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Feature Story
reed magazine logoDecember 2010

Finding Balance

How does Reed help students stay healthy and sane on a campus defined by its intensity?

By Chris Lydgate '90


Swaying like a cobra, eyes glinting, face streaked with sweat, the young woman whirls across the floor and executes a dramatic sweeping double kick, her bare feet slicing through the air mere inches from her sparring partner's head. Her partner, a strapping fellow built like an ox, gracefully dodges the vicious blow and pops back up on his feet, rocking from side to side in a slow-motion dance that defines capoeira, a martial art developed by Brazilian slaves that is part dance, part gymnastics, and all intensity.

Just down the hall, the squash courts echo with the relentless retort of crushing backhands and the agonized squeak of flatfooted sneakers. The weight room pulses with the whirr of treadmills and the clank of dumbbells. In the dance studio, a flock of fencers don black masks and brandish wicked-looking foils.

Yes, Amanda, these are Reed students—and the hustle and bustle in the sports center is no coincidence. Reed is determined to help students lead healthier, more balanced lives, in keeping with Juvenal's classic ideal, mens sana in corpore sano, or a sound mind in a sound body.

"We have brilliant and creative students," says Mike Brody, dean of students. "The challenge for Reedies—and really for all of us—is whether we can be intellectually intense and stay healthy at the same time. I believe the answer is 'Yes.'"

To this end, Reed has embarked on a far-reaching initiative to promote the health and welfare of its students, including:

  • a revitalized fitness program;
  • a new and expanded health & counseling center with more counselors and more robust services, including acupuncture, naturopathy, and a "Mind Spa";
  • a wellness coach, a peer-to-peer counseling program, and a revamped web site with online resources for alcohol and drug issues;
  • big improvements to commons.

Reed's new emphasis on wellbeing has involved extensive planning, hard work, and considerable expense, but its goal is suitably ambitious: to help students find balance in a world that increasingly seems out of balance.

Active Learning

Growing up in Connecticut in the 1970s, Michael Lombardo was—how do we say this?—kind of a nerd. Smart, insecure, uncoordinated. This discombobulation was made more awkward by the fact that his father was a coach at Wesleyan. Everyone wanted the coach's son to be a star athlete—except Michael. In his teenage years, he spurned sports, ate junk food, stayed up late, experimented with drugs, and dropped out of college. Then he got a job at a grocery co-op and saw—for the first time—the value of nutrition and exercise. "It really turned my life around," he says.

Lombardo went back to college, got a BA in psychology, a master's in exercise science, and another master's in counseling. He worked as a counselor at Reed for a couple of years before becoming director of physical education and athletics. He is passionate about teaching students the value of exercise and nutrition. Oh, yeah—he is a former competitive bodybuilder and bicycles 100–120 miles a week, rain or shine.

"These are very smart kids, and the academic program is very stressful," he says. "But the data shows that if you can manage stress through physical activity, you perform better academically. I tell them that if you want to succeed here, you need to take care of yourself. You have to eat right. You can't drink too much caffeine or alcohol—it will destroy your ability to concentrate and recall information. We are chemical creatures—chemical reactions occur in the body. When you exercise, you dump chemicals into your body that counteract the negative effects of the stress chemicals."

reed magazine logoDecember 2010