In January 2010, a group of students, staff and faculty embarked on a 19-week fitness and health journey called the Power Up Challenge.
Two teams of challengers faced off during a series of campus events during winter and spring terms of 2010, gathering points as they work toward becoming healthier versions of themselves. They utilized campus resources, learned to rely on each other, and pushed themselves to new limits.
Two years later, we caught up with several of the participants to see how they’ve done since they ended the Challenge.
Since completing the Power Up Challenge, OSU graphic designer Teresa Hall has discovered that the lessons she learned about herself, and about healthy living, have made an enormous difference. And it’s extended far beyond keeping fit and active.
Hall originally signed up for the Challenge to recover her strength after surviving cancer. She ended the Challenge in better shape, with a stronger focus on healthy eating and the confidence to continue exercising. But it also taught her how to ask for help, a skill that has become a literal life-saver as she now deals with her husband Tim’s terminal cancer diagnosis.
Married after completing the Challenge, Hall learned of her husband’s prognosis just before their first wedding anniversary. While the news has been devastating, Hall said she’s leaned on tools she gained during the Challenge to help.
“I reached out and have a counselor, and I don’t think I would have thought of that without the Power Up Challenge,” she said. “That helps me keep a lot of balance mentally. Because he has no cure, it’s just about what time we have left. So having that counselor and having the resources and where to find them has kept me as sane as I’ve been. And that all came from the Challenge. It made this journey so much easier.”
Emotional support has been crucial, but Hall has also depended on a new-found love of running. The reason she did well during the Challenge, she says, was because she had a goal. After finishing the Challenge, her determination began to slip away, until she asked herself some hard questions and realized she needed to set some new goals. So she did something that surprised herself – she decided to sign up for her first half-marathon, even before she ran her first mile.
“Having that goal is a good thing but I also realized there are other things I needed to do besides just run,” she said. “So I met with a trainer to make sure I had exercises to support all parts of my body with that goal. I wanted to make sure my ankles and knees stayed healthy, and by supporting it in other ways it made the whole journey very positive.”
After her husband’s diagnosis, she also found that running became a source of power and strength.
“Running is very cathartic. I can do all sorts of thinking. It’s just for myself, and has extremely helped me get through this cancer thing. I can’t imagine not running and staying as sane,” she said. “It’s my own rhythmic debrief.”
She successfully ran the Corvallis Half-Marathon in April, and now wants to do several more, including ones at Disney Land and Disney World. And she wants to keep taking care of herself, because in the long run, everyone around her benefits.
“I’ve made sure I’ve physically stayed healthy, nutritionally stayed healthy, emotionally stayed healthy as much as possible,” she said. “I have to be healthy to take care of (Tim), and if I’m not that is going to wear on both of us.”
Joey Jenkins may not be getting much sleep these days, but he doesn’t mind. His new baby daughter, Lucy Alexis Jenkins, is a pretty cute reason to feel tired.
But a good night’s sleep is actually something Jenkins credits the Power Up Challenge with. When he signed up for the challenge, his aim was to participate in a 112-mile bike ride. But he discovered that the benefits of the challenge were a lot broader than he’d expected.
“The biggest change I went through in the Power Up Challenge was from changing my sleep habits,” he said. “I had struggled to get six hours of sleep per night for over four years and had made it a goal and never accomplished it. Taking the Power Up Challenge gave me a team of people supporting my progress and I not only got six hours of sleep, but averaged seven for the entire challenge. It made huge impacts in my marriage and my work.”
For Jenkins, staying in shape was never an obstacle. The challenge was much more about work-life balance and self-healing, as well as building a stronger relationship with his wife, Stephanie. She played a crucial role in his life as a strong friend after the death of his girlfriend in a car crash, and the friendship eventually grew into marriage, and now, the birth of their first child in early November.
Having graduated from OSU, Jenkins now works as the fitness manager for a gym in Beaverton, and he and his wife run a non-profit that supports an orphanage in Haiti. Jenkins’ Power Up Challenge certificate hangs up in his home office to remind him to maintain his work-life balance.
“Even though I am very self motivated and personally accountable,” he said, “having a team to support me makes me a much better man, friend, coworker and husband.
Now, he just has to figure out how to get seven hours of sleep again.
When Liz Etherington decided to join the OSU Power Up Challenge in 2010, she was looking to make a positive step towards better health, and put the tragedies of the recent past behind her.
The fitness challenge offered Etherington the motivation and the support she needed to begin improving both her physical and emotional strength after the death of her son during an emergency delivery in 2009. Struggling with post-surgery issues and the busy life of a mom to her daughter, she knew she needed to make some serious changes to her fitness regimen if she wanted to be healthy enough to try pregnancy again.
This summer, Etherington gave birth to a healthy, active baby girl named Camas. She said it was scary to try and have another baby after learning that a genetic condition led to the loss of her son. But being physically fit and active contributed to the success of her new pregnancy, and also kept her calm and focused.
“I tried to stay as healthy and active as possible. I went to Dixon every day, and that helped tremendously,” she said. Close monitoring by her physician, a series of injections to address the blood clotting issues she was suffering, and steady physical activity kept her healthy, and she had a successful planned C-section.
“I knew the healthier I was, the better the pregnancy would be,” she said. “That was always a question in the back of my mind, if keeping up a healthy lifestyle could ward off unforeseeable problems.”
Making the gym a regular habit, and paying closer attention to what she ate, were both skills that Etherington said she gained during the Power Up Challenge. She also enjoyed the support of teammates, some of whom she kept in contact with after the challenge.
Not only did maintaining her physical activity level help her have a healthier pregnancy, but it also helped her deal with the stress she was facing.
“It was forcing me to take time for myself,” she said. “I would listen to music or read a book while working out, and it was nice to step away from stress.”
She also found that she lost her pregnancy weight a lot faster than her previous pregnancies because she was already in such good shape.
Having a new baby has hampered Etherington’s ability to go to the gym recently, but she’s looking forward to getting back on track. It’s a habit she doesn’t want to ever give up.
“I know it’s important,” she said.
~ Theresa Hogue
This article was originally published in LIFE@OSU on December 21, 2011.