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Amazing work ahead

4:10 PM  Aug 22nd, 2017
by Anne Crecelius

Assistant professor of health and sport science Anne Crecelius presented the following keynote address at today’s convocation ceremony after thanking the many people who made New Student Orientation 2017 a success.

… Perhaps most importantly, thank you students.  You are the reason we are here today.  I want to thank you for being here — being here this morning, early, after a whirlwind couple of days. More than that, thank you for being here at the University of Dayton. As you well know by now, you are the largest, most diverse and one of the most academically qualified first-year classes ever at UD.  You have made the choice to join our community, and for that, I am grateful.

I’d like to start by telling you a little bit more about who I am. In addition to being an assistant professor, I am a proud UD alumnae, and more than a decade ago, before this building even existed, I sat at my own convocation, curious as to what the next four years at UD would bring. Today, many years later, I am also a physiologist.  I teach about and study how the human body works.  And in that light, I’m going to ask you to do me a small favor and put your bodies to work. If you’re able, please stand up.

So, why is this crazy lady asking me to stand up right now?!  You’re not the first to ask that question, but I have two reasons.  No.  1, numerous studies have shown that prolonged sitting can be harmful to your health and it is important to interrupt sedentary time.  No. 2, I want to highlight the wonder of a simple suggestion I made to you. When you stood up, amazing things happened, whether you were aware of them or not.  Neurons fired, muscles contracted, pulling on tendons then bones to help you rise.  Your cardiovascular system adjusted to the dramatic change in gravity that resulted and now, as you stand, your body is at work to stay balanced. You will be asked to stand again, around four years from now, as your academic degree is conferred upon you. I guarantee many more amazing things will happen within you and to you between now and then.  You can take your seats now.

So, the physiologist in me knows that I’ve done you a healthy favor by interrupting your sitting time — but I was asked to speak on the academic mission of our great institution.  Classes start tomorrow, and you’ll get syllabi and cover in detail specific academic expectations.  So this morning, as we are here in the RecPlex, beneath the running track and across from the climbing wall, I’m going to take a slightly different approach.  I want to talk about what showing up and putting in work (as you are going to be asked to do) can result in, and provide an example from my own life that has happened right here in these walls.

A little over a year ago, after two years of chemotherapy, surgeries,and radiation, I was in remission from cancer but carried an excessive amount of weight.  I both needed and wanted to make changes and set a goal of getting back to my pre-cancer weight and fitness levels.  I wasn’t sure exactly what the future held for me  — probably much like you sit here this morning — but I knew it was going to be different.  The first step on the path to any type of accomplishment is pretty simple.  You did it about an hour ago.  You’ve got to SHOW UP.

To accomplish my goal, I chose to show up here at the RecPlex, usually on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.  I’m not the only one that makes that choice by the way; as an FYI, you may have a “Spina Sighting” around that time as well. The way you choose to show up can be different for everyone. I thought about myself and chose a place, time and modality that worked for me. I made a plan, and that plan was flexible because circumstances might and often do change any given day or week.

Even with a plan, I couldn’t accomplish my goal alone. I sought out someone with experience and expertise. A person I could connect with. My trainer provided me with specific programs and he asked me questions, but he couldn’t lift those weights for me. That was on me.

Even with a plan and a coach, to accomplish my goal I had to work hard. There were days when I just didn’t want to get up. Days when I was embarrassed with my current level, frustrated that an exercise was harder now than when I had done it before. Days when I outright failed at an exercise. My plan sometimes interfered with having fun. And yet, I knew I had to stay consistent. If I “slipped,” I got back on track, continued to show up, work hard, and little by little, it became easier.

Accomplishing my goal was about more than showing up, following my plan and working hard at the gym. I’ve mentioned how amazing our bodies are — they are also incredibly complicated. Sleep, proper nutrition and mental self-care all combine to impact how our bodies perform. Without all my body systems functioning, my work would be wasted. I could work on some of these areas myself, and for others I needed help, from family, friends and trained professionals.

And what do you know, but by showing up, not working alone, putting in the hard work, and taking care of my whole self I was able to accomplish those goals that seemed so scary at the beginning. I gained strength. I lost weight. I made progress. But the thing is, I’m not done. Taking care of our amazing bodies is not something that can stop. It’s an everyday thing, with new challenges we must face, new situations to encounter and new work to be done. I’ll keep showing up, so as to not let all this work be wasted.

I’m sure you enjoyed my nice little story — but what does a public service announcement for being active and staying healthy have to do with our academic mission?

It’s really the same thing!  Your academic career is a process. You’re in training. It’s going to be long, hard at times, and there will be rewards and setbacks along the way. The similarities to preparing for an athletic event or getting in shape are many:

Make your plan and show up. It has to be the plan that works for you. Your major, whether it be exercise physiology, English, mechanical engineering, marketing or human rights, has to fit your interests and skills. Your study habits may not be the same as your roommate. Just like in the gym, some are early birds, some night owls, prefer to show up with friends or without, work to tunes or in silence, and can be found at a campus building, in your residence or out in the community. The important thing is that you consistently do whatever works for you, and don’t be afraid to experiment a bit to find the best plan.

You. Are. Not. Alone.  Look around you.  We as faculty and staff are your trainers. We are here to provide programs, feedback, encouragement and rehab if you’re hurt. Remember, you are the ones doing the heavy lifting.

It will be hard. It has to be. There’s a physiological concept called the principle of overload. Essentially, for a muscle to grow, it must be stretched, even broken down a little, pushed further than before so that it can be built back stronger. Growing academically and as a person is not without challenge.

It’s not just about academics. You have joined a community of learners, a community of doers that is focused on integrating knowledge, searching for the truth, and pursuing the common good. Outside of class, you’ll find yourself engaged in athletics, service, faith life, research, employment, and myriad other activities that campus, Dayton, the U.S. and the world offers you. Stay balanced, and make sure you’re taking care of your whole self.

You can make it happen. You can achieve more than you might think possible right now.  You will inspire others, including me, with your passion, ideas and dedication. I am so excited to see what you will all accomplish.

I’m standing here today and my body is doing amazing things. My blood pressure is being regulated. My heart rate is no longer quite so sped up by my nervous system and has come back into balance. In the face of various challenges, my body is able to maintain a stable internal environment (by the way for my future students, that’s essentially the principle of homeostasis, one of the most important themes of physiology …).

I’ve told you who I am and why I’m here this morning but really, what is important is who you are and why you are here. What will your routine be? What strengths will you gain and what weight will you lose over the next four years? As I often say when I see students here early in the morning, I’ll say to you now: Have a good workout.

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