St. Thomas-Augsburg fitness challenge under way

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For the next eight weeks, staff and faculty members at St. Thomas and Augsburg will be counting more than calories when they exercise.

They will also be counting points in the second annual “Auggies vs. Tommies Fitness Challenge,” which started last week.

“Our goal is just to get people moving,” said Lisa Keiser of the St. Thomas health and human performance department. “We’re hoping it might spark some activity in some people [who] aren’t as physically active.”

Augsburg sets the bar

Carol Enke, an Augsburg heath and physical education instructor, came to St. Thomas with the idea. The Auggies edged out the Tommies last year.

Augsburg won the first week of this year’s competition, but Enke isn’t convinced the Auggies will keep the upper hand.

“I know [the Tommies are] going to come charging back,” she said. “They’re not going to roll over and play dead.”

Keiser said the rules were set up to give participants credit for many physical activities.

“Almost anything you’re doing can count,” Keiser said. “If you’re shoveling, or the weather is nice and you’re gardening. You can go skiing or walking.”

The minimum requirement is 30 minutes of exercise in a day, which equals one point. Another 30 minutes will get you two points — the maximum for a day. That means each participant can score 14 points per week, and the school with the most points during seven days wins that week. The school that wins the most weeks out of nine wins the challenge, the traveling trophy and a year of bragging rights.

More than a competition

Enke said the overall goal of the challenge isn’t about finding a winner but getting people moving during the winter months.

“I think some of them just need that motivation,” she said. “Some of them have said to me in e-mails, ‘If I didn’t have to report to you, I wouldn’t be doing this.’”

So far more than 300 people have signed up between the two schools. Colin Brownlow, director of environmental health and safety at St. Thomas, said he thinks the challenge is a great way to convince people to be active.

“It’s one thing to tell people to do something because it’s good for them. That doesn’t work,” Brownlow said. “But when there’s an incentive and a little bit of institutional pride, it can be a huge motivator.”

Kristine Aasheim, executive director of institutional advancement, who is taking part in the challenge, agreed and said the benefits extend into the workplace.

“It makes you work better, too, and gives you more energy to perform better,” she said. “I think when you’re fit physically, your energy level goes up and you’re more motivated.”

Aasheim said every faculty and staff member at St. Thomas should be willing to exercise and participate in the challenge.

“If I can do it, they can do it,” she said. “I’m a grandmother of seven.”

Jordan Osterman can be reached at