Enjoy the outdoors while you stay active with this year’s Summertime activity challenge! Join us weekly during July as we share ways you can re-engage with your family, friends and/or community while working toward your well-being goal.
Enjoy a blast to the past and check out what summertime in St. Louis used to look like for residents and visitors, including WashU employees.
Read about your fellow colleagues and members of the SSSSST Team, our spring activity challenge team winners.
Competitive in nature: SSSSST Team Spotlight
Scattered across WashU’s Medical School campus – whether working in-person or remote – are members of the Sullivan family. Brian, the patriarch of the family, has been with WashU since 1984 and serves as the executive director of the Medical Scientist Training Program. Michael, the Sullivan’s only son, is a grant specialist in the Department of Medicine and works closely with the youngest daughter, Maggie, also a grant specialist. Mother, Carol, similarly works for the Department of Medicine as an accountant assistant. The Sullivan’s oldest daughter, Christina Twist, started with WashU as the director of medical school admissions in June 2021. Rounding out WashU’s Sullivan family tree is Isabelle Smith, Michael’s partner, who works as a special project administrator in the Office of Health Informatics and Data Science, formerly known as the Institute of Informatics. Together, this family forms the SSSSST Team, who won this spring’s wellness challenge, Spring into Motion.
“Doing the challenge as a family makes us feel strongly committed to each other,” Brian said. “We remind each other it’s always done as a friendly, gentle reminder and encourage one another that you can do it.”
Brian and Carol began participating in the challenges together before their children started joining their team. Michael, a marathon runner, and Isabelle, a fellow runner who also practices yoga, then joined the team followed by Maggie, and finally, Christina, a cyclist and swimmer. The family has even developed a team motto for SSSSST: “Speed up or slow down, but move out of the way.”
“This spring was the first time I’ve done the challenge after joining WashU,” Christina said. “My previous institution didn’t offer something like this, so it was nice to have an additional push to include physical well-being in my workday. I’m pretty active regardless but to have that valued by my employer is appreciated.”
The family agrees they enjoy the activity conversion feature and a step-count goal to earn points (the Spring into Motion challenge had three levels of 4,000, 6,000 and 10,000 steps a day). Carol, who has had two knee replacements and an Achilles tendon repaired, was still able to work toward each daily goal. Previously challenges, such as the Work of Art challenge, were also appreciated for their mindfulness attributes to well-being.
The family also enjoyed this challenge’s new features: the personal best reward and Thrive Thursday’s Kudoboard engagement.
“I really enjoyed reading through the Kudoboard wall and feeling inspired,” Carol said, “Gratitude is good for helping you realize life isn’t as hard as it feels sometimes, and it’s been hard over the past two years.”
Engaging as a family and encouraging each other to get in 10,000 steps day was done as one might expect a family would do: sending evening text messages, informal competition between siblings, banter and teasing. Yet, they also show support for one another by walking together after work. The family members all live within a three-mile radius, so it’s been easy for them to meet over lunch, workout in the home gym, fondly called the ‘Sullivan Family Gym’, or walk together after dinner through Tower Grove Park. Brian and Christina also strategically walk to campus to help get their steps in during the challenge.
In addition to increasing their physical activity during the challenges, one family member acknowledged the family competitive spirit has helped her push her own boundaries.
“Before dating Michael, I didn’t realize how competitive the family is,” Isabelle said. “It definitely runs in the family and now being in the family has pushed me to be more accountable for myself. This group all has master’s degrees so I’m working on my MBA at Olin. The family has also pushed me to broaden my horizons for education and physical activity.”
This isn’t the family’s first win. In 2020, the team consisted of Brian, Carol, Michael and Isabelle, who won the 8 Ways to Wellness. The team – Michael, Isabelle, Carol and Maggie – tied to win the Couch to 5K challenge in 2021, but now that the 2022 spring challenge is over, they have been enjoying the down time without the pressure of reaching a specific step count each day.
“There were times I would walk laps in my basement at night after Michael texted me asking if I got my steps in,” Christina said.
Brian also jokes with the team, “If I have to sit across the table from them for dinner on Sunday, I make sure to get my steps in, otherwise it’s awkward.”
Beat the summer heat with a homemade summer treat! Maggie Danforth, RD, is one of WashU’s MyWay to Health registered dietitians and instructs you how to make a healthy summer treat at home. Watch the video below to see her recipe.
Take a walk in your community. Find a nearby park, sidewalk path, indoor mall to beat the heat or even visit your town’s main street to get some steps in today. Play neighborhood bingo (.DOC) as you go and share a photo on the Wellness Wall of fun summertime sights along your route.
You are also invited to WashU’s first drive-in movie theater event on Aug. 4, where we will recognize our spring and summer activity challenge winners during intermission! Learn more and RSVP today.