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Pre-Physical Therapy student trains for the Pittsburgh Marathon through brutal winter

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Pre-Physical Therapy student trains for the Pittsburgh Marathon through brutal winter
By Colleen J. Campbell, Digital PR Manager

Alex Pieters, a junior pre-physical therapy major in the School of Health Sciences, is registered for his last set of undergraduate classes.

He’s applying to doctoral physical therapy programs, including the one at Oakland University, with the plans of going into either geriatric of orthopedic physical therapy. But his health consciousness isn’t limited to his educational and career aspirations.

Alex has been training all winter for his third marathon. He’ll be heading to Pennsylvania this weekend for the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon on May 4 and hopes to qualify for the 2015 Boston Marathon.

The historically challenging winter hasn’t slowed Alex down — much. He’s been training 5-6 days a week, anywhere from 3-4 miles a day to about 16, averaging 50-60 miles a week. That takes anywhere from a half hour a day to 2.5 hours.




What inspires him?

“With a third of the population classified overweight and another third obese, regular exercise needs to be highlighted in the ever growing obesogenic environment.”



Ok Alex, what’s an obsogenic environment and how does that affect students?

An obsogenic environment is one that promotes obesity. “If you’re hungry between classes and hit the vending machine and it’s all candy bars," he explains. It’s not that people don’t want to be healthy, he says, but it can be difficult to make better choices when convenience items are all around us.



How did you manage the record low temps and record high snowfall?

“This winter has been tough because of the snow and cold, but unless there’s a blizzard I get out,” Pieters said. He runs a between classes on campus, at Stony Creek Metropark, and worse case scenario, the “dreadmill.”

Running buddies help, too. During the winter semester, Pieters swam twice a week with Nate Ismond, a Petosky native who graduated in April with a political science degree and minor in criminal justice. “The colder it is, the faster we run,” Ismond said.

“Being physically active is always a positive thing, no matter what your profession is,” Ismond said. “You can probably justify the value of good health for any career choice, but for Ismond’s in particular, he says exercise helps clear your mind of all the stressors of school or the workplace and he’ll be able to outlast and chase down criminals. Plus, a lot of departments have physical fitness standards, he says.



Why is it important to practice what you teach?

“Doctors, nurses, and all future clinicians need to understand this — they must walk the walk in their everyday life," Alex says. Planning to complete this third marathon this weekend and qualify for his fourth, Alex hopes his story is an inspiration for his fellow peers to exercise more and lead a healthy lifestyle, regardless of the challenges.