Bookstore cashiers participate in ‘to Mecca’ fitness challenge

By Drew Thompson, Staff Writer

In a unique effort to stay healthy, cashiers at the University Campus Store plan to collectively bike, run and swim 7,803.1 miles, the distance from Salt Lake City to Mecca, Saudi Arabia in a “Bike to Mecca” fitness challenge.

Cecily Gillis, lead cashier for the customer service department of the U Campus Store, said a cashier on their team noticed that switching around the first letter from two customer service supervisors’ names, Mike and Becka, created a catchy hybrid, Bike to Mecca.

“I’m totally going to bike it,” said Gillis, a junior in human development and family studies major.

The cashiers came up with the idea after the campus store initiated a fitness challenge last week.

“It is a way for people to get to know each other and expand themselves by trying something new,” said Danielle Thomsen, supervisor for human resources at the U Campus Store.

Thomsen said the program started in large part because of the Well U Program, the U’s effort to encourage healthy living among U faculty and staff. Well U awards health insurance discounts to U employees who complete a health risk assessment and a biometric screen, which includes a cholesterol test among other things. The assessment identifies areas in someone’s health that need improvement and encourages employees to set goals accordingly.

Thomsen said she got the idea for the fitness challenge from a friend whose place of employment implemented a similar program. To complete the challenge, groups or individual employees identify a physical fitness goal that is “challenging but reasonable” and have until the end of April to accomplish that goal.

The U Campus Store arranged for a nutritionist to give a presentation to store employees to showcase healthy eating habits and vilify snack foods, which the campus store sells. Thomsen said she will also send weekly e-mails to lift spirits and give ideas for reaching the goals.

The customer service department, the largest of the groups, has its sights set high.

Within two months, the customer service department plans to have finished the challenge.

Although uncharacteristic of a typical pilgrimage, the customer service team takes its goal very seriously. Gillis showed no reservation in proclaiming their goal.

The contest does not provide any material reward for those that accomplish their goals and participation is voluntary, but Gillis said that a part of it is about respect from peers and a sense of accomplishment.

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