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NMSU Kinesiology Club urges physical activity through mud, sweat, tears

Navigating through college can feel like an obstacle course that you didn't even realize you signed up for.


People army crawling on dirt
NMSU's Kinesiology Program Director Joseph Berning, and NMSU Army ROTC students make their way through the military crawl, a part of the Kinesiology Club's Aggie Dash obstacle course race on Saturday, Nov. 2. (NMSU photo by Dana Beasley)
Oddly dressed students run out of a mud pit
NMSU students venture through a mud pit at the beginning of the Kinesiology Club's Aggie Dash obstacle course race on Saturday, Nov. 2. (NMSU photo by Dana Beasley)

It can be a fatiguing balancing act. Sometimes you feel like you're being dragged through the mud or carrying the weight of a telephone pole on your back ? all with the hope of successfully conquering the course and reaching the finish line off in the distance.

Then there are those circumstances in college when you literally have to power through a 4,000-gallon mud pit and carry a 100-pound telephone pole on your shoulders.

But this time, you signed up for it.

These are only a couple of the many strenuous undertakings the 64 participants ? 16 teams of four ? encountered during this semester's Aggie Dash, which took place along a stretch of the New Mexico State University campus, in early November.

This event was a nearly 3-mile obstacle course race, organized and overseen by the Kinesiology Club, an NMSU organization dedicated to improving quality of life through physical fitness within the community.

According to Allie Glasco, president of the Kinesiology Club, the main goal behind the Aggie Dash is to provide an enjoyable activity, while encouraging fitness throughout the NMSU body and local community.

"I think the promotion of health and wellness and fitness is critical in our environment," said Joseph Berning, associate professor of kinesiology, director of NMSU's kinesiology program and Aggie Dash participant. "I think anything that can encourage people to do some kind of activity and have fun with it, is probably the most important aspect here. So if you can do something that, yes, involves some physical activity, but make it fun and different, I think that's really the big part."

Another purpose was to give back to the community; a portion of the event profit helps to sponsor a scholarship for after-school programs through the city of Las Cruces Parks and Recreation Department.

"That's something that to us, as a club, is important, because we realize that being active in your younger life makes you more likely to be active when you're older," said Tony McClary, activities coordinator for the Kinesiology Club.

Some of the proceeds will also be used to alleviate expenses for Kinesiology Club members to attend the American College of Sports Medicine conference in Orlando, Fla., in May 2014.

The inaugural Aggie Dash was hosted this past spring, with its success spawning the continuation of the event into the fall semester. However, the idea for this obstacle course began a couple of years ago, with the upsurge in popularity of national obstacle courses, such as the Tough Mudder and Spartan Race.

"I came across a nice article in Outside Magazine that showed what these races are doing," said Berning. "I presented it to the president of the club; they took that and they ran with it. I think that as the kids keep working on it, they'll be able to really allow this to escalate."

There was a 20-member construction crew for this course, which stretched from the Stan Fulton Center in Aggie Memorial Stadium, down Arrowhead Road, and in and around an arroyo near the Arrowhead Park Early College High School. It took a total of 6 construction days, numerous trips to gather supplies, and around 18 hours of total construction work to complete ? not including the months of prior planning.

Due to a lack of funding, the club relied heavily on local sponsors for monetary donations and supplies to complete the course. Contributions included scrap tires, old telephone poles, and local fire department volunteers to fill the mud pits.

The club also got a little creative, taking advantage of the general desert terrain around campus, and calling upon McClary, who used his 8-year background in the U.S. Marines as inspiration when selecting some of the obstacles.

The event began with a half-mile run, starting near the Pan American Center, to better distribute participants throughout the course. Once entering the actual arena, there were two mud pits, each around 10-feet-wide, 100-feet long, and a few feet deep, filled with at least 4,000 gallons of water.

Following the navigation of the mud pits came the military crawl, nicknamed by the Kinesiology Club as "The Sugar Cookie," because of the layer of dirt that coated participants.

This obstacle was followed by a "buddy carry." During this maneuver, Berning, who was on a team with a few NMSU Army ROTC students, had to carry, for several yards, a girl with 40 extra pounds of weight plates in her pack. She was using the Aggie Dash as a training scenario for future military tasks.

"It served many purposes," Berning said of the course.

Continuing through, participants encountered a pyramid of tires, which they had to climb. They then promptly faced the bucket carry ? an obstacle voted fan "least favorite" last year because of the weight of the 5-gallon bucket, halfway filled with sand, and the frustrating length of its transport.

Other obstacles included a log balance beam, a climbing wall, box jumps and a hill climb. All of these obstacles were new to this year's arena, with the log balance beam proving especially challenging because of the participants' slippery, mud-coated shoes.

Following these events were the brainteasers, which required participants to answer three riddles and one question about NMSU. For each question wrong, they were assigned 20 pushups.

"I got to make my professors do some pushups that day," McClary laughed. "And none of the people from Albuquerque could answer the NMSU question, so they said 'but we're Lobos,' and I said 'well then you automatically should have to do pushups, right?'"

After breaking a mental sweat ? and doing up to 80 pushups ? participants were back to the physical labors, which continued with a log carry, trail-run, concrete block carry for 100 yards, and a tire-drag through loose sand.

The festivities ultimately concluded with a final run to the finish line, located near the entry of the arena, where members of the Kinesiology Club were readily cheering and encouraging participants as they infringed on their last steps of the race.

"We had a lot of students who were struggling because they were tired and fatigued, but ... we keep them going," Berning said. "For a lot of people, that's a big sense of pride. Just to say 'I started something, it was tough, but I finished. I never quit, and there was always someone there to help keep pushing me through it.'"

The winners of this semester's Aggie Dash were members from an NMSU Army ROTC team. Other participants included individuals from the NMSU Police Department, the Las Cruces Fire Department, students from the Pre-Health Club, present and former kinesiology students and faculty, and Cross Fit teams from Las Cruces and Albuquerque.

Hopes for the future are that the Aggie Dash develops more of an appeal to an audience broader than that of the exercise aficionado.

"We're trying to market it to anybody," Glasco said.

"If you really would ever just go out and do one, you realize that it's mostly just for fun," McClary added. "If you want to be competitive with it, be competitive. If you don't ... do your best in the obstacles, get people to help out."

Glasco and McClary both anticipate graduating from the kinesiology program, with focuses in exercise science and performance psychology, respectively, next fall. But until that time, they will function with great prospects of continuing the Aggie Dash legacy.

Next fall, the public can expect the Aggie Dash to be bigger, better, muddier, rougher and more exciting than ever before.

"Listening to them talk about what they want to do next year ? wow," said Berning. "I think people are really going to have a challenge, and fun."

Glasco continued: "We have high hopes for the future."

For information on sponsoring or participating in next year's Aggie Dash, email the Kinesiology Club at kinclub007@gmail.com or visit them on Facebook at "NMSU Kinesiology Club."