How Lesley Brown Stays Well at U of L

Lesley Brown, PhD.

Vice-Provost

What does Wellness mean to you?

Wellness needs to be approached holistically. It means not only being healthy in body, but also healthy in mind and within that healthiness of mind, healthy personal relationships and interactions so that everything that we do is positive.

What physical activities do you do to stay well?

It depends on the time of year but I typically exercise six days out of seven. I have to remain active on a regular basis because I can get antsy and am a much better person to be around if I manage that energy.

There are many activities that I do at this point in my life. I am enjoying cycling, not just the road bike but mountain biking as well. I like to mountain bike in the coulees and Fernie. That’s something that takes up a big part of my summer time activities.

In the wintertime I love downhill skiing, I’m an avid skier. I would like to do more snow shoeing and cross country skiing, but I seem to not have the time for all those things.

I say “at this point in my life” because my activities have changed throughout my life. I’ve always been a runner but as the years go by it has become a less friendly option for my body.

Cycling has been a great way to be active that is less impactful on my body. I spent 5-10 years as a triathlete doing quite a bit of triathlon races and training was really intensive. I liked it because it was a cross activity and I could swim, bike, or run- sometimes twice a day. That kept me quite active but it is a big time consuming activity and because I travel a lot the training is difficult to maintain.

What mental activities do you do to stay well?

Not enough! I have great intentions of being more purposeful and doing some mindfulness work and that’s about not letting my mind race about what I haven’t done and what I should be doing but just being present. But that’s an aspirational goal right now.

Right now my mental wellness is achieved through physical exercise. For example, today I haven’t exercised yet and I find myself a little agitated and jumpy, nothing negative, I just have extra energy and I’m really looking forward to going on my bike after work today.

I have done yoga quite a bit, I find hot yoga to be relaxing. The other thing that I do for mental wellness is fly fishing. I find that to be incredibly relaxing. Like mountain biking, you can’t let your mind drift when fly fishing.

The most common reason people give for not being active is that they don’t have the time. As a senior leader you have a very busy schedule- how do make the time for wellness activities?

I’m not doing this because of time, the activities that I’ve engaged in so far have been extremely time consuming. Training for a half ironman triathlon can take four hours of training a day.

I’ve had to dial back the amount of time I can dedicate to a specific activity because of the time I have to allocate to my work. In order to ensure that I maintain a regular pattern of physical activity I have to do it in the morning. There are a couple reasons for this including; because that’s when the time is available, I love starting my day with a sense of accomplishment, and more often than not if I plan to go after work that time gets taken away from me (meeting will pop up, etc.) Having my workout done before I get to work settles my mind. I often get up before 5 a.m. in order to fit my physical activity in.

The time it takes also depends on what I’m training for at the time. For example, I trained for a 400km bike race (Editor’s note: in which she came in 3rd) and I had to get up before 5 a.m. to get in my bike ride to be at work by 8:30 a.m. I would come to work and have 50k under my belt. Right now I’m not training for anything specific so my intention is to get in an hour or hour and a half a day. I have a trainer and treadmill at home so it makes it easier to get up and start my work out quickly.

Do you have some tips for managing workplace stress?

Get exercise! I really like the exercise in the morning pattern because it gives me a sense of accomplishment. A know a lot of other senior leaders exercises at lunch time because it breaks the day up and allows them to start the afternoon refreshed. I like to work during lunch time because it’s quieter.

Find a routine that’s best for you and who you are in the world and work with that.

Anything else you would like to share?

I’ve been told that I have an infectious enthusiasm for exercise so I really enjoy encouraging people to be more physically active (whatever that means for them) because I know the benefits of physical activity and balancing a physically active lifestyle with a higher stress job.

I’m really fortunate to work in an environment that values physical activity. I have a kinesiology professor background and regular exercise was a given so I had a little trepidation moving into administration because I worried I wouldn’t be able to maintain that way of life- but that hasn’t been the case. Our President is very present in the gym and our Provost just went out for a run. It’s great that everybody here really understands and abides by the importance of exercise.