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Impromptu: Jen Macko

Macko illo

Goucher’s new campus recreation coordinator

Goucher Magazine: Campus recreation coordinator is a new position at Goucher. What does your role entail?

Jen Macko: I’m focusing on four areas. My bigger ones will be group fitness and outdoor recreation, in the forms of Goucher Fit and Goucher Adventure Program, or GAP. The other two branches will be intramural and club sports.

Goucher Fit classes are every day except for Friday. You bring shoes and water. We bring the mats and the workout. GAP is once or twice a month, weather permitting. To start, we did a five-mile hike at Patapsco Valley State Park.

Then, we went to Westmoreland State Park, in Virginia. We did some hiking, arts and crafts, yoga, journaling, and we had s’mores. It was more of a reset for that halfway point of the semester.

Upcoming, we have a Harper’s Ferry hike. We’re going to go to West Virginia, hike up to Maryland Heights, see the view, and explore the town. It’s an old historic, Civil War town.

Two weeks after that, we’re going to go camping in Pocomoke River State Park. Then take a short drive over to the Assateague National Seashore, to look at the ponies.

We ended up getting four nice trips on the schedule.

GMWhat classes are the students most excited for?

JM: Zumba had 53 people at its biggest class, which is wild. It’s obviously not strictly for the workout. They’re there because it’s fun. The yoga program has been big. This campus loves yoga. It’s a good way to center yourself, connect your mind and your body. I would say fitness and outdoors people are most excited, because not everyone has a car. Sometimes you need to escape. You need to smell some different trees, walk some different paths.

GMYou seem to do more than recreation here—you mentioned arts and crafts, journaling.

JM: Nothing in the definition of recreation has to be physical. It’s a form of self-expression, which is exactly what exercise is. I think art can tie into that a lot. They’re not the same thing, but they’re still ways to find out what’s inside of you.

GMTell us about your background.

JM: I went to University of Maryland. I was in the scholars program, which focuses on global public health. I did a double degree in kinesiology and behavioral and community health.

I’m still enrolled in a master’s program there. My focus is on exercise physiology, studying the effect of downhill running, which creates micro-tears in the muscle. We’re looking at the pattern of something called a cytokine before, immediately after, and for a 24-hour period after that running.

We think people with an endurance training background might have a heightened response but a faster recovery. Maybe people who don’t work out much will perhaps not have as high of a response, but they’ll linger for longer.

We hope to show how consistent exercise can work as a way to help you buffer inflammatory events, such as a heart attack or a cold. Chronic inflammation is behind so many lifestyle diseases, like diabetes, chronic heart failure, and stroke.

The lab work was cool, but I was also a program assistant for the fitness program at Maryland. Cycling will always be my baby, so I’m trying to bring that here.

GMAre you referring to spin?

JM: Yeah. The thing I like about it is nobody knows what resistance is on your bike. If you just want to be there for the music and for all the cheering and the sense of camaraderie, cool. If you are loading it up, that’s also there for you. It’s pretty much you and your own workout goals.

I hope that everybody here at Goucher can find a form of exercise or physical activity that makes them feel that way. Never work out to fit a certain mold. People should all have access to some sort of activity that works for them and makes them feel right.

There are some great physiological benefits, such as increasing lifespan. It’s a great mood stabilizer and mood booster, in general. You get a social connection through it if you’re exercising in a group setting.

GMWhy do you think wellness is such a hot topic right now?

JM: I think we’re starting to realize that America lives to work instead of working to live. That said, I love my job. It brings me a lot of joy to do what I do. But people are starting to realize that it takes a toll on you, and at the end of your life story, you’re not going to talk about how hard you worked. You’re going to talk about the things that you did, the people you met, the way that you felt. We really can’t be working as hard as we are and not taking care of ourselves.

Wellness is that feeling of immersing yourself in nature, and taking a moment to pause and be like, I’m alive, that is good. Just focusing on making yourself the best person you can be, so you can offer good things to other people, to your work, and to yourself.

GMYou did an IRONMAN recently. What inspired you to do that?

JM: Half of it was for me, half for other people. My cousin Emma had a large hemorrhagic bleed in her brain three years ago. She went from playing soccer and being outdoorsy to a coma for three months that they didn’t think she was going to wake up from. It was a true miracle that she woke up from that.

Now she has a wheelchair. She’s been working with physical therapists at the Hershey Medical Center, and she can take steps down a hallway.

The whole time, I’m thinking, this is for Emma. I’m lucky to be able to do this. Me suffering through this marathon right now, with all these stomach problems, and all this lightheadedness, and being on my feet for this long—Emma was in a coma for three months. That is so much harder than anything I could possibly do.

The other thing is, grad school was a real knock to my ego. I felt like I didn’t belong. Proving to myself that I could do an IRONMAN with all of that self-doubt felt amazing. Their slogan is “Anything Is Possible,” and you agree when you finish swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112, and running a marathon all in one go. You say, “Yeah, anything is possible.” If I can get through that, and be smiling at the end of the day, I can do anything. It’s extremely empowering.

GMWhat else do you do for fun?

JM: I love cleaning and tidying things. It helps me to get home and not see anything out of place. I can do my workouts. I can read a book. When I feel like my house is a mess, I feel like my insides are a mess, too.

I like to take road trips. I’m not a person who sits still very well. If I’m going somewhere, I want to be doing activities. I want to be biking through towns, even if it’s on a little beach cruiser. I love cooking. I have a lot of fun with that, which means I’m a horrible baker, because I cannot follow the directions. I like to throw spices in, change this up, change that out. See how it turns out.