By Chloe Mandel ’23
* During Fall 2020, when students are learning remotely, PE courses are still taking place online!
When I first found out on a tour that two semesters of a PE class were required, my reaction wasn’t exactly positive. Years of middle-school and high-school gym classes meant that my non-athletic self associated PE with unpleasant state-mandated physical fitness tests, laps around the track, and sports such as badminton and volleyball that I didn’t exactly thrive at, to say the least.
Many colleges in the U.S. require PE classes to graduate, and some, like my dad’s alma mater, even mandate that students take a swim test! At first, I didn’t really understand why colleges cared about students having physical education. After all, don’t students come to college to earn academic degrees? What I didn’t realize was how correlated physical well-being and scholarly success really are. What I also didn’t know was the incredible variety of PE options the 5C’s offer.
When I looked through some of the listed classes on Pomona-Pitzer’s and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps’s respective websites (these names of course refer to the Claremont Colleges’ opposing athletic teams), I began to understand the underlying philosophy behind requiring PE: to give students a fun and low-key way to take a break from academic work in a format that suits their individual needs. The range of PE options caters to any 5C student, regardless of their physical fitness level; examples are “Playground Games” (yes, this is a thing and it’s exactly what it sounds like), yoga, sports like tennis, and high intensity interval training classes. PE classes allow students to release endorphins (or, in the case of non-active classes like meditation, simply relieve stress), meet new people, and practice healthy habits in a college setting, which, let’s face it, isn’t an environment most people would imagine to be the pinnacle of wellness.
The two PE classes I’ve completed so far as a first-year at the 5C’s have made me almost certain I’ll be taking PE classes every semester we’re on campus until I graduate. My first semester I took a class called “Fit Boxing” at Claremont McKenna. Though I’m a complete boxing amateur and definitely made a fool of myself countless times during the class, I learned a lot about the sport and threw some incredibly satisfying punches to counter the stress of difficult exams and other typical college-student worries. As a bonus, I got to use the beautiful and modern gym at Claremont McKenna, which Pomona students aren’t allowed into except when they have PE class there. The next semester, I took a combination zumba/pilates class on Tuesday and Friday evenings that always did wonders to help me get a good night’s sleep. I’m already looking forward to taking cardio kickboxing, spinning in the Claremont Village, or maybe even a dance class in future semesters.
For students who want a little more adventure in their PE experience, there are certainly options. I’ve heard of a scuba training class that gives students scuba certifications and involves a trip to Catalina Island, a class called “Plogging” that’s a mix of jogging and picking up litter to promote an environmentally-friendly Claremont, and a geocaching class.
Whatever your choice may be, I can’t explain how much being active has enriched my Pomona experience. It’s hard to get up the motivation to use the exercise machines at Pomona’s gym on my own, but attending a PE class at a specified time where I’m exercising with nice people in a low-key environment is a different story. Besides just being generally fun, these classes made me feel more energetic during the day, increased my ability to focus on schoolwork, and probably helped me improve my time-management skills as well. Now that I know how pleasant and useful Claremont PE classes are, I definitely won’t be taking them for granted!