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Hess Gets Wellness and Recreation into Great Shape

Russ Hess

by Joshua Unikel '07

To stay in great shape, even wellness and recreation programs need the right training. Here at Hobart and William Smith, Russ Hess offers exactly that. Hess is the Colleges' director of the Sport and Recreation Center. With a master's degree in physical education and a host of advanced certifications, Hess has become the Colleges' go-to fitness guru, overseeing a large variety of wellness-based recreational activities that includes everything from yoga and martial arts to aerobics and indoor cycling. "We have such a diverse population so we want to provide a wide range of offerings," Hess explains.

Hess also manages open recreation in the field house and weight room, oversees community- wide events like triathlons and golf tournaments, and works with local organizations like Geneva General Hospital's Cardiac Rehab Program to ensure that members of the Geneva community have access to wellness programs.

This, however, is just the warm-up to the workout that Hess has brought to Bristol Field House.

Since 2003, Hess has also expanded the notion of intramural sports on campus. As a result, more and more students - both athletes and non-athletes - are involved in corecreational intramurals on campus including soccer, softball, flag football, walleyball, floor hockey and tennis.

"The most popular sports in the spring semester are basketball and floor hockey, but the biggest sport of all is softball," Hess says. "We have about 40 softball teams. That means that about a quarter of the Colleges' population is involved in just that one activity. And students are always adding new intramurals. This year, at the suggestion of some of our students, we'll start intramurals in badminton and table tennis. I like that our size allows us to be open to trying new things if students express an interest."

Similarly, if students, faculty or staff are interested in personal wellness, Hess meets with them to create an individualized program. "I work with many people on a one-on-one basis to get them started with a workout program," says Hess. "After a few weeks, I'll meet with them again to adjust and perfect the program." Along with discussions about cardio and strength training, Hess also does body composition and blood pressure testing. "For me, it's a great experience helping students, faculty and staff so personally."

Hess is particularly interested in finding ways to engage students who are not varsity athletes. "In some ways it's more important for someone who is not in a specific routine with a coach or trainer to make sure that they're exercising on a regular basis," Hess says. "But even though many of my programs are geared toward non-varsity students interested in being healthy and getting fit, they also complement the athletics departments' training."

Hess' plan for the future of campus wellness and recreation is to, as he says: "...create a healthier and active environment in as many ways as possible. So for example, we're designing the first-ever wellness lab in the Bristol Field House that will allow students, faculty and staff to get a more exact and scientific concept of their wellness."

Always open, always improving and always engaging with faculty, staff and students, Hess continues to keep the recreation and wellness programs in great shape.