Wellness Center team ready to help you be 'Your best you' in 2023

January 26, 2023
Wellness Center exercise physiologist Alicia O'Connor works with a member using the TRX training system. Photos Provided

Perhaps the ancient Eastern philosopher Buddha said it best when it comes to welcoming the new year - “No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.”

Every January, people choose to “begin again” - making pledges and resolutions to improve their lives through healthy choices and behaviors and improved fitness and routines, with the goal of improving their overall health and well–being.

At MUSC’s Wellness Center, the all-inclusive facility and support team is poised to get people started on their personal wellness journeys so they are able to establish and meet their personal goals.

It’s a favorite time of year for the Wellness Center director Dusty Jackson and his team. Jackson loves seeing members of all ages, students, employees and the public, come into the Courtenay Drive facility throughout the day - whether they’re catching a sunrise yoga class or boot camp session, completing a circuit in the cardio or renovated weight room or running on the indoor track - it’s all there in this popular and wide-ranging sports facility.

Since 2015, the MUSC Wellness Center has been voted the “Best Health Club” by the Charleston City Paper’s Best of Charleston annual awards as well as receiving the “Best Fitness Club in Charleston” award from Health Links Magazine.

Jackson noted that since the last quarter of 2022, the Wellness Center team has seen a steady return of pre–pandemic members, or regulars, alongside new members. With the wave of employees nationwide returning to the workplace, starting in 2022, more people are also returning to their pre-pandemic routines and activities like fitness and exercise.

“We’ve been seeing more and more people returning to the Wellness Center who haven’t visited in years, which is so encouraging,” Jackson said.

According to Jackson, the facility has already launched its 2023 campaign - “Your Best You.”

“People are interested in getting back to a routine for fitness while also figuring out ways to eliminate stress from their lives. They’re realizing the importance of exercise and health, especially after three years of COVID-19. They’re seeing the importance of regular exercise and its connection with immune health. People are also realizing how physical activity can impact all areas of their lives,” Jackson said.

The MUSC Wellness Center offers many sports and fitness programs including rooftop pickleball courts. 
The MUSC Wellness Center offers various sports and activities including pickleball with rooftop courts. 

Group exercise classes and offerings include activities like cycling, Zumba, Pilates, water aerobics, the high-intensity training system (HITS), females in boxing and pickleball, to name a few. The facility also hosts several clinical collaborations with, for example, MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, such as the Survivor’s Fit Club for breast cancer patients and a new prostate cancer fitness program for prostate cancer survivors. It also offers other specialty programs like Rock Steady Boxing, a program for Parkinson’s patients, as well as specialized strength and exercise programs created for patients living with chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders.

To help with long-term planning, Jackson hired marketing director Colby Denton, who joined the team last October. Denton has been marketing the facility to various age groups to build its membership.

“Our goal has always been to get people through the door and see the facility for themselves and its offerings. Once they see it, I know they’ll be hooked,” Jackson said.

Last fall, the team established a new effort to attract employees. It was a pilot program, offered to the Division for Education Innovation and Student Life employees, called EISL Week. It provided a free one-week membership to use the Wellness Center by trying out classes, equipment and programs. As part of the pilot, participants were also automatically enrolled in an incentive plan that let them earn points based on participation and the ability to earn prizes at the conclusion. According to Jackson, the program was a hit and had a good turnout, which allowed employees to jump-start their fitness goals while the center gained new employee-members in the process.

An employee’s fitness journey
Several employees, like Jonathan Coultas, took advantage of this offer and made great strides with their wellness goals.

Coultas, 53, works as director of academic media in the Office of Instructional Technology and Faculty Resources. He’s become familiar with the Wellness Center’s offerings by assisting with numerous marketing campaigns utilizing his own photography and video projects.

An athlete who plays in the Charleston Masters over-50 amateur soccer league, Coultas had hurt his back and was seeking ways to improve it through exercise and strength training. He and his wife, Dusti Annan-Coultas, Ed.D., also an employee, joined the Wellness Center in late October. Coultas started out with a general health and fitness assessment, working with Alicia O’Connor, an exercise physiologist and Wellness Center director of personal training. O’Connor conducted a body composition test, and together they discussed the results and limitations and established a training program and strategies, including suggested programs.

“I want to be as fit as I can, as long as I can,” said Coultas, who is also dad to a toddler-age son. “Hopefully by changing and improving my diet, daily workouts at the Wellness Center and at home, I will surely meet my goals.”

For EISL Week, he tried different programs that included pickleball and Body Composition test.  He has co-workers who also visited the Wellness Center during various hours of the day to work out or try out classes.

Aside from preparing for his return to weekend league soccer, Coultas’ immediate goal is to run a 10K race by April. Almost three months into his membership, he can comfortably run a 5K. In January, he tracked his three-mile run at 26 minutes, with consistent mile splits.

“I never really thought about joining the Wellness Center until this time because of my injury and personal needs. The trainers and staff are so knowledgeable, experienced and helpful. They’re fantastic. They encourage members to try things out, stay active and succeed in their wellness goals to be the best version of themselves. I’m so glad that I did it,” Coultas said.

The Wellness Center’s current membership promotion offers a $10 enrollment fee (a value of $95) from Jan. 29-31. Ongoing is the Refer-A-Friend membership offer where both can get $50 account credit. For information about the membership, classes and other specials, visit musc.edu/hsc.