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Staffers Find Fitness Benefits Beyond Looks

July 22, 2011

Staffers Find Fitness Benefits Beyond Looks

Most of us know we should eat right and exercise, but few do. With busy job schedules, family demands and hectic social calendars, working out often seems impossible to work in. But finding time for fitness reaps great rewards, according to a number of UC Merced employees.

Take Lisa Perry, for example. Answering call after call at the Students First Centercan take a toll, but she finds a run after work to be the perfect way to shake off the day and get refreshed.”I like the way it makes me feel,” the UC Merced cheerleading coach said. “It gives me confidence and helps me to manage daily stress.”

Brian Gresham, who works in capital planning, also finds fitness affects job performance. He says that feeling better leads to better results on the job. He and Jason Martin, who works in Business and Financial Services, are both certified CrossFit trainers.

“I had heard of CrossFit but had been intimidated by the fact that the standard 'warm-up' for a workout included 45 pull-ups,” Gresham said. “To me that was a workout — not a warmup. I couldn't even do five pull-ups at the time.”

Aside from wanting to live as long and productive a life as possible, Gresham and Martin are equally motivated by the effects their lifestyles have on their families.

“I love that my 4-year-old daughter likes to try pull-ups, and that my son and I do air squats in the backyard,” Martin said. “I love that my kids are being raised on veggies, meats, nuts, seeds and fruit and not chips, soda and Pop-Tarts.”

Faust Gorham, who works for information technology, has also made fitness into a lifestyle instead of a fad. Gorham lost almost 100 pounds within his first three years of working at UC Merced. When it comes to staying fit, there isn't much in the way of exercise that he won't do. He lifts weights, runs outdoors when the weather permits, plays competitive racquetball and gets his body moving every chance he gets.

“I enjoy the whole weekend warrior lifestyle, and that means I have to stay fit,” he said.

UC Merced has made a deliberate effort to create a culture of wellness among faculty and staff. The university's Choose Wellprogram offers a variety of incentive-based activities to help employees incorporate healthy eating and exercise choices. One of Choose Well's most popular programs is the Fit Cat Weight Loss Challenge.

Fit Cat, a team-based weight-loss competition, boasted 98 registered participants this past spring. There is no mandated weight-loss program for participants to follow, but weekly weigh-ins are required. The winning team is determined by the highest percentage of starting body weight lost during the four-month contest.

The Enforcables, led by Crystal Galvan, won the most recent challenge. The six-member team of Public Safety and Transportation and Parking Services(TAPS) staffers lost 9.39 percent of its members' starting weights, a total loss of 113.4 pounds. Galvan dropped her share of the weight by walking from TAPS to Lake Road and back with teammate Rosalva Barriga every day during lunch and by counting calories with the help of an iPhone application. Teammate Jason Davenport lost 21 pounds during the challenge using the P90X nutrition and exercise plan.

“What I love is how I feel every day,” he said. “I sleep better, have more energy and get compliments on my progress, which would make anyone feel better.”

For questions on Choose Well, contact Tina Machado at 209-228-2348 or