As junior Matt Pappadia stands in the Fitness Center training room helping a student with bad knees, he has a look of intense focus. He encourages the student to bend at the waist, shouting, “Come on, you can do it!” as he instructs him to stretch his abdominal muscle before the workout begins.
Three years ago, Pappadia never thought he would be in a position to help someone with their personal fitness. He was set to pursue a career in acting when he began at Ithaca College and even hired an agent to help him land roles in films and theatrical productions. But a change in Pappadia’s lifestyle after his first semester inspired him to make a decision that surprised his peers — he switched his major from acting to occupational therapy.
He wanted to pursue a degree that would lead him to directly help others.
“I really wanted to use theater as a means of positive and physical rehabilitation for others, and I knew I could not do that alone as an acting major,” Pappadia said.
After the fall semester during his freshman year, Pappadia began to show an
interest in personal fitness. He began a new training regimen that included interval weight training and high-intensity aerobic fitness. He also sped up his metabolism by eating six smaller meals a day rather than three large ones.
Pappadia’s efforts to become more active have spread on campus with his new Dubsweat fitness class, which takes place at 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday in the Fitness Center. The 30-minute routine specializes in rigorous interval training and is one of only three aerobic fitness classes categorized as high intensity.
Pappadia said the workouts are based on high movement and flexibility exercises.
“I try to show as many exercises as I can and different techniques so people can take them from my class and incorporate them into workouts two to three times a week,” he said.
Though his older brother was a three-sport athlete in high school and competed for the men’s crew, ice hockey and lacrosse teams, Pappadia spent much more time on the stage than in the gym growing up.
He said it was difficult at times to see his older brother succeed in sports and his sister be an athletic dancer.
“My brother was popular in high school, and I didn’t have a bunch of friends at the time,” he said. “I fell into the theater group, and that gave me some civility in school.”
In some ways, Pappadia’s passion for acting spurred his new affinity for physical activity. He said his agent told him he should change his nutritional and exercise habits so he could fit into more roles.
“They wanted me to slim down so I could be more versatile with separate looks because when you’re overweight you’re only cast into a certain type of part,” he said.
Pappadia said he fluctuates the tempo of the Dubsweat workout by combining dubstep, a genre of electronic music that experiments with drum and bass beats and plyometric exercises, which are used to build leg strength for jumping and sprinting. He designed the Dubsweat workout during the summer, but it was not offered until this semester. The class filled to capacity within the first five minutes it was offered on its first night.
Freshman Sam Horan, a weekly attendee of the Dubsweat class, said Pappadia suggested he join the class while the two of them were training together last semester, and it was an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up.
“If I do two things I like, which are working out and dubstep, then I’d be killing two birds with one stone,” Horan said.
Horan has lost 15 pounds while training with Pappadia and has gained muscle mass in the process. He attributes his weight loss to the workout philosophy he shares with Pappadia — that it’s just as important to have fun while exercising as it is to get fit.
Pappadia often trains his friends at the fitness center when he is not running the Dubsweat class, which junior Andrew Miller said has allowed the two of them to spend scheduled time with each other every week. Miller, one of Pappadia’s close friends, said the workouts help him fulfill his potential.
“He has a gift for knowing what people are capable of, and as a personal trainer he has a good way of getting it out of people,” Miller said.
Pappadia has not abandoned his own theatrical roots. During winter break, he acted in an independent film with actor Eric Roberts, actress Julia Roberts’ brother, titled “The Night Never Sleeps.” The film is set for release later this year.
Pappadia said seeing the enthusiasm from underclassman in his class reminds him of his own past.
“To me, an important aspect of training is that I am creating not just physical changes but lifestyle changes as well,” he said. “I now live by the saying, ‘Never give up on your body. Let your body give up on you.’”