Claire Semer, Ph.D. – Assistant Director, Office of Residence Life
Group X WERQ Instructor (2015-17)
Claire Semer is a classic WERQaholic who is passionate about WERQ dance fitness and its health benefits. WERQ is unique because of its choreographed format and trendsetting playlist, which features only the hottest pop, rock, and hip-hop music. Semer describes WERQ as centering on heart health: “It’s a cardio workout, but it doesn’t really feel like you’re working out.” In short, WERQ is a “big dance party” that gets participants sweating and having fun while building confidence.
A native of Queens, New York, Semer was exposed to group exercise at a very young age by her mother. She recalls her experiences accompanying her mother to fitness classes: “Growing up in New York, my mom and all of her girlfriends were totally into fitness. I remember them getting dressed up like Jane Fonda back in the 80s, and my friend and I would sit at the mirrors and watch our moms dance or step to 1980s Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons.”
I just liked getting outside, breathing fresh air, and always moving. Although Semer didn’t start participating in group exercise classes until much later, she explains that movement has always been important to her. She has always been a dancer and has done yoga for as long as she can remember. She also enjoys outdoor recreation activities and explained, “I just liked getting outside, breathing fresh air, and always moving. I grew up on a beach in New York, and I really liked running on the boardwalk.”
Semer was also a lifeguard and an avid rower. She attended Dowling College from 1997-2001 as a scholarship rower and exceled at the sport. To stay involved in rowing after graduation, Semer moved to Ohio where she was employed as head coach of the Ohio University men’s rowing team while simultaneously earning a double master’s degree from Ohio University and working as a graduate hall director at Hocking College. After graduating in 2004, Semer didn’t waste any time in furthering her career, and she made the move to Bowling Green to accept a position as a hall director at BGSU.
After my first child I really wanted to just hit the ground and lose the weight. So, I got involved in the classes I really liked, like toning. Then I heard about this WERQ dance fitness that was going on in Michigan, and I went to a few classes up there and fell in love with it! Being in shape was never a problem for Semer, and from the time she began working at BGSU, she was always a member of the Student Recreation Center. Although she had attended choreographed fitness classes in the past, she didn’t initially participate in BGSU’s Group X classes, preferring instead to run and swim. However, her approach to fitness shifted after starting a family, and she explains how she became involved in Group X and WERQ dance fitness: “After my first child I really wanted to just hit the ground and lose the weight. So, I got involved in the classes I really liked, like toning. Then I heard about this WERQ dance fitness that was going on in Michigan, and I went to a few classes up there and fell in love with it!”
For me, being active and just sweating out the toxins is how I destress, and WERQ gets me there. I’m a sweaty mess in class, but I feel great! It didn’t take long for Semer to reach WERQaholic status. She describes WERQ as a great way to release stress while getting a serious workout: “I tell everyone that I get my rage out when I’m working out. I have no other avenue really because I wear many hats: I’m a mom, wife, and daughter, I work full time, and I teach. For me, being active and just sweating out the toxins is how I destress, and WERQ gets me there. I’m a sweaty mess in class, but I feel great!”
Despite its prevalence elsewhere in the country, WERQ has been slow to catch on in Ohio. Semer quickly recognized an opportunity to bring WERQ to Northwest Ohio, and she pursued the WERQ instructor certification. First, she became an AFAA certified group instructor, and then she became WERQ certified in the spring of 2015. To test the reception of WERQ in Bowling Green, Semer piloted a class at the Student Recreation Center (SRC) in the summer of 2015, and she has been teaching WERQ there ever since. In fact, Semer is currently the only WERQ instructor in Northwest Ohio, and her packed classes attest to its popularity.
WERQ classes at the SRC are 45 minutes long and consist of about 13 songs, each containing 3-4 basic choreographed moves. Semer selects a series of songs that are choreographed to work various parts of the body, ensuring that participants get a well-rounded workout. She explains: “There are some songs that just work your legs, so all you’re doing is squatting, and then there’s other songs where you’re just minutely moving your legs, but your arms are going and you get more of a shoulder, arm, and back workout. Then, there’s some songs that are just full-blown jumping, and it’s all about cardio and heart health.” However, she is always mindful participants’ physical needs, and modifies the routines accordingly.
WERQ doesn’t just work your body, it works your mind too. You’re constantly anticipating and thinking. In addition to working the body, Semer emphasizes that WERQ is also great for the mind. New choreography is released by WERQ headquarters every week, allowing Semer to mix in new songs with familiar favorites. “WERQ doesn’t just work your body, it works your mind too. You’re constantly anticipating and thinking. You won’t know exactly what the workout is going to be, and you’re going to need to learn a new set of choreography.”
Even though Semer instantly felt a connection to WERQ, she understands that some participants might feel hesitant about giving WERQ a try. When asked if people who aren’t dancers will like the class, Semer explains, “It’s not about dancing; it’s about moving. I tell the participants, don’t think about the arms and the feet. Just have fun!”
In that first class as a newcomer, you may only sweat a little, and you might feel really discombobulated and silly. Just give it another try. If you come back consistently, you’ll see it’s a similar routine. You will be able to anticipate the steps and have fun, and you will also feel more confident because you’ll know the songs and remember the moves.However, she emphasizes that it may take two classes to really feel confident in the moves. “In that first class as a newcomer, you may only sweat a little, and you might feel really discombobulated and silly. Just give it another try. If you come back consistently, you’ll see it’s a similar routine. You will be able to anticipate the steps and have fun, and you will also feel more confident because you’ll know the songs and remember the moves. That’s when you start to sweat because you enhance the squat, or instead of just throwing your arm up halfway, you’re swinging your arm up and getting that full movement.”
Overall, Semer can’t stress enough the impact fitness has made in her life. “Fitness makes me a happier person. Our minds and bodies are connected, and your body hears everything your mind says, so be very cognizant of what you tell yourself. You have to think positive, and I think when you exercise, you release that positivity. It puts you in a better mood and you feel better about yourself. It’s about confidence and self-esteem, and fitness has always done that for me.”