UA Little Rock library staff steps up for fitness

Ottenheimer Library employee Louise Lowe demonstrates some simple at-home exercises with a fitness ball. Photo by Benjamin Krain.

In Ottenheimer Library, where UA Little Rock’s students, staff, and faculty are usually found quietly studying or working, the employees of Ottenheimer Library have challenged themselves to be more fit, active, and healthy. 

Freta Rogers-Mason, an information technology coordinator at Ottenheimer Library, was inspired to challenge her co-workers to a six-week step fitness challenge.

“I am on a working group in Ottenheimer Library for staff enrichment, and I wanted to see what we could do as a group to come together to concentrate on health and fitness,” Rogers-Mason said. “I thought the easiest way to motivate each other was a step challenge.”

The initial response, she said, was less than enthusiastic.

“There was grunting, and a lot of people asking, ‘Do we have to?’ and ‘For six whole weeks?” Rogers-Mason laughed. “Not everyone was receptive at first. I had a couple of people excited, but I had to push the majority. Karl Lenser (campus wellness coordinator) gave us free pedometers, and that helped get people excited. I also got some local businesses to donate prizes, and the winning team gets lunch at a healthy local restaurant.”

Over six weeks, the 20 participating Ottenheimer Library employees walked a total of 3,387,711 steps. The winning step team included Chelsea Guess, Amber King, Carol Macheak, Chris Stewart, and Cole Williamson.

Maurine James Barnes, a collections management coordinator who has worked at the university for more than 40 years, topped out as the employee with the second most steps during the challenge, totaling more than 317,000 steps in six weeks.

Twenty employees from Ottenheimer Library have challenged themselves to be more active and healthy through a six-week step fitness challenge. Photo by Benjamin Krain.
Twenty employees from Ottenheimer Library have challenged themselves to be more active and healthy through a six-week step fitness challenge. Photo by Benjamin Krain.

“At first, I was reluctant to do the challenge, but it has been great fun. There has been a certain camaraderie among us as we challenged each other and have grown closer. It’s also been a great deal of fun reaming people,” James Barnes said. “Years ago, I was walking 10,000 steps a day on a regular basis, but I have fallen off in recent years. With this challenge, I have stepped up my walking, and I feel better physically.”

Louise Lowe, a student success coordinator, described herself as Rogers-Mason’s “partner in crime” in getting people motivated for the step challenge, which she said has greatly improved her health.

“This challenge helped me be accountable to myself,” Lowe said. “On the weekends, I realized I wasn’t moving at all. Now I am taking walks in the neighborhood to get more steps in. After six weeks, I feel so much better. My energy levels are higher. More than anything, this challenge has helped build community within the library. It is a team-building exercise that we didn’t realize was happening at the time.”

With the goal to bring more wellness into Ottenheimer Library, Rogers-Mason said she was surprised at her own improved fitness levels and offered a challenge to any other UA Little Rock department or office who wants to get fit.

“I started out with about 1,500 to 3,000 steps in a whole week,” Rogers-Mason said. “I doubled that in a week, and I ended up with 8,000 to 9,000 steps at the end of the challenge. I saw a significant difference. I notice that I have been more energized, and my knees have stopped hurting as much. We hope that other departments will do this step challenge, and they should let us know if they want to compete head to head in a challenge!”

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