Campus Wellness event gives incentive to keep semester health goals
Over 200 USC students, faculty and staff were on the move Saturday morning under clear blue skies for the first Changing Carolina 5K.
These runners and walkers weren’t motivated by opposition to cancer or poverty or support of animal rights; they ran for personal fitness and as testimony to the importance of dedication to exercise.
Changing Carolina Peer Health leaders organized the race, with the help of Campus Wellness, in response to a growing demand from students for motivation to stay fit through spring semester before spring break and summer. Campus Wellness organized a six-week training program prior to the race for 84 participants.
“Every semester we get requests from students who come back to campus with new resolutions to stay active, especially right before spring break,” said Laura Rooney, program coordinator for Campus Wellness. “The best thing is that the interest is there. A lot of people are breaking down exercise barriers, and it shows that if you give people the opportunity to come out and run and get fit, they’ll come.”
Students and faculty of all fitness levels walked and ran the course, which started at the Russell House and looped twice to Pendleton and Senate streets and back down Sumter. Second-year international studies student Serina Dib ran with friend Matt Mills to help push him through his first race.
“It always helps to exercise with a friend, and you get to meet so many other people at events like this,” Dib said. “It’s a lot more fun than just running by yourself, and it shows a lot of positive impact on campus.”
Mills, a University Technology Services employee, decided to run as a complement to his daily exercise with Campus Wellness’s six-week “Walking Works” program. He finished his first 5K in 45 minutes.
“I’ve just been doing the elliptical for 30 minutes every day, and it’s helped,” Mills said. “It’s probably not the best preparation for a race, but it has made a big difference compared to where I was two months ago. [This race] gives me a goal to do better in the future.”
The Changing Carolina 5K also marked a significant achievement for Larialmy and Jaquin Allen, USC staff members who were contestants on this year’s season of “The Biggest Loser”. Since the beginning of training on the show, Larialmy has lost 84 pounds, while Jaquin has lost 100. The couple said they are continuing to reach their weight goals by exercising together.
“Once we left the ranch, we were fired up to keep this going, and we keep getting closer to our goal weights,” Larialmy said. ”We got to talk to a lot of people who said they had been watching and were inspired to start losing weight. It was a great feeling.”
The Changing Carolina 5K was the Allen’s first road race together. Both finished under 50 minutes and plan on training their way to the 8K Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston.
“Keeping pace was the most challenging part ... but [the other runners] motivated us to keep going, especially all you skinny people running past me,” Jaquin said jokingly at the finish line. “Six months ago, I would have tripped you ... I wouldn’t have gotten past the first lap.”
According to the 2008 USC College Health Assessment Survey, 22 percent of students do not get any vigorous exercise during the week (the baseline recommendation is 30 minutes of moderate to rigorous activity for five to six days out of the week). Trio programs faculty member Kyndron Hilton, who ran for her weekend challenge as part Campus Wellness’s eight-week Choose to Lose program, hopes that more students and faculty, not just race participants, will be motivated to start getting more recommended exercise.
“[The turnout] shows a lot of people are really serious about getting fit, but it’s also not a huge turnout when you think about how many people there are total on campus,” Hilton said. “It’s a good start though. I’m going to start encouraging my friends, family and coworkers to come to things like this.”
“All you have to do is get out here and try it,” Hilton said. “There are lots of other people who are just getting started — just take the first step and see how well you do. You might surprise yourself.”
To help sustain motivation year-round, Campus Wellness offers free health screenings as well as nutrition and exercise consultations. For those looking to get in shape but aren’t sure where to start, Rooney has three suggestions.
“Get a baseline assessment done and get an idea of where you’re starting from, know that it’s always better to do something over nothing and find something to do that you think is fun,” Rooney said. “There’s such a wide variety of activities offered at this university, through Campus Recreation, Campus Wellness and student organizations, and you’ll need to find something you enjoy doing if you think you’re going to stick with it later.”