Leadership

Executive vice chancellor determined to set a good fitness example for Brandman employees

March 12, 2015 by Cindy O'Dell
Brandman University Executive Vice Chancellor Saskia Knight with her HealthTrails water bottle and FitBit

Executive Vice Chancellor Saskia Knight with her HealthTrails water bottle and FitBit

Saskia Knight, executive vice chancellor for enrollment and student affairs at Brandman University, is one of the many faculty and staff members participating in the HealthTrails initiative. Here’s what she had to say about encouraging others to stay active, reminding everyone that the university’s leadership wants them to get moving.

Why did you personally decide to get a FitBit/ participate in the walking challenge?

The FitBit is a really good way to get a read on how much activity you’re getting. I think it’s important to develop awareness around Brandman about how exercise makes you stronger, helps you de-stress, helps you lose weight – those are all really positive. I’m trying it out myself and then I want to engage both my daughters so we can do a challenge at home.

How do you find time in your day to get steps in?

So this is a challenge. One of the things I learned in the first weeks is I don’t get enough activity during the day. I got almost no steps in. So now I’m trying to make a plan to walk up and down the stairs a lot more, to walk around the building. Like a lot of us, I eat at my desk, but I’ve learned I have to increase my activity level.

What is an obstacle that keeps you from getting in the 10,000 steps?  How have you been able to work around that?

The biggest obstacle was really a lack of awareness around how to structure my time to get in more activity, especially during the work week. Now I say to myself, “Go to the gym, take a horseback ride, walk the dog.” I’m trying to see if those changes will help, otherwise I’ll never get out of the state of Oregon! That’s one of the benefits of FitBit. You have to make conscious decisions about how to change our schedule to fit activity in.

Given the challenges of a busy schedule, what tips and tricks do you find help you reach your fitness goals?

I get it on my schedule. My gym time is on my calendar and now that daylight saving time is back, I have a couple of days where I go horseback riding. That’s what you learn: Make it part of a scheduled appointment.

How has tracking your steps influenced your daily choices?

It builds awareness and real understanding about what activities I can fit in during the week. The weekends aren’t a problem. And it helps me understand what those activities amount to in terms of steps and health in general. Some days I don’t get there. It’s interesting to see how other activities translate into steps.

Outside of the wellness challenge, what are some of the ways that you incorporate physical activity and wellness into your life?

My husband and I are avid cyclists. We do that together. We have a pack of dogs, so we do a lot of dog walking and I take my kids dog walking. I love riding my horse and I have a group of friends who do all those things as well. And we go to the gym, which is not nearly as much fun.

What is your ‘go-to’ healthy snack when you have a busy day at work?

Usually dried fruit, such as apricots and pineapple. Trader Joe’s has a plethora of choices.

Some departments have decided to take the wellness challenge even farther; does your department have any internal wellness challenges going on?

How do we do that? I want to try that with my direct reports. A lot of them have FitBits. I will challenge them.

How are you encouraging your department to stay active and make health and wellness a priority?

It’s better for Brandman if the staff is fit. It sets a good example to see me participating. My team are influenced when they see me head out for a horseback ride. It gives them permission to take time for a walk. We have a big building. We should just walk around and say hello to our colleagues. Our staff deals with very stressful situations. Being able to take that break, especially going outside, allows you to be engulfed by the environment. It’s a way to re-energize yourself. You can do even greater things than you already do.

What positive changes have you noticed at Brandman since the wellness challenge began?

I see a lot of my staff out there exercising. I see some at the gym but I see so many more walking, whether in the parking lot or on the trails around the university. I think it’s fantastic.

Looking into the future, what impact do you think the Wellness Initiative will have on Brandman University as a whole?

I think it’s really going to help us focus on caring for our employees, so they understand that they’re more than just a staff member. And that we want them to live a balanced life, both working hard and exercising so they’re not getting sick or any of those other things related to stress. When you look at millennials, you see that their expectation is that we have to include some of those other perks. The brown bag lunches should be really successful. You get a group of folks around a particular topic such as food or weight control and you get really great suggestions. It builds camaraderie. People are meeting more of their coworkers and getting to know them as people. You feel an affinity for others doing a challenge. I wonder if there’s a way of seeing someone with a FItBit and just introducing yourself and asking what their strategies are. I’m excited about the nutrition series in March. I also think it would be great to do some fun challenges with other campuses.

Questions for this article were asked by Heather Dilmagani, a Employee Wellness Program committee member and HR manager.

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