The Poker Walk Returns!

mainpicEmployee engagement and exercise are two activities that are valuable within the workplace. In honor of Employee National Health and Fitness month, Oakland University Recreation and Well-Being (Rec Well) hosted the 8th Annual Poker Walk, an event that aims at adding exercise into the day in addition to connecting staff with one another and the beautiful campus.

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According to Stephanie Willis, event organizer, this event was created with the intention to promote employee engagement across department units. Brelanda Pirani, from Budget and Financial Planning, claims “this event is an opportunity for team building,” and parallels the saying “we are only as strong as our weakest point.” Oakland employees have a strong bond and sense of community because of events like the Poker Walk.

This May, more than 400 staff and faculty registered for the walk with their department. Traditionally, each team has the option to choose a creative team name and dress up in different costumes to make this a unique experience.IMG_0598

The First Year Advising Center (FYAC), or “The Price Is Right” team stated, “our favorite part about coming to this event each is year is seeing staff show up with creative costumes.” Over 50 different teams dressed up ranging from “Global Engagement Rings” to “CAS Care Bears”, all walking around campus in costume. The energetic atmosphere even allows for other employees to tag along and join the walk.

After an invigorating kick-off speech from Vice President of Student Affairs, Glenn McIntosh, employees embarked on the 1.5 mile route. Teams took advantage of the “photo op” spots in front of the Grizz statue, the Grizz Head at the RAOC, and the Saints and Sinners Fountain. Foundations and groups such as the American Heart Association, Biggby Coffee, Carrot Pass, and Hanson’s Running shop handed participants poker chips for prizes.

IMG_0603After the scenic route was completed teams made their way back to the Recreation Center in order to place their bets with their chips they collected on the walk, mingle with other staff and faculty, grab refreshments and food, dance with Grizz, and get the chance to win some fun prizes! Employees have the opportunity to connect with other staff members they don’t normally see on a daily basis, laughing and joking about their creative costume ideas, and making time to get some fresh air together on a beautiful day.

Oakland University strives to have a positive community culture with their employees. Employees are encouraged to be involved on campus, make healthy decisions, and stay connected with the staff and faculty they are surrounded by. This event is a great example of how the University promotes these values and the employees recognize and are thankful for these special events.

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Stress & Physical Activity

Stress & Physical Activity

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It’s almost that time of the year, when the semester is coming to an end and it seems as though every deadline is overlapping a test date. Yes, that dreaded time where you feel the excitement of the semester ending while being stressed about final projects and exams. Everyone seems to wonder, is there a remedy to this stress? Here’s some good news- there is a remedy, and it’s physical activity. Countless statistics show that stress can be relieved through a combination of meditation and physical activity. According to mayoclinic.org, “Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you’re not an athlete or even if you’re out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management.”

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Why Exercise?

During exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are natural pain killers and often called the brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters. When stressed, the human body goes through a natural reaction called “fight or flight.” The anxious and tense feeling you experience when going through “fight or flight” happens because you are not responding to this evolutionarily-programmed occurrence. The proper response is physical activity. Taking some time to exercise also helps you shed daily tensions by focusing on what you are doing in that moment and not on other outside stressors. Higher energy levels and a more optimistic outlook are the results of taking time to exercise.

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Finding Time To Move

The biggest question about exercise is, “How do I find time to fit in workouts into my already busy schedule?” Finding the time is easy, but finding the motivation can be difficult. Here are a few ways to incorporate exercise into a busy schedule:

  1. Walking/Biking to class. Walking the long way to class or hopping on the bike instead of driving across campus is a great way to get your heart pumping.
  2. Take the stairs. Avoiding the elevators and taking the stairs when going from floor to floor is a small but effective way to incorporate exercise into daily life.
  3. Hit the gym between classes. Have an hour between classes? Spend half of it in the gym! It can be hard to go after school, so push yourself to get there in between. It will go by quicker and you will have more energy before your next class.
  4. Sign up for an exercise class and treat it like a school course. Whether it’s yoga, Group X, or cycling, join an exercise class that fits your schedule and treat it as though it is a part of curriculum.
  5. Reward yourself. Set some personal goals and reward yourself when you reach them- i.e. treating yourself to your favorite restaurant after a week of reaching study and exercise goals.
  6. Joining intramural or club sports. The set schedule of intramural and club sports is a great motivation to get some physical activity in. Gather some friends from your classes and take study breaks by doing sports.
  7. Workout with a friend. A like-minded friend may be the perfect inspiration and reason to hit the gym or go for a walk in between study sessions or classes.

Set Up For Success

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Whether you are running, doing yoga, or zumba dancing, you are ultimately teaching your body to turn to physical activity when stressed. Continuing this habit will lead to less stress and more success! Consider this information the next time you feel like your brain can’t hold anymore information during a study session, or your super anxious the night before a big exam. Whether you are a beginner or an athlete, physical activity will boost your confidence and help you focus when that “end-of-semester” stress begins.  

Summertime Outdoor Recreation

Today is April 6 and it is still overcast, cold, and windy in Michigan. How many sunny days do Michigan residents actually get? Based on studies from bestplaces.net, Michigan averages about 180 sunny days per year, which is lower than the average state. While there’s a higher percentage of sunny days between the months of May and September, weather plays a big role in our physical activities. Only the brave set outdoors to run during blizzards or rainy weather! What we don’t seem to get during non-summer seasons is the sun beaming down or the fresh air keeping us cool during our runs or sports games. Summertime in Michigan means utilizing the sun and beautiful weather to it’s full advantage! Believe it or not, outdoor recreation activities benefit our social, emotional, and intellectual well-being, along with our physical well-being.

According to healthguide.org, “People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. And it’s also powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges.” These benefits are amplified with safe levels of sun exposure, which is one of the main reasons I savor every minute of my outdoor workouts. With sunshine comes increased production of vitamin D, melatonin and happier moods. I always keep a bottle of sweat-proof sunscreen or a hat in my gym bag, taking extra precaution if I am spending more than thirty minutes in the sun.

If you live within driving distance to Oakland University in Rochester, MI, or any nearby college campus, be sure to keep the outdoor amenities in mind. The weather is slowly changing, and the opportunity will come about soon! Here is some information on how I utilize my collegiate campus to the fullest during the few months of sunshine.

What is the Outdoor Complex?

Oakland University Recreation and Well-Being (Rec Well) maintains an outdoor complex which includes the super-field lined for different sports, turf fields, softball field overlays, tennis courts, an outdoor track, golf course, and a support building. These are located past the recreation building and across from the George T. Matthews Apartment complex. The operational season starts on April 1 and ends October 31 of each year. 

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Playing Your Favorite Outdoor Sports

Being an avid tennis player since a young age, I love to gather a group or play one-on-one on the tennis courts behind the track. The support building will especially come in handy, with a $1 tennis racquet rental for the one who forgets their racquet. Soccer balls, footballs, and frisbees are available for checkout as well. One of the reasons I have stayed so loyal to the great game of tennis is because of the social benefits. Two or more people are always needed, and it is the type of sport that can be casually taken up or played very seriously. You can start at any age, and only get better with practice! The outdoor complex has 8 courts that are open from dawn until dusk. I always find myself getting together with some friends to play during the summer.

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Switch Up Your Running Routine

To stay fit and have fun during the summer, I also tend to switch up my running routine. Running indoors on the treadmill can be very monotone and boring. It is so hard to stay motivated when you are not having fun! With the outdoor track and trail routes available, there are endless opportunities to head outdoors for your summer runs. According to livestrong.com, the difference in terrain and wind speed, uphills and downhills, and various muscle activations are just a few of the small things that make a huge difference when it comes to running outside versus on a treadmill.

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My running routine varies and ends up being very fun with the outdoor complex. I usually use the outdoor track for sprinting, and even sometimes create mini circuits with the 70 yard by 120 yard marked soccer field inside the track, sprinting from line to line and seeing how fast I can go. I even recreate the stair climb machine with the bleachers, running up and down the steps as fast as I can. Rec Well’s outdoor complex also has its own running/walking routes. The 2.3 mile loop, 4.3 mile loop, or 6.5 mile loop are great scenic routes for those inclined to have a run or hike with a view. It is not rare for the light 2.3 mile loop to be my cool down after running miles of sprints.

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Overall

Getting creative with the outdoor complex is not hard. It is almost irresistible to create new exercises; I definitely let my imagination take control. Whether it is a competitive game of tennis, variety of sprinting, or a relaxing walk, the amenities of the outdoor complex will always remain a staple of my summer activities. I highly encourage students to consider the possibilities of creating new memories using Rec Well’s outdoor amenities, all while soaking up some vitamin D and dwelling in the benefits of healthy physical activity. 

Making it to the finish line with personal training

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Do you agree one of the biggest challenges of going to the gym is finding the motivation to leave the house? According to Susan Mason, parent of an Oakland University student, the personal training program at Oakland’s Recreation Center helped her conquer just that.

Mason was tired of feeling discouraged and she wanted to make a positive change. She wasn’t very active, but support and encouragement from her family got her to the gym. She later signed up for personal training and was assigned personal trainer Josh McMillon, a senior at OU.

McMillon’s first task for Mason was to create a goal she wanted to reach. “I was stumped,” she said. After realizing how out-of-shape and out-of-breathe she was, Mason’s goal became to run a marathon to help her improve and learn all aspects of fitness (strength, balance, and endurance).

Mason instantly noticed the difference of having a trainer because the motivation of having someone cheering for her was huge. “Even when I could not run a single lap on the indoor track or do one lunge, my trainer believed in me. It was his [McMillon’s] encouragement and positivity that kept me on track. He pushed me more than I would have on my own. He always watched my form to make sure I was doing it correctly and stayed injury free.”

Even though Mason was spending more time each week running and training with or without McMillon, she still had barriers to overcome. Having negative thoughts can be a push-back when starting a new workout. Quickly though, Mason realized that the gym is a place to allow individuals to improve, and setting mantras helped her.

Susan noticed results shortly after 30 days. She went from being able to run one lap around the track–to a few miles and even joined a running group. Mason said, “Losing the inches and pounds has been great, but gaining the strength and endurance has been the best result.”

Mason reached her goal of running a marathon in 18 months and has participated in over 20 races. She is still working with McMillon setting new goals and reaching higher heights. Over the summer, she went hiking and got to experience things she wouldn’t have been able to before she had a trainer. With the change in eating habits and exercise, her cholesterol level has even decreased 100 points.

Having a trainer helps motivate you more than you think you can yourself. She is now with a local training program to help others reach their running goals. Mason’s take away is that “Actions, not wishes, make opportunities happen. One step, no matter how small, is still progress.”

The Best Stress Relievers on Campus

Finals are approaching. (Cue frenzied screaming.) In between frantically studying, working on final projects and presentations, and packing up your dorm, it can be hard to stop and sleep, much less relax. Fortunately, we’ve rounded up some easy, convenient and inexpensive ways to relax on campus.

Hammocks and benches around Bear Lake. When Michigan weather plays nice, loitering around Bear Lake can be invigorating and relaxing at the same time. Enjoy the fresh air and ducks and geese swimming.

Get a cup of tea in one of the many cafes. Try peppermint, chamomile or green tea.

Exercise at the Rec Center. “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Elle Woods was right! Whether going to a slow flow yoga class or running on the treadmill, the Rec Center is the place to release some endorphins.

Or walk around campus. Nature is great for stress relief, and OU has a whole lot of it. Summon your inner Disney princess (or prince) to see if any friendly woodland creatures will help you out with cleaning your house.

Indulge in a sweet treat. Stop by one of the many cafes to reward yourself for surviving that extra rough final.

Take advantage of the many stress relief programs. They’re all free and you can see them all here.The Wellness Suite in the Rec is also offering free stress kits (including crayons and coloring pages) throughout the month of April.  

Go Red Dance Jam a success

It was a sea of red on Friday, February 3 in Studio 919. To cap off Go Red Week, and on National Wear Red Day, a dance party was organized to get people up and moving during their lunch hour. About 50 people attended the event.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better turnout,” said Erin Davidson, Zumba instructor who helped lead the dance party and and fitness program and services coordinator.

After participants checked in, they could peruse the table outside Studio 919 offering free red shirts, necklaces or heart-shaped sunglasses. Many people took advantage of the goodies and danced while wearing the necklaces or sunglasses. Others entered a raffle to win fancy Rec-Well water bottles. The winners of the water bottles were announced in between songs at the dance party.

Popular Zumba instructor Ron Benbow and Davidson kept spirits high as they alternated leading the dances packed with sneaky muscle builders like squats and lunges. It was hard to stop smiling as Ron kept asking, “Is everyone having fun?!” And they certainly kept everyone’s heart pumping with sizzling moves and blaring, upbeat music.

Go Red Week encourages patrons of the Rec Well to be aware of their risk for heart disease. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 610,000 people die from heart disease every year and is the leading cause of death for both men and women. However, early preventive care and a healthy lifestyle can prevent heart disease.

OU Rec Well has plenty of options to keep your heart healthy, from drop in body comps, group exercise classes, wellness consultations, and personal trainers.

For more information, visit https://www.oakland.edu/recwell/fitness/fitness-programs/.

Making Meditation a Habit

It’s no secret that we live in a fast-paced world. The whole world is at our fingertips and attention spans have been shrinking. When the speed of life becomes overwhelming, take a break.

Meditation is a way to recenter and refocus. The practice stems from Buddhist and Hindu traditions and slowly spread as a way to take time to focus on self. Now, Oakland University Recreation and Well-Being is introducing people to the practice.

Making Meditation a Habit (MMAH) is designed to teach individuals the foundation and history behind meditation, its’ purpose, and its’ benefits,” said Stephanie Willis, the wellness and educational outreach coordinator.  “MMAH goes over these principles and practices in the first few weeks of the program, then individuals continue to come weekly to practice meditation together, talk about how their week was practicing meditation, and learn best practices from one another.”

MMAH is a six week program that meets in the David E. Herman Room on Thursdays at 12:15 p.m. Participants will learn how to master a 15-minute meditation and receive support.

Willis said that the program was inspired to help students and employees manage their stress and that many might not have thought of meditation as a coping tool. “We wanted to provide an additional solution to help people manage their stress in a healthy way,” she said.

Willis hopes that the participants will see the benefits of adding meditation to their lives and will incorporate it into their lifestyles.

A little skeptical of taking even more time out of your busy schedule?

“My advice would be to approach this with an open mind and give meditation a chance,” Willis said, “This is not something that works for everyone, nor is this a quick fix that works overnight. Meditation takes time to develop a habit and experience the full rewards of meditating. While this might not be the stress management tool for everyone, it does work for many, is easy to learn, and free! Meditation doesn’t cost anything except your time.”