Written by Gregg Brekke
As their co-workers ponder lunch options and errand runs, a health-hungry group of Church House employees dons sweats and sneakers three times a week for an invigorating "WOW" experience.
Around a dozen walkers gather in front of a DVD player and monitor at the west end of the Church House's eighth floor, staking out their space to spend 30 minutes "Walking Off Weight" – the title of fitness instructor Leslie Sansone's cardiovascular-boosting DVD that they use.
Walkers elevate heart rate levels and a spirit of camaraderie with others in the building whose paths they do not ordinarily cross.
"Participating with a group has motivated and inspired me," says Rita O. Jackson, administrative assistant for finances in the Global Sharing Of Resources area of Wider Church Ministries. "At the end of the day, I have done 30 minutes of exercise that I normally would not have."
Ironically, the first step in forming the lunchtime pick-me-up was taken after Jackson received a copy of the DVD as a Christmas gift from co-worker Phyllis Richards – but wasn't using it on her own. Richards, program associate for Global Sharing of Resources, sensed an in-house interest in WOW and sought the support of the UCC Pension Boards, Minister for Community Life Kimberly Whitney and parish nurse Lisa Thomas.
The group was soon up and walking.
"I do not like to exercise, but this experience has been quite rewarding for me," says Jackson. "I consistently attend, which is a benefit in itself. Along with trimming fat from my diet in January, I am down a pant size."
Says Thomas, "Any activity that is owned by the group is always a good thing. And this definitely is. It has filled a need and is very convenient. It's not dependent on the weather, and you don't even have to leave the building."
The timing was excellent, adds Thomas, because it followed the "March Madness" program at Church House that encourages forgoing elevator rides in favor of walking the stairs. "This is a great transition from March Madness, to get people active in a different kind of way."
For Ann Hanson, minister for sexuality education and justice in Justice and Witness Ministries, WOW is a liberating, midday way to move the body and mute the mind. "It means leaving my telephone, computer and desk behind, shedding work shoes and donning tennis shoes. It makes for good energy, conversation and laughter. We come in all sizes, abilities and ages – but have two things in common – sweat and fun!"
Ferne Clements, administrative assistant in Justice and Witness Ministries, adds, "The energy you get from it lasts the rest of the day. Having co-workers walking together creates an environment of fun and support."