their feedback on the exercises afterwards always motivate Kuhn to create and instruct the best workout that she can for them.
“They’re all amazing, and I love when I see them sweating and working really hard and then one week, they’ll be using the six-pound dumbbells and then the next they’re using the eight-pounds, and it’s so—it’s so great seeing the progression—it’s the best,” Kuhn said. “They’re just the greatest. I love my participants.”
Even on days when Kuhn thinks she’s too drained to teach, she ends up getting into the workout and instructing a great class. Kuhn credits the motivation that her participants bring to the fitness studio as a sort of energy boost.
“It’s like every time I feel like that… I go in, and I just get so pumped because everybody is happy to be there and wants to be there,” Kuhn said. “It gets you in the mood. The second you’re in there, you’re like, ‘Alright!’ Like, ‘Here we go!’”
Kuhn’s positive attitude allows her to make the most of any opportunity that comes her way, and she certainly has a lot of goals that she’d like to accomplish while at UConn and beyond. In addition to working as a BodyWise instructor, Kuhn works at the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) as a tech team member, helping students registered with the CSD to find technological accommodations that work for them. Moreover, Kuhn and two partners received an IDEA Grant in the spring of 2018 and are working to create an AT (Assistive Technology) Hackathon, during which makers will build an AT solution to help a person with a disability.
Ultimately, all of Kuhn’s activities are related to her aspiration of becoming a physical therapist. Though she entered UConn as a mechanical engineering major because she liked to learn about how machines functioned, Kuhn changed her major to pre-physical therapy when she realized that she liked learning more about how the human body functions. Additionally, the one-time cross country, indoor track and lacrosse athlete has worked with physical therapists throughout her life when she has had sports injuries, and her younger brother, who has Down Syndrome, has also seen several physical therapists. Kuhn has observed firsthand the major improvements in health that physical therapy can bring and emphasizes her desire to work with all kinds of people as a physical therapist.
“I really want to work with people with disabilities, so me working at CSD and helping people with disabilities every day as a tech team member ties into that,” Kuhn said. “And then with this event that I’m doing [the AT Hackathon], we’re creating assistive technology for them, and then as a BodyWise instructor, I get to do more of the physical activity and more of the rehabilitation side that I’d be doing when I’m a physical therapist… so it all kind of ties together.”
Back in the fitness studio, though, Kuhn has already experienced many rewarding moments. The BodyWise instructor again highlighted her participants’ motivation as something she looks forward to. Kuhn particularly appreciates participant feedback and became excited when speaking about her participants’ comments after a workout that they really liked.
“The best is probably when I get participants that come up to me afterwards and they’re just like, ‘That was such a good workout,’ and they loved it, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m coming back next week, I’m gonna come to more classes,’ and that is the best thing to hear because you just made their day and they just got their sweat on and you helped. It’s so great, I love that, it’s my favorite part,” Kuhn said with a smile. “Yeah, that for sure.”
Stephanie Santillo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.