With rap music playing through her earbuds, McKenna Duffy was getting in reps Monday on the seated leg curl machine at the fitness center of the Hays Recreation Commission, 1105 Canterbury.
Home for the holidays, Duffy had dropped in for a workout, bracing against 23-degree temperatures and a 30-mile-per-hour wind out of the north that made it feel like a brutal 6 degrees.
“I’m doing quads and calves,” Duffy said. “I’m just trying to get warm, trying to get stronger.”
A student at Fort Hays State University, Duffy is a senior in the radiologic technology program, doing a required year of clinicals at Olathe Medical Center to graduate in May.
“It’s hard, but it’s worth it,” she said of the program.
At the pull-up bar, Jacob Kinderknecht and Kyle Hadley were doing sets of 10 pull-ups, making it look easier than it is.
“We’re both off work today, so we’re getting a workout in,” said Hadley. “We usually pick a muscle group to work on. Today it’s the back.”
Former classmates, the two were introduced to weightlifting back in the day at Ellis High School while playing football.
Both graduates of FHSU, Kinderknecht works for the City of Hays Parks Department, while Hadley is an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Hays Middle School, working summers for the Parks Department.
In July they decided to start lifting again.
“You want to give yourself a rest between sets,” Hadley said. “So working with a partner, it’s a good rhythm.”
Kinderknecht tries to get to the gym four to five days a week.
“It just makes me feel better overall,” he said. “It makes me feel healthier physically and mentally.”
At first, the hardest part was getting up early in the morning before work.
“The first week you have to force yourself,” he said. “Then it kind of becomes a habit. It gets easier every day.”
The Rec Center’s Kristen Wildeman, group fitness director, said the morning had been busier than might be expected, with people coming in to work out and take tours, including folks from out-of-town dropping in.
“I’ve seen a lot of new faces today,” said Wildeman, who’s been at the center since 2013.
Anyone who wants a taste of what the Rec Center has to offer in the way of workouts, classes and equipment, can attend the annual New Year’s Palooza on Saturday, starting at 8 a.m. Guests can observe or participate in six different samplings of the classes offered at the center, as well as get a tour of the facility and see the equipment. Classes range from spin and core to low impact, yoga, and strength circuits.
The Palooza also kicks off the Rec Center’s start-of-the-year Bootcamp, a Saturday morning workout that is very intense, Wildeman said. The hardest part is sticking with it, she says, with 50 people usually starting the class, and the number dwindling to five or so by the last class in February.
“It usually picks up right after New Year’s, and we see a steady increase of people through January, and then it starts to decline,” she said.
Wildeman has designed in some new elements to Bootcamp in an effort to help people stick with the class longer.
“A lot of people lose motivation throughout the week,” she said, planning to add weekly challenges for a more holistic approach, such as making sure to get eight hours of sleep, drinking plenty of water, and trying to eat healthy.
“We want to get more involved in helping people change their lives,” Wildeman said. “Because a big part of fitness is a mental game. That helps with the motivation. We just want to encourage people to get out of the house and get active. My passion is helping people. If I can do that, it makes my heart happy.”
Out on the weight machines, Duffy says she’s been working out for about a year now. She usually wraps up with a run on the treadmill or elliptical machines.
Her motivational secret?
“Just get your favorite music,” she said, “and get moving.”