Well Dukes

S2 Ep. 9 Mentorship through Exercise

January 26, 2022 JMU UREC Health Promotion, Tim Howley Season 2 Episode 9
S2 Ep. 9 Mentorship through Exercise
Well Dukes
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Well Dukes
S2 Ep. 9 Mentorship through Exercise
Jan 26, 2022 Season 2 Episode 9
JMU UREC Health Promotion, Tim Howley

Tim Howley joins the podcast to discuss the solution to your New Year's Resolution, the Mentorship through Exercise program! Tune in to hear how to find an effective stress outlet through regular physical activity while networking with the faculty and staff members of JMU. Mentorship has been shown to effectively connect students to faculty on their campus  brings in a way that has the potential to increase the students’ sense of belonging to the campus community. Rebecca Lebedun also joins us to share why she is taking part of this program as a mentor.

Mentorship through Exercise - click here!

Follow us on Social Media! @jmuurec
Be Well, Dukes!

Show Notes Transcript

Tim Howley joins the podcast to discuss the solution to your New Year's Resolution, the Mentorship through Exercise program! Tune in to hear how to find an effective stress outlet through regular physical activity while networking with the faculty and staff members of JMU. Mentorship has been shown to effectively connect students to faculty on their campus  brings in a way that has the potential to increase the students’ sense of belonging to the campus community. Rebecca Lebedun also joins us to share why she is taking part of this program as a mentor.

Mentorship through Exercise - click here!

Follow us on Social Media! @jmuurec
Be Well, Dukes!

MG: Welcome to the Well Dukes podcast. This is your host Mary Grace, I use she/her pronouns and I am a graduate student for health promotion here at UREC. Our topic today is exercise as medicine and learning a little bit more about the exercise mentorship program that we are relaunching this semester. And this is a pretty new concept to me so I have one of our health sciences faculty members here to give a little bit more detail. And I'll let him introduce himself.

Tim: Right. Thank you Mary Grace. Thanks for having me. My name is Tim Howly, and I am a lecturer in the Department of Health Sciences. I use he/him/his pronouns, and I am a double Duke.

So I graduated from JMU back in 2004 with my BS in Kinesiology and in 2005 with my Master of Arts in Teaching, and I'm currently studying for my doctorate at the UNC Greensboro, and that doctorate is a Doctorate of education in kinesiology.

MG:  I have heard that you're kind of a legend around here, you used to be one of the REACH peer mentors when you were here back in the day, is that right? 

Tim: Oh, I didn't realize you did some research but yes, yes, the Office of Health Promotion was a big part of my undergraduate career, and I was in the peer education group. It was known as REACH at the time. I was a student coordinator my senior year and, and then I was a graduate assistant there as well, and worked on things like Potty Mouth, and lots of, lots of things. I worked for five years when health promotion was with the Health Center, and I advised groups like REACH and CARE and that's where I met my wife, so, I have a very special place in my heart for all things, health promotion.

MG: Same here we have a great staff, and I'm glad that this is also one of your passionate areas and we get to kind of connect this once again through this podcast, and you mentioned to me before that you are doing your dissertation on this concept of utilizing exercise to better, you know every single aspect of our lives. So, are you able to tell me just a little bit more, a brief overview of exercise as medicine and how that can fit into our daily lives?

Tim: Yeah, of course. So, as I was like beginning the dissertation process and looking for topics of interest. One of the things that I was really interested in doing was blending the idea of physical activity and health and well being right? and so those are my passion, and the other passion is, I guess, college students because I've worked with this population for 15 years professionally right?

Well, when I just started the program I had just had a really positive experience with a student, and it kind of started really organically. He was a student who I had in class. And then he was also in a student organization that I advised and I happened to be playing on that intramural sand volleyball team in the fall semester. And so after one of our games at UPARK the student was looking for somebody to play racquetball with, and I hadn't played racquetball in like 10 plus years but I was like Yeah sure. I played back when I was a student, and I'd be happy to play again so then we just put it on the books. We had a great time. And then, we're like at the end of the racquetball game like oh do you want to play again like next week? And then it kind of just started happening like weekly that we've kind of just kept on meeting. In these racquetball, you know, battles, but if you will. We were playing racquetball but we're also building a relationship. And it turned into really kind of like this mentorship relationship where we were just had honest conversations about things that were going on in his life and I shared with him things going on in my life and I had mentored students before, but this mentorship was a little bit unique and different. And I would say probably deeper than other mentorships that I had had before. And that's what ended up kind of making me want to explore this a little bit further. When my dissertation was like, oh, maybe there's something here. Maybe there is that physical activity piece that kind of helped you know make me more approachable, or, you know, connect in a different way.

But after all is said and done, like next semester we continue to play racquetball we continue to play pickup ball too that's one of my other favorites. We did pickleball doubles and intramurals so that was fun. And then he ended up like babysitting my kids, and then helping me coach my son's Little League team. so I'm still in contact with him today and when I think about my role. My professional role, like the thing that I'm most proud of in my professional work are the relationships that I built with students and, and for sure, the relationship that I had built with him is something that I'm really proud of. And I just love still being in contact with him today, and hearing about you know what's going on in his life post JMU

And since that time I've continued to, you know, have these relationships and mentorships through physical activity and, and they all seem to be really powerful and and I think it's a great way to do something really healthy you know like be physically active, but also build a connection with somebody on campus. 

MG: This is a great way to find some common ground between, you know, a faculty member that, you know, I might not always just approach someone and start chatting them up and like, create that mentorship, but to have this more directed way of getting to know someone, sharing in you know the physical activity where you have something to relate to the other person on, And then also, you know, building such a great connection, like you said, having all of those years and still staying in touch with this student that just started as playing racquetball a couple of times a week is a really cool concept. And since you're doing your dissertation over something very similar and kind of leading up to “What is this mentorship program?” Can you tell us a little bit more about your findings there. And just like the background of it.

Tim: Sure, the first process of the dissertation work has really been to do a deep dive into literature and the research. And what we're finding out with the literature and the research is, mental health and well being of college students has been a concern before the pandemic. And pandemic has only made a dire situation even, you know, more, more important to look at and universities, want to make sure that we're addressing the needs of our students, and being proactive and having, you know, programs that are going to really facilitate well being. So, that's the one thing that I found.

The other thing I found is mentorships, something that's used not only in higher education but you know in business and in youth development, And it's done in a lot of different ways. What's really great about that is, there's a lot of open endedness to how you can do mentorship. Something that's problematic about it is, it can be hard to measure. And so, but we know that we know that it works, and we know that faculty connections with students is such an important part of the undergraduate experience. And that's something when we look at the pandemic and we look at, like, when we went to virtual. That's a big piece that was missing. Is that a connection that you can build with faculty members hopefully having a program like this can bring that back, of getting to see faculty members outside of the classroom, or any in person you know it's great to be in person again and, like, not over zoom, so that's going to be really important. In terms of what I'm trying to figure out in the dissertation process is right now we're just in a pilot this semester. So we've recruited mentors and mentees, they're going to get started in the program in the next couple weeks, we want to do a pre-test of the students well being and their sense of belonging. And then we'll do a post test at the end of the semester. And we'll see if there's any changes. We’ll also do a focus group to kind of capture some qualitative data about what their experiences were like, And I think that will be really, really helpful and, and tell us like a more holistic story of what actually happened. And then we'll look at the mentorship experience. There's a mentorship survey that I found. and that will just be at the post. And we'll kind of hear about what the mentorship looks like at the end of the semester.

MG: Yeah, that's definitely awesome and, and to really know if there is a difference in these students wanting to stay on campus and feeling like they belong on campus, due to a mentorship and regular exercise as well. Do you have very much expertise on the benefits of exercise on mental health, and exercising in order to not feel overwhelmed and stressed.

Tim: I'm so glad you brought that up because one of the other things that while we know that you know mental health and well being of college students is like a pervasive issue on campuses today. We also know physical activity levels are going down. And so then what are ways that we can encourage students to be physically active and so doing a program like this is going to be really important. Also, one of the things that's so important is if we want people to be physically active we want them to enjoy it. And I used to teach kinesiology 100 lifetime fitness and while I was like, you know, everybody talks about oh like running, running, running, running is great if you like running right maybe you don't running, do not put that in your physical activity plan because the likelihood of you, continuing to run if you hate it is not going to be good. So, right. So you want to do things that you like. And that's what I really liked about the mentorship through exercise program is to find activities that both activities that both people enjoy the mentor and the mentee. Enjoy. Like, I love pickleball. I love that game so I love racquetball so much, so it's not like oh I gotta go work out, it's like, oh I get to go play a game, you know, for me, that's what I love to do. I think it's fun. So finding something that you enjoy is is going to be really important, then, to do it with somebody else is also such a benefit. Right? because there's some days we're just not going to want to go to the gym or, in this case UREC like you just don't want to go, you don't want to like go through the cold oh it's raining, I don't want to, you know, like go back on campus or something like that. But having somebody who you're planning to me, having that accountability partner is such a nice way, you know to get you out there. I know for me, when I have like a racquetball or a pickle ball date scheduled on my calendar like those are days I'm like really excited to go to work and like from the mentees experienced you know too, this is part of my work you know like building relationships with students that's like, probably the most important part of my work and so it's fun, it's work, and it's helping me. It's helping me be physically active. It's helping me with my physical wellness, but it's helping me with my mental and emotional wellness as well so it's like checking all the boxes.

MG: Absolutely. And having that accountability to someone else, and really getting yourself there having something to look forward to during the week when you get to go do a type of exercise that you're actually excited to take part in. I myself am not a runner, and so I don't put that in my workout plan, because I know I'm not going to want to do it. And then the final thing that I was that kind of popped out to me the most is just being able to prioritize both your mental and emotional health, while still prioritizing your physical health as well. And I know that our counseling center has been really overwhelmed with students coming in, especially the past couple of semesters during the pandemic. Some of that stress management or, you know, bodies that stay at rest tend to also have their mind stay at rest and you know that gets very depressing when you're sitting in your room all day and you don't really have much of an outlet, outside of that.

So through this mentorship program, is there anything specific with what your requirements are or is there any specific activity they have to take part in or is that really all up to the mentee and the mentor?

Tim: Yeah, great questions. We're going to leave that up to the mentor and the mentee to find out what works best for them, our guiding principles are going to be, you know, to meet weekly for about an hour, a time. Now, you know of course some things may come up where you know you'll have to miss or, you know, somebody might get sick or something. But that's going to be like the guiding principle: try to meet weekly for an hour, maybe a little bit longer than an hour maybe a little bit less. There's nothing saying that you can't meet more than that. But that's like, what we're looking for. And then we want you to try to just find activities that you enjoy doing. And then we'll give ideas for people. Some groups are going to work great of like, Oh, you like this, I like this weekly will play pick a wall weekly will go for a walk, weekly, will do this… Other people might want to do a different thing every time. I’ll meet up with a student this semester. We'll find out what we both like, you know, maybe we'll try an exercise class together. I think that's always fun you know for me.

Yeah, I like group exercise cycle classes. I've been intimidated to do, like, one that I haven't done before, but if I go with somebody else, then I think I'll be more courageous, you know but I'm not going to maybe sign up for myself. And so if that was something that they were interested in then maybe we would sign up together to like, and we’ll give people like ideas on things that they can do together. And there's program coordinators too. we can help If anybody kind of feels like they're floundering and don't know what to do, we can kind of help give ideas too.

MG: I agree there's definitely safety in numbers. I always feel much better about going to a group-x class with my roommate or a friend, versus just signing up and going by myself or something that I've never done before. The final piece that I really want to touch on. How can exercise really help reduce the stress that our students are feeling, if you can give some background behind why it is important to exercise.

Tim: There's physiological benefits to exercising like going back to fight or flight, you know like, the way our bodies are, you know, respond to stress, are not made for today's world. Right. And so, you know, we have that fight or flight response. And, you know, we get that before we take an exam. Well, fight or flight isn't doing us any good like getting sedentary  for an hour. You know, and we're getting like for, you know, sweating and where our hearts going on right. But if we can channel that into, you know, being physically active. Then that's going to be an appropriate place where it can be that appropriate stress outlet for us. So I think that's the really important thing of making sure that we find time to be physically active and work that stress out and give us a better baseline overall.

MG: Yeah, I was just reading a book over burnout this past summer, and it talks a lot about the fight or flight response that your body is taking on stress. So using exercise as a piece of completing that stress cycle is shown to be very effective and definitely assists with releasing some of that stress that otherwise keeps building, so I definitely just want to encourage our students, any listeners, to take part in this program is the program still accepting applicants or is this something that they would need to wait until the following semester at this point?

Tim: I think if people were really interested I would encourage them to reach out to either myself or Erica Foltz, who's one of the other program coordinators. And we can, we can see if we can work them into this semester, but we have about the right amount of mentors and mentees right now, but things happen so of course if somebody's really interested I would encourage them to reach out and then of course, be on the lookout for it to be offered again for the fall semester next year.

MG: And I know that this is something that you can access on the UREC website as well. if you're interested in either reaching out this semester or planning it for next semester ahead of time.

Tim, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. I have one final fun question for you now… If you could be any fruit, What would you be and why?

Tim: Oh wow, if I can be any fruit. Well, um, I think I would be. Think I'm gonna go with grapefruit, because I've been eating a grapefruit like daily for the last couple years, and it's citrus, it grows in warm weather and, you know, looking out at the snow right now, I'm thinking of a beach. And so that's exciting and, and they're really good for your health. And they're sweet but a little tart and so I think my sarcastic personality might meet that metaphor.

MG: I love it. 

Tim: Can I say one thing before we wrap up, I would show one, the Mentorship through Exercise is great. And I would encourage people to kind of seek it out. But for any professors or faculty members listening, and students. You know, you don't have to, like, be in a program. I would encourage you to challenge your professor to a game of pickup ball or racquetball.

And for faculty members to get into UREC and see your students working out and kind of role model that healthy behavior too. It's good for our health, it's good for their health, it builds connection. So even if it's not in the program I think it's a really good kind of practice for us all to engage in. 

MG: I absolutely agree and it's a great way to get to know your professors and get a little bit of an edge on whenever you're applying to grad school, then you might need a reference or connecting with them to reach back out at a later point. It's always great to make those connections and have them for both mentorship and for the future.

MG: So we also have another special guest here with us today.

Rebecca: Hi everyone I'm Rebecca, I am the interim coordinator for sexual relationship health here at UREC I'm part of the health promotion team. So I signed up to be a mentor for the Exercise Through Mentorship program here at JMU.

MG: Awesome, and I know that this is your first time being a mentor for this program. So I just want to hear your perspective of why you were interested in participating as a mentor.

Rebecca: Yeah, great question. So I actually heard about the program through UREC. And I was really excited. I know that students have been going through a lot these past couple years, and they may not have been able to connect really to other students or the campus as much as they'd normally be able to and that can leave them up feeling like left out, or like they don't belong, but I really want to reassure all students that you do belong here and there is a place, so I figured that this would be a very nice way to let students know that, you know, staff and I'm sure faculty as well, are willing to take some time to let them know that we do care and that they do belong here.

MG: This is a great way, not only to get to know some of the students across our campus but to really feel connected to the community as a whole and working out of course like, you're going to build endorphins you're going to feel a little bit better by the end of the day, Rebecca, would you consider yourself like a gym rat. Do you, like, go hard when you work out or like what are you expecting from like the exercise part of this? 

Rebecca: Yeah, great question. I do not really consider myself a gym rat so if thats keeping you from signing up from the program please do not let it keep you from signing up. With my mentee, I'm hoping that we could just you know sign up for a class here and there and see where that takes us but I'm more focused on building that relationship with them and making them feel like I'm somebody they can talk to, while also working out now and again.

MG: Rebecca is still right out of grad school. She's young, you know, very lively just like me.

Rebecca, if there's one thing that you want the students to know about this program and maybe why they should take part in it, what would that be?

Rebecca: I think that's really nice for students to be able to connect with faculty and staff in a different way than they might be used to, you know, they're used to seeing us and maybe you know a way that they can't connect with us. I think it's also nice for faculty to be able to connect with students in a way that we might not always be able to. What I'm hoping students get from this is that different perspective, and hopefully just a better sense of belonging on campus if they're not feeling that.

MG: And what do you yourself hope to gain from this experience?

Rebecca:  You know, a workout buddy would be nice. I find that that's a big motivator especially at the start of a new year. Maybe trying out some new workout classes that I didn't try out last year, and then also just getting more of the student perspective because that's something that I don't really get when I'm just in my office. So just seeing what the students are up to these days.

MG: My final question for you would just be: If you could be any fruit, what would you be and why?

Rebecca: You know that's a great question. I think I would be… the first thing that came to mind was a strawberry. Yeah, I want to say strawberries. They’re sweet. They go with everything. And this is a really silly reason but I put them in my oatmeal every morning so I really like them. It's a good fruit.

MG: Rebecca you're also sweet and go with everything so I love it, I love to hear it. But absolutely, we're excited for the mentorship program to get started throughout the semester. Rebecca is one of the many amazing mentors that we have on campus, and really the point of it is to feel that connection to make sure that our students feel cared for. 

You can also follow us on social media @ JMUUREC and JMUWellDukes on Instagram. We are so glad you joined us today and be on the lookout for more fun episodes coming soon! And as always, Be Well Dukes!