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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

August 26, 2005

Dislike exercise? Here's your gym

By Samantha Beres

A year ago Nikki Bado-Fralick was looking for a place to exercise. She'd had open-heart surgery in 2000 and a recent foot surgery. After trying a gym where the machines were a bit intimidating and the lines long, she asked her neighbor (who was looking fit and trim) how she got in shape.

Warren Franke and Nikki Bado-Fralick

Exercise Clinic director Warren Franke visits with Nikki Bado-Fralick. Photo by Grant Steinfeldt.

This was the first time Bado-Fralick, assistant professor of religious studies and women's studies had heard of ISU's Exercise Clinic. The clinic, in the Forker Building, has been in operation for 30 years. It serves faculty, staff and retired ISU employees. Thirty percent of the members come from the Ames community.

Not your ordinary gym

"I had been looking for a place like this for a while," Bado-Fralick said. "There's a lot of personal attention. There are knowledgeable people working there who tailor a program for you and show you how to use the equipment." She could also do a full workout with her still-healing foot.

Every new member starts with an assessment for flexibility, muscular endurance and strength, body composition and cardio respiratory endurance. Based on that assessment, a program is developed tailored to individual needs. Participants can attend classes held by the clinic or do their program on their own.

The environment may be one of the more inviting factors. "The atmosphere is extremely friendly," Bado-Fralick said. She added that there's no showing off and people of various fitness levels are there to exercise.

Members range in age from about 30 to 80 years old. Most are middle-aged and older. The fitness of members runs the gamut. Some have injuries, health issues or handicaps and some are extremely fit.

Clinic director Warren Franke described the atmosphere bluntly. "We don't have a meat-market appeal." One of his goals is to break down the barriers people have of the "glitzy gym" environment.

Why not be a couch potato?

"The big message I try to get across is simply that physical activity is a very cost-effective way of having a healthy life," Franke said. "Notice, I said physical activity. A lot of programs market to people who already exercise. My program caters to people who know that they need to exercise but aren't crazy about it."

One way he keeps members coming back is through personal attention. Graduate students act as personal trainers to members.

"They're more like physical therapists than jocks," said Bado-Fralick, who explained that the graduate students come up with solutions to problems such as how members who've had heart attacks or surgery can gain muscular growth.

While Franke emphasizes the importance of a healthy lifestyle, he also stresses why: to prevent or reduce the risk for chronic disease.

The big one, he said, is cardiovascular disease -- any abnormal condition of the heart or blood vessels. It includes things like high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, heart attack and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control Web site, about 950,000 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each year.

What about those ugly pounds?

Franke said a lot of people walk through the door and want to lose weight. Most are at the highest weight they've ever been when they come in. But the clinic looks at what members need to work on rather than what they want to work on.

Weight loss is more likely to become a byproduct of a more important goal. "We want people to be more active, if they become more fit, then great," Franke said.

For Bado-Fralick, who said she sets small goals and takes it one day at a time, her hard work has paid off. She feels stronger and healthier, has muscle tone where there once was flab and in the last year she lost and kept off 20 pounds.

Her goal for the future? To keep going to the exercise clinic.

The exercise clinic is $60 a semester, $110 per academic year. When you join, you have access to other services, such as a massage, for a discount.

Getting healthy

The Nutrition Clinic on campus offers several options. ISU employees are eligible for three visits to the clinic each calendar year. Registered dietitian Sally Barclay will look at your dietary intake and help you set goals to change your eating habits. The clinic sponsors:

  • Monthly classes on various nutrition topics (This month is "Eating to Slow the Aging Process," noon, Aug. 30. Call or e-mail to reserve a spot.)
  • "Walking Buddies" is a program that encourages employees to fit activity into their workday with a partner.
  • "Healthy Eating" is a support group that meets twice a month.