Faculty, Staff Celebrate Wellness, Weight Loss with Dedicated Facility

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Pam Levay, a network administrator in the information technology division at Albion, says visiting the Depot regularly at 8 a.m. has helped her achieve the goals she set.

July 3, 2013

Albion College faculty and staff are celebrating the loss of inches and pounds as well as newfound energy and focus as the campus community has embraced wellness at a campus location developed solely for them.

Under the direction of Director of Campus Wellness Tom Johnson, the Depot is frequented by 20 faculty and staff members who take part in a wide variety of physical activity.

“We developed an education component from scratch called FITT, which stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time and Technique,” said Johnson, who is in the process of becoming a certified personal trainer. “The plan gives faculty and staff a way to start an exercise plan that fits with their busy professional lives. People are recognizing they can come here any time between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. and see themselves getting better.”

Johnson developed the FITT Brits program after visiting other colleges through a grant from the Great Lakes Colleges Association. While every institution offered wellness programming for faculty and staff, Johnson noted that none had an all-encompassing plan for faculty and staff that included physical activity, education and healthy lifestyle choices coupled with healthcare savings as its main purpose.

‘The Real Deal’

What makes Albion different from other institutions, Johnson believes, is how the Depot is dedicated solely to faculty and staff (students are encouraged to use the Dow Recreation and Wellness Center for their wellness activities), and there is no charge for use of the Depot or any of Johnson’s services, ranging from measurement to developing an individualized exercise routine.

“What faculty and staff members get is the real deal, and that’s why this is a special program,” said Johnson, who is aiming to have a student assistant regularly available at the Depot during the high-volume period between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. “The prescribed daily activity is making a difference in their lives.”

The FITT Brits’ Faculty/Staff blueprint includes six elements: completing a health risk appraisal, a physical, an individualized personal health record, meeting individually with a certified medical provider, making an individualized health and wellness plan, and participating in the FITT Brits’ yearlong wellness plan.

Johnson collected data for faculty and staff members in the FITT Brits program during the 2012-2013 academic year, and the results show a reduction in pounds and body mass index and an increase in the number of pushups and flexibility.

Pam Levay, a network administrator in the information technology division at Albion, was engaged in physical activity on campus even before the Depot opened. Though she continues to play wallyball at the Dow, visiting the Depot regularly at 8 a.m. has helped her achieve the goals she set.

“I didn’t have a core, and my goal was to lose the midsection,” said Levay, who played collegiate basketball at Indiana Tech and coached at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. “I’ve reached that goal and then some. I can do any kind of plank. Tom has done wonders with all of us in different ways.”

Chemistry professor Lisa Lewis knows all too well the demands of a working mom. She has seen improved fitness after accepting Johnson’s invitation to drop by the Depot.

“Tom worked with me individually for a couple of weeks until I felt comfortable.” Lewis said. “He had an understanding of what I needed, and it is unique to have someone like Tom serve as a mentor, guide, and personal trainer. I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made and don’t want to stop.”

Building a Community

Levay and Lewis both noted that Johnson keeps his clients engaged by increasing the challenge associated with the activity and by accepting feedback. Levay said it’s common for a faculty and staff member to find an interesting exercise idea in a fitness publication and then to have it introduced in a class setting.

The level of support the faculty and staff members have provided in the weight loss journey is also a source of encouragement.

“We have built a community,” Lewis said. “I often work out with the same core group, and I have met new people in the campus community. We support each other, push each other.”

Levay added, “The core group is very supportive. We’ve made a commitment to looking and feeling better.”