Working out at work: Rec Services makes it easy to stay fit on campus
McLure, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, hits the volleyball courts at the Field House middays three times a week. Men and women from six different University departments join him as teammates and opponents.
They're a notorious bunch.
"I enjoy this group. It's fun to see familiar faces every time. We know each other's moves, and we know how to trash-mouth each other," McLure says. "We're serious. It's pretty tough competition. But it's good exercise, too.
"I have this wonderful resurgence of energy to go back to work refreshed. I can be more productive."
Whether playing volleyball, shooting hoops, jogging the track, swimming, or lifting weights, McLure has been working out via the Division of Recreational Services since he came to the University in the summer of 1969.
He and his fellow noontime court mates are among the estimated 30 percent of University faculty and staff regularly participating in Rec Services.
Paul Perry, professor of clinical and administrative psychiatry and pharmacy, is another one of those regulars. He takes to the indoor Recreation Building courts at least four days a week during the winter, part of his routine since he came to the University in 1973.
Perry says the courts offer much more than merely a way to stay in shape. They give him a reason to stay in town.
He has developed close friendships with many fellow players, and he considers the courts and camaraderie "the real perks" for University employees.
He admits that those tennis courts, in part, have kept him from being wooed away to another university.
"I might not still be here if it weren't for those tennis courts," Perry says. "Our strong Rec Services programs and facilities contribute significantly to the quality of life of this community."
Offerings have changed and expanded since the Field House opened 75 years ago at a time when the main floor was dirt and no one aerobicized or Stairmastered.
When Harry Ostrander, director of Rec Services, came to the University 32 years ago, his budget was $17,500 a year; it's now $3.5 million.
Today, the Field House is one of six popular Rec Services venues built for students but shared by faculty and staff. Others include track and tennis at the Recreation Building northwest of Kinnick Stadium, the Fitness East workout facility in Halsey Hall, and the Klotz Tennis Courts on the corner of Melrose and Woolf avenues.
More are in the works. Among them, a west-campus athletic and recreation complex with Olympic-size swimming pool, six indoor tennis courts, and 10 outdoor courts scheduled to open by 2005.
"There's a long history to the Field House and the program," Ostrander says. "We're about to make some history, too. It's a critical time for us, as we build new facilities and our programs grow."
There are already hundreds of activities for University employees and their families to participate in, from archery to aerobics, racquetball to rock climbing.
Even though many people might think of campus recreation as being student-centered, McLure encourages University employees to break a sweat.
"I'm not sure faculty and staff are as aware of all that's out there as the students are," he says. "I think they'd be surprised to find out how accessible and relatively inexpensive the activities are."
Rec Services features seven major program areas with an array of opportunities in each.
Faculty and staff can play intramural sports alongside students or join one of more than two dozen sports clubs. They might opt to join the faculty/staff golf league.
Or they could take lessons in gymnastics, swimming, tennis, rowing, and martial arts.
How about tackling a "Touch the Earth" offering such as climbing, canoeing, mountain biking, or cross-country skiing?
Families might trek 15 miles north to the Macbride Nature Recreation Area for summer wildlife camps, hiking, or a visit to the Macbride Raptor Center.
Then there are the informal recreation and fitness options available. The Field House hastake a deep breaththe swimming pool, cardio machines, weights, two mat rooms, table tennis, basketball, volleyball, badminton, racquetball, handball, walleyball, squash, a climbing wall, spinning, and aerobics.
"There's a lot going on, eh? We're jam-packed," says Ostrander, who starts his days with a 25- minute jog on the track and some stretching.
Judy Liskin-Gasparro's involvement with Rec Services has been behind the scenes, as well as on the machines, during her nine years at the University.
The associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese volunteered for three years on the Recreation Services Committee. She helped successfully lobby to get the Field House's workout rooms, called the Fitness Loft, opened earlier during the week.
She and workout pal Bonnie Sunstein, associate professor of English and education, meet nearly every morning for an hour of machines, weights, and conversation.
"The hardest part of working out is getting up out of bed to do it. Once I'm up, I'm OK," she says. "There's a welcoming, friendly, nonthreatening atmosphere at the Field House, and I've developed a real circle of friends there. They're my 'gym buddies.'
"It puts a very human face on a big university."
by Amy Schoon