Out to Exercise with Brandon Tilley

​Face-down in the rain with my elbows in the mud of Eliot House Courtyard was not how I thought I’d be starting my Saturday morning, but here I am.
By Lucy R. Golub

Face-down in the rain with my elbows in the mud of Eliot House Courtyard was not how I thought I’d be starting my Saturday morning. But here I am, completing the “final plank” of FABS, a weekly core-focused exercise class led by Eliot resident tutor Brandon R. Tilley.

Long ago, the class began as a former tutor’s private ab routine. Gradually, it took on the name FABS and started being advertised over the Eliot House email list. Tilley first attended the class as a student, but only did so sporadically. “I wasn’t a die-hard,” he says. Eventually, however, he grew “more and more into it” and eventually took over the class as teacher.

FABS is an hour-long class separated into five minute intervals. Three minutes into the warm up of sit-ups, scissor kicks, and toe touches, and many people are already beginning to sweat. We then continue on to a series of workouts including squat jumps, burpees, and Russian twists with weights.

Originally, the class was much less organized. According to Tilley, class-goers would show up and “we’d be like ‘what should we do now? Who has an idea?’” Over the past few years, he has introduced a much more rigid plan. FABS has tuned “into a machine.”

“I do hope not to kill people,” Tilley jokes. “[But] I really hate it when, like, some athlete comes and they just like breeze right through it and it’s not hard for them.”

According to Tilley, the vast majority of FABS attendees are Eliot House affiliates—including several tutors and one house administrator.

However, some brave souls do make the inter-house trek as well. Turnout is always the greatest in the first week, when students have a “New Year’s resolution-type grit,” Tilley says.

People don’t just come for the workout though—they say it creates a nice community as well. For Sarah J. Farina ’17, who has been coming to FABS for a year, the social aspect of the class is a huge draw.

“I like it because I have friends who come and do it too. We get to hang out and then we get breakfast together,” she says. Last year, a group of FABS fanatics graduated, so this year’s “core group” is still emerging.

Tilley, who recently completed his Ph.D. dissertation on medieval poetry, finds that he gets more out ofteaching FABS than just the physical benefits.

“[FABS] breaks up the stress and monotony, or the loneliness, of writing my dissertation,” he says. And though this is likely Tilley’s last year leading FABS, he has a list of people in mind who could take over for him when he steps down.

Until then, Tilley will continue to encourage as many people as possible to plank in the Eliot House mud.

Recreational Athletics