Editor’s note to GPC faculty and staff: Tell us your weight-loss or “get-fit” success story! Include a photo of yourself (optional) working out or eating healthy foods—or even “before-and-after” shots. We’ll consider your submissions for use in a future In The Loop issue. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Rebecca Rakoczy
Every fall and spring at Georgia Perimeter College, faculty, staff and students can participate in the “Biggest Winner” contest and receive loads of encouragement to drop a few pounds. You can even feel a little like a celebrity while doing it.
You can walk miles for rewards. Or you can dance, splash, stretch, sweat or kick your way to fitness via Zumba, water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, boot camp or kickboxing.
Whatever you do, just don’t win the “Stinky Sock” award.
That “award” is reserved for those who sign up for health, wellness and recreation programs “but don’t do anything,” says Randy Pegues, director of GPC’s collegewide Health, Wellness and Recreation programs. “It’s a category you don’t want to fall into,” he says.
Motivating people to get up and moving—and to avoid that “stinky sock”—is what Pegues and his team do every day. From fitness classes to marked campus walking routes to health fairs, “we are always looking for ways to increase participation and get people motivated to be active,” Pegues says.
The department promotes group participation by encouraging team spirit, with an eye toward social peer pressure. The 2011 Decatur Campus “Biggest Winner” teams sport names such as “Lean Queens” and “Fighting Angels.” But the HWR staff also appreciates those who pursue fitness on their own. And the passion is contagious.
Sharriette Finley was inspired to start a fitness routine after spending time with Pegues and Clementine Huff, a student accounts manager on Clarkston Campus. “Communing with them every day got me connected with living a healthier lifestyle,” says Finley, an online student success coordinator. Through her colleagues’ example, Finley started exercising and eating right. And she began walking three days a week.
“Rodney marked a path around the Clarkston Campus to follow. It’s seven-tenths of a mile, and I usually walk it four or five times on nice fall days, since my usual walking goal is 3 miles,” she says. “After every walk, I feel great—it’s a good feeling to know that I did it again!”
Finley’s enthusiasm is echoed by Decatur Campus English professor Brenda Sudan, a four-year participant in the walking program whose personal goal is 10,000 steps a day.
“I find that the walking gets me out of the office and into the fresh air. I feel less stressed, and I get to be out in nature,” she says. “I also love greeting fellow walkers in the community that share our walking trails. When do we ever meet our GPC neighbors in a casual setting?”
Also, Sudan adds, “At the end of the semester, health and wellness sponsors a special celebration of recognition and a healthy luncheon on campus. It’s nice to be rewarded for making healthy life choices.”
GPC’s Human Resources department also offers encouragement for healthy lifestyle choices by distributing online newsletters on health topics and sponsoring walking teams on each campus.
The program was begun by Patrice Masterson, HR’s director of benefits and staff development. Those who signed up for the program’s inaugural year in 2012-13 received special gifts such as pedometers from Kaiser Permanente and Blue Cross. Masterson hopes HR can repeat the program next fall.
While walking is something anyone can do, faculty, staff and students also have the option of using the college’s pools, gyms and staffed fitness centers. It’s like having a gym membership for free. Programs such as “Swipe and Swim,” where participants log in when they go to the pool, encourage use of GPC’s many facilities, Pegues says.
GPC’s spring semester HWR classes run through April 25 on all campuses, and spring health fairs are scheduled as well. The next health fair is March 12 on Decatur Campus, followed by March 26 on Dunwoody Campus. For information on all Health, Wellness and Recreation group classes and programs, call 678-891-2725 or visit the department website.