Sport instructor Mitchell de Palm is about to start the seventh Fit Break (in a series of ten) on the eighth floor of Vertigo. Facing him are mostly employees from the Urban Planning Group. Except for just a few, they are internationals who are studying for doctorates here and it is remarkable that there are only two men taking part.
“There were even fewer in the first two meetings”, says Mandy van de Sande. In the Vitality week the assistant of Education and Research had heard about the possibility of a Fit Break and she had started sounding out the interest among colleagues. The result is that now at 15:00 hours on Thursday afternoons there is an instructor coming up to get them moving. “First the men walked by, chuckling a bit, but now some of them have actually joined in.”
Today De Palm is tackling the joints, top-down. He begins by looking up five times and ends by –fictitiously– squashing an insect under a shoe. “I devote extra attention to the neck and shoulders, because these people often work at a computer screen for long periods on end.”
Some of the exercises are intended for two persons. One person is standing on the toes and the other tries to push him or her down while pressing on the shoulders. Or in pairs they try to pass on books with their backs against each other. A small-scale polonaise is the result of the exercise ‘tapping between each other’s shoulder blades’.
“This really feels very good”, says Van de Sande, voicing the feeling of the whole group. After the 15-minute break the PhD students rush back to their computers again. “We should do this more frequently, but to be honest, if it weren’t for someone like Mitchell taking the initiative, you really wouldn’t do this.” Van de Sande herself goes in for yoga, so she does not need to do it to become limber, “but on a day involving a lot of computer work it is so pleasant to give all the muscles a good stretch. Besides, it is easy enough for anyone to join in and we have a lot of fun while doing this.”
The Fit Breaks are not a custom at TU/e yet, although they have been offered ever since xxxx. Melissa Grunewald of the SSC understands that employees have full agendas and are afraid that their concentration may be disrupted. “Still, afterwards you feel fitter to get cracking again.”
De Palm also gives instructions to administrative officers in Flux and there he simply does so in between the desks. “Some stretching exercises can even be done while seated. Or while holding on to the arm of a chair. Anything goes." Registration for a series of Fit Breaks is possible via the SSC.