Tang Center staffers ‘walk the talk’ with fitness

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs



Phylis Lyons, a vocational rehabilitation counselor for UHS, pumps iron during a noontime workout session at the Tang Center.
Noah Berger photo

21 February 2001 | In the belief that they should practice what they preach, and in the interest of their abs, a group of University Health Services’ staff has made fitness a workplace institution.

The health-conscious group of some 25 Tang Center employees — administrators, doctors, clinic assistants, workman’s comp specialists and nurses among them — kick into action twice a week at noon.

On go the T-shirts and exercise shorts, and out from balconies, crannies and office corners come exercise mats, free weights, aerobic “steps” and jumbo balls.

Soon Motown sounds drift softly through Tang’s open rotunda, as a student trainer goads staffers — the majority of them women over 40 — to do their wall squats and chest presses in top form.

Steve Lustig, assistant vice chancellor for university health services, admits to feeling a little guilty “as I wade through the dedicated bunch on my way to eat lunch.” But as the campus health center, he added, “what better message than to have our own staff out there exercising on their lunch hour.”

“Health is not about being a certain size, but about doing things you want to do without injury,” said UHS Finance Manager Alice Kubler, who started the exercise group with Clinical Services Assistant Director Pam Cameron two and a half years ago.

Flexibility and strength are “important for prevention of osteoporosis and for movement, particularly as we get older,” Kubler said.

“As a manager, I feel some responsibility to contribute to the work environment, through leadership and role modeling,” she added. “We spend a lot of time here. It ought to be as fun as possible.”

Kubler and Cameron thought a work-site exercise club could help promote a sense of community as well as fitness. It has.

Vocational Rehab Counselor Phylis Lyons, for example, works four 10-hour days in the Workers’ Compensation unit. The exercise hour gives her energy for her long afternoon and strength to help her avoid some of the injuries her clients sustain — as well as a chance to meet Tang clinic staff, who see students, not employees.

“Everyone’s more buff,” said Carol Hoffman, manager of work/life program development. “And a lot of work gets done, too. We’ll return phone calls at exercise class.”

Participants spend 45 seconds to a minute at each station, until “teddy bear drill sergeant” Hank Behrens (Kubler’s term) gives the cue to switch.

A 6’4” sophomore and former football player, Behrens works as a strength trainer for Cal athletes, with a side job serving up motivation and pointers to Tang staff: “Hey! Keep that leg straight!” or “Bend your knees. Not so high.”

For UHS gynecologist Bob Stuart, a fitness-group “original,” such nagging is especially helpful for his “least favorite” station on the circuit — push-ups.

Of course, you’re also vulnerable to prodding if you’re sailing through a routine.

“If Hank thinks an exercise is too easy for you, he’ll modify,” said Cameron. “But we don’t generally volunteer that information. We’re not that noble.”


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