Practice What You Preach


At Northern Arizona University (NAU), the campus rec department offers an employee fitness program.

Rhonda Powers, the director of campus recreation at NAU, describes the start of the program as happening “organically” due to classes offered around lunch time being filled with mostly employees. Once this was noticed, the rec department began offering classes before and after the workday, and started tailoring them toward employees.

“Many of our programs cater toward the students, of course, but we really feel we need to also cater toward those who are impacting our students across campus as a whole, which is why we offer employee programming,” said Paul Rehn, the assistant director for strategic communications and fitness at NAU. “A lot of our focus is to get them to relax and focus on their healthy lifestyles to then be able to preach what they practice.”

Through the use of Innosoft FUSION, NAU is able to organize their employee fitness program offerings, such as Group X, Step, yoga and Pilates classes; Bites & Hikes; F.A.S.T Fitness (faculty and staff training) where TRX is implemented; personal training; and aqua fitness, like swim classes and water aerobics.

“There’s this great vibe and energy when they come to a class,” said Powers. “You’re talking about different things coming together and you’re identifying gaps. It has really helped to build cross-collaboration and how we’re serving our student population.”

Not only do employee-oriented classes allow for cross-collaboration and better communication among faculty, but it also allows for better communication with students training to be in the fitness industry. Often, these employee fitness classes are led by students, which allows them to practice teaching to a range of demographics, rather than only other students.

“If we’re taking a fitness professional and trying to mold them for the real world outside the university setting, we want to make sure they can teach a variety of clients,” explained Rehn. “So maybe you are used to teaching high-energy student groups, but now if they’re teaching to a range, they get to practice modifications. That’s really something we want to be able to offer our students as a growing opportunity and transferable skill.”

If you’re considering launching an employee fitness program on your own campus, Powers’ best advice is to be creative in partnerships, collaborations, and reaching out and seeing who else on campus might be interested in being a great partner. “You never know what can happen when you get a couple people talking,” she said.

Rehn echoed Powers’ sentiment by elaborating that it’s truly about meeting people where they’re at. “Are we able to go to their meetings, talk to them about what programs they could be doing, or show them some activities if they are interested?” he asked.   

Brittany Howard
Brittany is an editor at Peake Media. Reach her at

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