Formerly The Group Fitness Director, Erin Buck Now Stands at The Helm of The Aquatic Center's Fitness Department
Apr 16, 2019 02:31PM
We caught up with Buck to chat about her background, her plans for the Upper Valley Aquatic Center in the future, and lots of other fun topics in this exclusive Q&A.
Upper Valley Image Magazine: Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background? What got you interested in fitness and personal training?
Erin Buck: I grew up locally in Brownsville, Vt. The ski hill, Mt. Ascutney, was a part of who our family was and gave way to some of the most memorable moments of my childhood. We spent countless hours with our friends, skiing in the winter, swimming, and playing tennis during the summer. The resort always had us moving, trying new things and this equated to lots of joy. As a young adult, physical activity drew me in. I loved to play sports and embraced dance class as long as it was offered in the next town over. My college years included playing field hockey and working at the local gym. The way movement makes me feel is what keeps me interested.
Once I graduated from college, I felt a disconnect between being an athlete and student, and now, being part of the workforce. When do you make time for exercise? Do you do it on your own? I needed help managing a gym culture and finding myself beyond sports. I hired someone with more knowledge than I had – a Certified Personal Trainer, of course – to help guide me and encourage a better understanding of my body and how it relates to fitness. It was a positive experience and one that resonated with me as I continued to pursue my Master’s in elementary education. It was not a direct journey for me; in order to help support my tuition, I found a job working at a fitness facility, tasked myself with getting certified, and began to learn from those around me. I felt confident in myself and what I could bring to the clients I worked with during this time. At the end of my schooling, it was clear that having my own classroom wasn’t the teaching I wished to pursue. I desired to be working with people of all different ages to teaching and guide them about their bodies and movement.
I am mom to two beautiful girls and wife to a partner who has often inspired me, fitness-wise. I have spent the last 15 years investing into a career that keeps me passionate about what I do each and every day.
IM: How did this opportunity present itself to you?
Buck: I was working at UVAC as the Group Exercise Director. Both the Fitness Director and Group Exercise Director collaborate to achieve success in our Fitness department. It was a natural fit for me to transition into this role. I loved the idea about helping to build and support a young staff as well as fostering growth for more seasoned personnel. I came to the role with having owned my own personal training business and operated a small cycling studio.
IM: You are a founder and contributor to many other programs, like PALS for Life. What was the inspiration there? Tell us more about each program and your involvement in them.
Buck: The PALS for Life Program and our other Breast Cancer options at UVAC are certainly [some] of my proudest work accomplishments to date. What started out as a conversation with a beloved client of mine turned into, as she calls it, ‘the silver lining in the cancer cloud.’ My work has grown over the last six years and continues to reach further than I could have ever expected. I coordinate and teach all three programs currently at the aquatic center, welcoming many community members in our doors to benefit from both my expertise and the facilities. I have been lucky to participate in so many of their personal journeys.
The first of the three programs is the PALs for Life program, which is based on results from the Physical Activity and Lymphedema (PAL) research trial conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Lymphedema is a common side effect of women treated for breast cancer and is caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system that prevents fluid drainage and results in uncomfortable and painful swelling, typically in the arms. Traditional approaches to postoperative and radiation recovery for breast cancer patients encouraged limited use of the arms to prevent lymphedema.
A complimentary program to PALS, and next in succession is our Bridge Program, which offers another 12 weeks of group personal training. This program is based upon The Strength and Courage Project. The [project] is a collaborative work with many partners including Magee-Womens Foundation, the philanthropic component of Magee-Womens Research Institute, and Magee-Womens Hospital. A new feature this year is that an extra day is added weekly to meet with Dr. Laleh, Research Scientist and Ph.D. to do the Eat to Defeat Nutrition Program. This group will meet three times per week for 12 weeks.
Our Living Beyond Cancer Program offers affordably priced, group-supported training for cancer survivors and meets two times weekly.
IM: Aside from fitness, what other activities do you enjoy? Do you have other hobbies?
Buck: I volunteer as a local Girl Scout Leader in West Lebanon and have a small troop of about 15 girls. This experience constantly rewards me in many ways: teaching girls to feed local families at the Listen Community Center, raise money for school supplies at the HAVEN, and building a Mini Free Public Library that will be given to Mt. Lebanon School before the start of summer. I am constantly working with our girls to instill how important it is to be an active person in their community.
I advocate for many organizations when it comes to fundraising and support, locally. This year I will be riding in the Prouty as an Ulti-mate Rider, completing 200 miles.
In the past, I would have spent time meeting with friends to enjoy various crafts projects, such as card making and scrapbooking. I still do crafts, but it is all tied into support for other activities. My girls have the coolest themed birthday parties!
IM: Since taking on this new role, how have you adapted? What have you learned? What have you done so far for UVAC?
Buck: I came into a facility that was new, but clearly we have already outgrown this space. A key element is layout and the transitioning of bodies, which I am working to address in efforts to make for better experiences for the member. Also, promoting a positive work environment that trickles down to the member.
One of the changes for me is that I have gone from managing part-time staff to full-time and this has required me to educate myself on addressing their different needs.
IM: What are your plans at UVAC for the future? Are there things you'd like to develop and enhance?
Buck: My goal is to deliver a diverse range of high quality fitness and aquatic programs accessible to all those in the Upper Valley Community as well as promote fitness and wellness programming.
I feel we should explore how we can play a more significant role in health and fitness education. I feel this could possibly be a draw for new members and an area of growth. Maybe seasonal short-term offerings would help accomplish this.
Family Centered Fitness is a vision. We have Splash Camp, swim lessons, and many links to our aquatic side, but I would like for families to be able to come, and while mom and dad are in the weight room or taking circuit training, Joey, age 8, can be experiencing a class, as well. Classes would range from martial arts to yoga to obstacle course fun, providing guidance for the youth of the Upper Valley.
[I’d like to] gradually and thoughtfully [increase] class opportunities for members to include an even wider variety of fitness methodologies. I am always excited to explore new models and techniques to see how they help to motivate our members.
My gold standard would be: how do we become one of the top 50 places to work in Vermont? I'd like to find ways to improve both personal trainer and fitness instructor retention. All fitness establishments struggle with this, but I feel a little effort toward this would help stabilize and grow our staff.
IM: What makes UVAC so special to you?
Buck: The people and the relationships that I have made provide me with a sense of family and direction. My cup is constantly being filled by my co-workers and clients. It’s truly a partnership.
UVAC has provided a platform for me to bring my cancer programs to more Upper Valley residents. I needed help with writing grants and establishing sustainability. This is an ongoing task each year, but we continue to tap into new funding and finding ways for the work to continue.
IM: Is there anything you'd like to say to the community at large?
Buck: UVAC does a great job at making fitness accessible for those in financial need, breaking down barriers for so many who couldn’t enjoy our facility and teachers. I love UVAC’s community to their REACH. UVAC is more than just the facility to those who come. Each and every person can find community here, which is what leads to positive experiences and a desire to come back day after day. I encourage you to find your community, wherever it is. Movement and fitness feed the body and mind.