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MIT student blogger Anelise N. '19

I never want to finish my P.E. requirement by Anelise N. '19

MIT PE might be the best thing that's happened in my whole (short) athletic history

PE classes in high school tend to follow one of two models. Either they center around “fitness testing”, like running the mile or doing pushups. Or they resemble my PE class from last year. We usually started out class by “stretching”—aka sitting on the floor pointing at your feet, or lying on your back yelling “I really like this stretch!” Then we would do our “daily walk” around the track, followed by a vigorous round of indoor kickball or doing homework.

With these experiences in mind, I was pretty psyched to see just how cool the PE offerings at MIT are!

A small excerpt from the PE course listing for last quarter. Here’s a link to the full course listings for this semester!


I mean, tango? Fencing? I don’t need a graduation requirement to convince me to take that!

First quarter, I took Women’s Weightlifting. Which was awesome.

Before starting the class, I had barely stepped foot in a proper gym. To me, the equipment might as well have been machinery. My primary goal from the class was to learn how to work out in a gym without breaking any fancy machines (or myself)!

The course taught me that and more. The first couple classes were spent quickly going over how to use each of the machines and how to perform each exercise. From then on, we dove straight into our workouts. We were given a workout sheet with a set of exercises, a number of reps, and space for us to track our progress. Each class we would run through the workout, which took about 35-40 minutes, and then we were free to leave, which meant I had time to change and get to my next class on time. Coach Martinovich was a great resource. Not only was he on-hand to answer questions about technique or proper use of the equipment, but he also helped us personalize our workouts based on our skill level and preference for certain exercises.

Our workout sheet from class.


Ultimately, not only did I end up learning how to use the gym, but I got a workout incorporated into my (pretty busy) daily routine—which was more than worth the one-hour block it took out of my schedule.

I actually found myself looking forward to weightlifting each day. Going to PE was an excuse to de-stress and take my mind off academics for a little while. Plus, it’s really satisfying noticing that I can lift more weight now than I could when I started the class. Improvement is a great motivator!

I think the most rewarding part about my PE class is that I found a form of working out that I can actually tolerate! I’ve tried an impressive variety of sports and workouts without too much success, and had sort of resigned myself to the fact that I just don’t really like exercise. But since taking weightlifting, I’ve continued lifting weights twice a week with a workout buddy from my class (hey Lily!!!). The Z-center, the gym next to the Student Center, is outfitted with not one, but two rooms well-stocked with weight machines, plus a lot of the dorms have their own weight rooms. It’s really satisfying working out, not to mention an awesome habit to get into.

The weight room in MacGregor.


At this rate I’ll probably be strong enough to lift all my textbooks by the end of the semester! ;D

This quarter I’m taking beginner ice skating. The class is as fun as it sounds and it’s really cool picking up a new skill. When I started the class, pretty much the only thing I knew how to do was fall over and gawk at the ice (I’m from SoCal. The only kind of ice we have comes in a citrusy drink.). Now I can do a crossover, turn around, skate backwards, and then fall over!

MIT’s own indoor ice rink. Just a few weeks ago, this entire area was an open event space!


(Side note: I’m in the same “beginner” class as Kevin! Who is NOT a beginner ice skater, and who has been giving me awesome tips about how to do important things like stop and turn around. To be honest, I pretty much learn new techniques by watching how Kevin does them. That just goes to show you that at MIT, your classmates are all so incredibly mind-blowing and talented that you’ll be learning from them as much as from your teachers.)

There are so many awesome PE classes on offer, that I’m surprised that students need to be incentivized to take them. But indeed, there is a PE requirement instituted as part of the graduation requirements. Students at MIT are required to take four quarters of PE, to be completed during their freshman and sophomore years, on pain of receiving a torrent of emails from the Physical Education department reminding you of your tardiness. Fortunately, PE credit is assigned on a different scale than academic credit, which means that A) you don’t have to worry about maxing out the freshman credit limit because of your archery class but B) you can’t meet the raw unit requirement for your major by taking Zumba.

PE classes aren’t time intensive. Most are run for two one-hour blocks each week, with times ranging from 8:00 a.m. (wait, there are people awake at 8:00 a.m.???) to about 6:00 in the evening. So far, I’ve been cramming all my P.E. classes into a one-hour window I have open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It has been a little tight getting to and from PE to my other classes, and there has been some running across campus involved, but it’s definitely doable.

If you’re at MIT, I definitely recommend keeping an open mind about PE classes and taking advantage of what’s available! My schedule allowing, I’m planning on taking a PE class every quarter. It’s a great way to meet new people and get some exposure to different physical activities. My PE wish list is already long enough to last me through junior year….

  • Sailing
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Zumba
  • Archery
  • Pistol
  • Sailing
  • Hip Hop
  • Broomball (Like ice hockey, but with brooms, a soft ball, and no skates. Apparently it is impossible to be good at broomball and everyone falls over constantly, which of course means it’s a lot of fun!)
  • Aikido
  • Self-defense
  • Tango

Plus, I have to get my pirate’s license. Because my parents told me when I committed that I wasn’t allowed to go to MIT unless I came home a pirate. Arrrrr!