Wednesday, June 23, 2021
By Claudia Zequeira and Wendy Jo Moyer
Ron Owens lives for fitness and wellness. At Valencia College, where Ron began working in 2008, Ron serves as teaching lab supervisor for the Physical Education department, where he is also department chair. He also teaches numerous health and wellness-related classes and oversees the operation of the West Campus Fitness Center — all activities that historically took place face-to-face. Then COVID hit.
In the time following our campus closures, Ron stepped up his game to meet the fitness and wellness needs of fellow Valencians.
“The pandemic kinda gobsmacked most of us, and we had to adjust quickly to a new and hopefully temporary normal. I had a lot of people reach out to me for advice and ideas on how to at least maintain some semblance of fitness, so much of it was on a one-on-one basis.”
In response to his colleagues’ multiple requests for how to continue their exercise and healthy living practices during a time when most wanted to binge eat, he assisted those employees one-on-one via phone and email to guide them on ways to stay active and eat well.
“People were really not sure what to do to keep themselves healthy,” he explained, adding that he also developed a series of “Staying Well During the Pandemic” employee webinars, which proved to be very popular. Addressing topics including as how technology affects health, how should I move and how should I eat, Ron was able to reach colleagues eager to connect and stay healthy during uncertain times.
In addition, Ron wrote a series of columns shared in the West and Downtown Campus Concentrate and The Grove addressing similar topics.
For students, Ron’s courses — which used to take place in the West Campus Fitness Center — now had to move online.
“So much of what I teach is interactive in a physical way,” he said about the shift to online learning. “That was my biggest challenge.”
He transitioned his Strength Training course into an online course and utilized Valencia College’s new Real-time Virtual format for his Personal Fitness and Wellness course. Courses contained a strong journaling component, where he asked students to record their health and fitness progress. He would offer critiques about the journal entries, and classes would discuss the entries during online discussions.
Well before the pandemic, Ron was also involved with the Step Challenge, an event open to students, faculty and staff. The initiative was born in 2017 when Ron and other colleagues noticed that many of Criminal Justice students eager to start training in the Law Enforcement Academy lacked the fitness levels need to meet entrance exam requirements. The Criminal Justice and Physical Education departments host the challenge each term. Teams are then created and participants get to compete with other teams to see who had the most steps.
Fortunately, Ron continued the Challenge during every semester since the pandemic started.
“The challenge has been a great way for people to get or stay motivated to be active before, and especially during this crazy time that we are living through right now,” he said. “We know that it makes sense and is a healthy thing to get outside in the sunshine and fresh air to get some exercise. However, it is easy to not do that when you get involved in your work at home. Having four other people who are counting on you to get your steps in makes it much more likely that you will stay on track. We motivate each other, compete with each other and congratulate each other all along the way.”
And that Challenge has been successful. During the Summer 2021 term, the Challenge has 16 teams with five individuals on each team including students, staff, faculty and combinations of all three.
“I love to be a part of people achieving their best and realizing what a very wise person in my life once said, ‘You don’t know what you are capable of until you challenge yourself,'” he said.
Do you know a faculty member doing great work? Or, perhaps you’d like to share the work you’re doing? Send the colleague’s (or your) name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu and include Faculty Highlight Nomination in the subject line of your email. We might just feature your colleague (or you) as an upcoming Faculty Highlight.