SJR Column: Campus Wellness, March 2017

In 1948, the preamble of the new World Health Organization’s constitution redefined “health” as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease.” That unprecedented definition, conveying the more positive aspects of health, sparked the worldwide “wellness movement.” Since then, wellness has become an important part of both community and university life across the U.S.

The heart of campus wellness at UIS is the TRAC (The Recreation and Athletic Center), a 72,000 square-foot facility that opened in 2007 – thanks in part to a generous gift from the Hoogland Family Foundation of Springfield’s own Charles and Kathleen Hoogland.

A state-of-the-art wellness and recreation facility, TRAC houses multiple indoor sport and fitness venues including basketball and volleyball courts, an elevated running track, cardio and weight training areas and a multi-purpose exercise room. Led by Director of Campus Recreation James Koeppe, TRAC staff provide a variety of wellness programs for students, faculty and staff including group fitness classes (like strength and cardio training, Pilates, yoga, martial arts and dance), intramural sports programs and even personal training services.

“TRAC is more than just a place to work out,” says James. “It’s a lively gathering place on campus. There’s a real sense of belonging and community here at the same time the programs we offer encourage participants to develop healthy habits of exercise and good nutrition – habits that improve all aspects of their lives.”

Taylor Davis, a sophomore majoring in Exercise Science, is one of those participants. “I started my fitness journey at the TRAC on February 16, 2016,” she says, “when I participated in a free fitness assessment.” Taylor now works out on her own or participates in a fitness class six days per week. She is also working on earning certification as a personal trainer and is a student employee at TRAC teaching weight training.

TRAC is also home to UIS’s Division II Prairie Stars athletics and a valuable addition to the program this year is Chris Lowe, the new Strength and Conditioning Coach. Thanks to a partnership with the Springfield Clinic, Chris works with the 260 Prairie Stars student-athletes on all 15 athletic teams.

“Though each team has their own strength and conditioning plan, I take an individualized approach,” says Chris. “Teams with professional strength and conditioning programs are more competitive and, in addition to strength and conditioning workouts, I educate students about the importance of sleep, good nutrition and adequate hydration.”

“Working with Coach Lowe has changed how I take care of myself physically and emotionally – making me a better player and a better student,” says Mike Rothmund, a Junior first baseman from Lombard, Illinois who is majoring in Communications.

“My diet has changed dramatically for the better and it’s nice to have someone here who is really looking out for you on a personal level.”

Mike’s work with Coach Lowe is certainly paying off … during a 4-game swing last weekend, he hit 3 home runs and drove in 8 more, helping the Prairie Stars win 3 of 4 games.

Campus Recreation also offers wellness opportunities for UIS employees and their partners via a TRAC membership program and many faculty and staff utilize the facility to maintain health and wellness.

“The importance of exercise is well established in health related literature not only for physical but also for mental health,” says TRAC member Rassule Hadidi, UIS Professor of Management Information Systems.

“Most of us [faculty] do not get the daily required walking and moving that is essential for good health,” he continues. “I have enjoyed participating in fitness classes at TRAC during my lunch hour and the instructors are welcoming, knowledgeable and motivating.”

Sophia Gehlhausen Anderson, Coordinator of Programs and Outreach for the UIS Diversity Center, agrees. A regular participant each week in the “On TRAC” fitness class (a popular cardio and strength training program), Sophia especially appreciates the educational opportunities TRAC provides. “I’ve really learned a whole new way to work out that exercises the whole body – much different than the jogging I used to do exclusively,” she says.

“It’s not just the fitness and social aspects of the classes that we like, but also the learning that takes place.”

Residents of the Springfield area are invited to visit the TRAC on April 19 from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM for the Annual Health and Wellness Fair. The Fair features a variety of interactive booths and educational opportunities presented by UIS departments and Springfield community participants. I hope to see you there!

Chancellor Susan J. Koch