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Champions of mind, spirit, and body

January 2, 2013 : By Drew Menard/Liberty University News Service

Students train in the weight room at Liberty's LaHaye Student Union.

As the world’s largest Christian university, there is no shortage of quality educational and spiritual resources designed to develop a healthy mind and spirit at Liberty University. But the school is also going to great lengths to offer a variety of resources to students, staff, and the community specifically designed to encourage physical health and wellness.

“We do as much if not more than anybody in the region to promote an overall healthy lifestyle,” said Lee Beaumont, Liberty’s vice president for Auxiliary Services. “When people are physically fit they are more productive members of society. Liberty recognizes that and its bountiful resources give people multiple options to pursue that goal.”

Students are offered an eclectic blend of activities, including extensive intramural and Club Sports programs, top-notch fitness facilities, and outdoor excursions that allow students to participate in activities such as rock climbing, whitewater rafting, canoeing, and kayaking.

A variety of exercise classes are offered for students at Liberty free of charge.

Exercise classes are offered free for students and personal trainers are available for a small fee in the LaHaye Student Union.

“Having a variety of events is important to Student Activities because we have a very diverse student body with a wide range of interests,” said Chris Misiano, director of Campus Recreation. “We know that by offering events and trips that appeal to a wide range of skill and experience levels that there will be something for everyone to enjoy.”

Several of Liberty’s recreational facilities are also open to the public, including the Thomas Indoor Soccer Center, which has become a community hotspot for youth soccer programs. Liberty Mountain Skate Park and Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre offer a healthy outlet for those with an extreme edge. Snowflex, the only year-round snowless ski slope of its kind in North America, continues to be heavily involved in the community by hosting fundraisers and free family events.

The LaHaye Ice Center offers public skate sessions and lessons and is used by local skate clubs.

Students and community residents participate in a trail race on Liberty's expansive mountain trail system.

The Liberty Mountain Trail System offers 65 miles of trails spanning 5,000 acres across the university’s mountain property. These are available free of charge to the community. Six trail races are offered every year on Liberty Mountain and are open to everyone.

The university hopes to expand its recreational offerings to the community and to one day utilize its island property on the James River to create athletic fields for community use, Beaumont said.

Liberty staff members enjoy access to all of Liberty’s recreational facilities, including free membership to the LaHaye Fitness Center during certain hours with unlimited memberships available for a fee.

Throughout the year, the LaHaye Student Union holds a number of fitness challenges for students and staff, including a triathlon challenge and several fitness competitions.

More than 100 Liberty employees ran in the Virginia 10- and 4-Miler races in September and participated in Live Healthy Lynchburg's 100 Mile Challenge.

In the fall, Liberty encouraged its staff to get out and get fit by participating in the 100 Mile Challenge and Genworth Virginia 10-Miler and 4-Miler races. As further incentive, Liberty paid the entry fee for any staff members who signed up for the race. The staff stepped up to the challenge and the university finished third out of more than 90 companies for most miles logged in the 100 Mile Challenge. Mark Hopely, an admissions evaluator with Liberty University Online, tallied more miles than any other individual in the challenge.

 Liberty was also dominant in the corporate challenge, finishing first in four of the six categories in the 10- and 4-Miler events.

All the exercise can become moot when coupled with a poor diet, however, and according to Beaumont Liberty has also made nutrition a top priority.

“You can out-eat any exercise program; physical exercise needs to be balanced with healthy diet,” he said. “This is why Liberty is strategic in offering plenty of resources to educate people on how to manage their diet, whether it is cooking classes offered at Reber Thomas Dining Hall, speaking with our on-campus dietician, or simply reading the information cards at the dining hall.”

Sodexo, Liberty’s dining services provider, offers extensive dining options and is committed to promoting healthy eating habits to students and staff.

“The number one way that Sodexo promotes healthy eating is by offering healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and low fat dairy foods,” said Robin Quay, Sodexo’s registered dietitian for Liberty.

Cooking classes at Liberty are offered free of charge for students, encouraging them to eat healthier.

Students are able to take cooking classes or participate in workshops free of charge and learn about a wide range of topics, including nutrition, selecting healthy food on campus, the importance of being active, and how to read nutrition labels. Signs at Reber-Thomas Dining Hall and Tilley Fresh Market Buffet display nutrition information.

Two stations in the dining hall, Wellness Zone and Simple Servings, are an easy place to find healthy foods. Wellness Zone is a section of the salad bar offering diverse fruits, vegetables, and toppings. Simple Servings provides simply prepared, minimally processed items such as salads, grains, vegetables, and lean meats that are gluten-free and are void of seven of the eight most common food allergens.

Quay also created a cookbook of healthy recipes that can be made utilizing only standard residence hall appliances — a microwave and refrigerator.

Quay provides more resources online to aid in healthy dining, including her blog and Dietitian Picks, which highlights the most nutrient-dense offerings at each of Liberty’s dining locations. Students and staff are welcome to consult her for individual nutrition needs as well.