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R. Steve Dick/University Relations

Frank DeSalvo, associate vice provost for Student Success, swims in the Robinson Health and Physical Education Center pool.

Swimming in opportunities

By Mike Krings

Sweating for health

The KU Medical Center offers exercise classes specifically tailored for individuals with diabetes.

Cyber rec

KU Recreation Services web site.
As sure as the upcoming holidays will bring thanks, carolers, snow and Santa Claus, they will also bring turkey, candy, Christmas cookies and extra pounds. Fortunately for KU employees, there are a wealth of recreational opportunities available to work off the holiday pounds and stay healthy throughout the year.

Of course there are the traditional treadmills and gyms, but there are a slew of less-traditional options, such as rock climbing, yoga, martial arts and camping. And most of them are free or low-cost.

Faculty and staff can use Robinson Health and Physical Education Center and its facilities at no cost. The center has a gym, weight room, racquetball courts, basketball courts and swimming pools that are open to faculty and staff during designated hours. Spouses of employees can buy passes to exercise at the facility.

Despite its name, the Student Recreation Fitness Center is open to faculty and staff as well. Employees can buy memberships to the center, as can their spouses. Memberships require a monthly fee, which can be paid through payroll deduction.

Like Robinson, the recreation center offers a variety of physical fitness options. Perhaps the most striking is the 42-foot rock wall located just inside the main door. The wall offers four paths of varying difficulty, as well as a bouldering wall. Those who hone their climbing skills on the wall can take it to the great outdoors with the lessons they learn in belay classes, which teach the techniques of harness tying and climbing safety.

Soon, the center will have more space and new amenities to offer those seeking a good workout. Plans call for groundbreaking next spring on a 45,000 square foot addition, said Mary Chapell, director of recreation services. The new space will house four new multi-purpose courts, an expanded free weight section, new martial arts rooms, two racquetball courts and a new suspended track that will surround the courts. The expansion, which will be located on the northeast corner of the center, should be completed by April 2008.

Those looking for guidance in developing an exercise program can take advantage of the personal trainer program. Student trainers can work with individuals for $10 per session.

The Fit4U program can help people gauge their fitness levels. Assessments of resting heart rate, blood pressure, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, body fat percentage, muscular strength and endurance can be performed through the program.

Given the academic setting of a university, it's only natural that classes are available to help keep people fit. KUFit offers classes such as yoga, Pilates, and kick boxing. Classes are limited to 30 participants and are open to beginners and experts. A KUFit pass is required to attend classes. The pass, which costs $50 per semester, covers all classes.

"All classes are taught to all skill levels, whether it's beginner, intermediate or advanced," said Jill Urkoski, associate director of fitness and staff development.

The center offers the standard treadmills, stationary bikes, resistance training equipment, racquetball and courts for basketball, volleyball and badminton, but is also a place for relaxed recreation. Foosball and air hockey tables are always available for fun without the sweat. And if the great outdoors is more your speed, the center offers rental kayaks, canoes, tents, sleeping bags and general camping equipment. Recreation Services also oversee the Adams Campus Challenge Course, an outdoor setting that provides physical, team-building, leadership-oriented challenges. Each is designed to boost communication and build trust among participants while helping develop problem solving abilities.

Urkoski said there is often a perception that an individual must already be fit to go to a fitness center. Others are intimidated by the thought of exercising next to a 19-year-old.

"We welcome anybody and hope they have a good experience and want to come back," she said.

The rec centers aren't the only place to look to improve health. Human Resources and Equal Opportunity offers classes such as yoga in the workplace and stress management. And, as anyone who has ever crossed campus can attest to, there are plenty of hills and scenic byways that provide an ideal setting for a walk or jog.

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The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information in the university’s programs and activities. Retaliation is also prohibited by university policy. The following persons have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies and are the Title IX coordinators for their respective campuses: Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access,, 1246 West Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS 66045, 785-864-6414, 711 TTY (for the Lawrence, Edwards, Parsons, Yoder, and Topeka campuses); Director, Equal Opportunity Office, Mail Stop 7004, 4330 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Fairway, KS 66205, 913-588-8011, 711 TTY (for the Wichita, Salina, and Kansas City, Kansas, medical center campuses).