NAIT student helps beat fear of group exercise classes

Sweat Crawl takes a unique approach to getting people into fitness

Zaq Thompson remembers the first group fitness class he attended. He was terrified.

“I was by myself and didn’t know anybody,” says the NAIT Personal Fitness Trainer student. “It was a giant group setting.” It wasn’t the best experience and it took him awhile to talk himself into going again.

That fear is common, Thompson says – and it can keep people from enjoying the physical and mental health benefits of fitness classes. He kept that in mind as he created Sweat Crawl, which celebrates its first anniversary this month. The idea, says Thompson, was to make group fitness less intimidating.

“The main reason I started Sweat Crawl was to help those who haven’t really got into fitness yet, but want to get into it,” he says.

sweat crawl, edmonton, zaq thompsonAddressing the fear factor

Sweat Crawl takes an unusual approach to this initiation. It’s a kind of trial by fire that not only pushes participants hard, but effectively pushes them together.

The monthly event is similar to a pub crawl only in that you’re hopping from one location to another, with gyms and fitness studios replacing drinking holes. Participants – whom Thompson calls Crawlers – complete three 60-minute exercise classes separated by just enough time for everyone to drive to the next one.

As people endure the grind together, bonds inevitably form. Thompson says it’s amazing to watch people support each other during the exercise marathon.

“When you’re doing 3 workouts with the same people, you lean on each other and help each other out,” he says. “We’re a team. It helps people get over the fear of working out [in front of other people].”

The workouts and locations are different each month. Participants get exposed to a variety of exercises and studios, including everything from CrossFit, to barre and yoga, to boot camps, to spin and pole dancing classes. They can be tailored to all abilities and modified for injuries.

Many return each month to cheer on those doing their first Sweat Crawl. Thompson’s right there with them, leaving class instructors in charge while he works out too. He hopes that by participating with everyone he’ll be able to encourage others to try classes on their own once the Crawl is over.

“I hold your hand across the street,” he says. “When we get to the other side of the street, I let go and you go have your fun.”

sweat crawl, edmonton, zaq thompsonBuilding up a sweat

Thompson runs the business on his own, after having come up with the idea with his mom. They challenged themselves to complete 3 back-to-back classes one day, just for fun (you read that correctly). After they finished, they wondered if others would be interested in doing it too.

Thompson invited a group to try the first Sweat Crawl for free, and the responses were overwhelmingly positive. These days, he has about 20 people buy tickets and participate in events he coordinates with local fitness businesses.

Thompson would like to introduce more people to group fitness classes, possibly in markets such as Vancouver and Toronto. He feels the knowledge he’ll gain in NAIT’s Personal Fitness Trainer program will help him grow. Thompson had another personal training certification when he started Sweat Crawl, but is eager to increase his knowledge in a hands-on environment.

“I want to go into the field and [be able to] answer any questions,” he says. NAIT’s anatomy and physiology classes will help him while working with Sweat Crawl participants, but Thompson says he thinks the program's leadership classes will be the most beneficial for him.

“It will allow me to have better tools to communicate than I do now. That’s really going to help me.”

In the meantime, he looks forward tocontinuing to bring people together though exercise, and seeing where that will take them as healthier people and him as an entrepreneur. “I’m excited for the years to come.”

How to have a good Sweat Crawl

Get a good sleep – “Go to bed as early as you can,” says Thompson. He recommends starting to wind down by 9 p.m. the night before the event.

Eat breakfast – It’s an exhausting day. You’ll need some fuel, he says. “I’d recommend something a little lighter, like a piece of toast and an apple.”

Bring a snack – Sugar can help, says Thompson. “You’ll be depleted. Bring orange juice, to replenish your sugars really quickly after [a tough class].”

Consider a change of clothes – Thompson sticks with the same outfit for all 3 classes, but that’s up to you. “If you don’t like to stay in sweaty clothes, I’d bring 3 of everything,” he says. “You can change from facility to facility.”


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