Last month my office took part in a Community Health Assessment and Group Survey. Jered and Becca from Purdue University came to our office, took a tour and asked questions about the healthy habits of our workplace.
They wanted to know about the nutrition of the food and beverages in our vending machines, whether we encouraged healthy foods at our carry-ins, if we had drinking fountains and refrigerator and microwave access for employees to carry in homemade lunches. Did our workers have opportunities to take walks during lunches and breaks? How close was our office to public trails if staff members wanted to bike or walk to work (.2 miles). Were we close to public transportation? (Yes, across the street.) And did we promote using our stairwell rather than the elevator? I had to admit that I hadn’t really thought about these questions before. It made me realize that, even without spending money, we were doing pretty well encouraging healthy habits in our employees. And I had to give the credit to my staff.
Several folks here are healthy eaters and regular exercisers, and they encourage one another. One name in particular came to mind—Human Resource Administrative Assistant Dorothy Tinker Hairston. Dorothy has always been health conscious around the office, nagging us to avoid sugary soft drinks and over-salted snacks. Until not too long ago she led her fellow employees in weekly aerobics classes in our lobby after work. She took the lead on that project, and we got points for that on the health survey.
Currently, Dorothy has taken her fitness skills on the road, so to speak. Interested in her own fitness, she started working with a personal trainer in March 2015. “You think you’re healthy,” she said, “I walked, drank lots of water, and thought I was eating healthy…” But then her trainer really put her to work.
She started going to the McMillen Center for strength training and Zumba classes, two hours each Monday and Wednesday, and went on her own another four days a week.
Those classes ended at McMillen but Dorothy kept going, keeping up her own fitness program. The Center’s staff saw how committed she was and offered her an opportunity. In February of this year she started leading her own group in one-hour fitness sessions on Mondays and Wednesday. There were fifteen women in her first class, but since February there have never been fewer than twenty-five in Dorothy’s classes. Some nights there have been up to fifty. “We have all ages and backgrounds, all ethnicities, all fitness levels,” she said, “The one thing they have in common is their desire to get healthy.”
Dorothy has earned many testimonials about her leadership of the Cardio-Fit class. One woman in particular helped inspire Dorothy to get involved with the McMillen Center group. Her friend Shilane Davis was on her way to a doctor’s appointment to prepare for weight loss surgery. She was worried about her health, as she was having trouble walking and even breathing. She told Dorothy that she knew she had to do something when her young son asked her if she was going to die. Dorothy said, “Wait, let’s try to do this without the surgery.” And she did. Today Shilane has gone from a size 30 dress to size 14 through diet and exercise. She was committed to a change, and she got support through her friendships with Dorothy and the Cardio-fit family.
Dorothy’s secret to success is her people skills. Personal fitness starts from within, with a desire to feel good and healthy. “I can’t make someone fit if they don’t want it for themselves,” says Dorothy, “but I love people and when you love people you see past their differences—you see that all of us are on the same path toward a goal of getting healthy. I learn peoples’ names, their personal fitness goals, and their limitations. My ladies know I care about them and I think that keeps them going. I know they keep me going on those days when I’d just rather stay in bed.”
Like me, Dorothy believes that, “We all arrive at different times.” Yes, we’re all different, but we all want the same things, and good health is one of those things.
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