Norma Mena graduated from Union with a health and human performance degree in May, and she understands firsthand the challenges of pursuing a healthy lifestyle. As a teenager, she found herself at a crossroads in her own fitness journey.
“I was told by a doctor that I was at risk of being overweight,” she explained. “That really affected me and pushed me to explore what it means to live a healthy lifestyle.”
That exploration lead her to high school sports where she thrived. But, because of her commitment to the Sabbath, she was unable to participate in Friday night and Saturday meets.
“It was nice to come to Union and experience a community where activities end early on Friday, and everyone goes to family worship and church together,” Mena shared.
When she considered colleges, Norma looked for a spiritual community. She wanted God to be a part of her college experience.
“Union is like a family. At public school, I didn’t see my professors outside the classroom; at Union, I see them at church and at other events. It’s nice.”
One of those professors, Dr. Nancy Petta, who inspired Mena to see fitness as a lifetime goal and encouraged her to switch her major to health and human performance.
“I love how Dr. Petta practices being healthy,” Mena said. “She inspires me to want to be like her; to live a healthy lifestyle throughout my life, even into my old age.”
Because Mena’s major provides a wide variety of career options, she’s not sure exactly what direction her career will take, but being a guide, educator, and cheerleader for those struggling to fulfill their fitness goals interests her. During her internship at Profile by Sanford, she experienced personal coaching in action.
“Helping people on their journey to living a healthy lifestyle attracts me,” Mena shared. “There’s so much more to health than going to the gym and drinking protein shakes. I want to be involved in a client’s entire journey to health — exercise, nutrition, and mental wellbeing. I want to equip my clients with the skills they will need to succeed without me.”
Because of her own challenges at a young age, she has a soft spot for teenagers.
“I’d like to work with teens. If they start out young, they can be educated correctly, which will impact their entire lives. And that’s the age I was struggling the most, trying to discover what it meant to live healthy.”
And for all of us struggling with our own fitness routine, Mena has some sage advice: “Find a physical activity you enjoy and do it regularly with someone who will hold you accountable. And when you have a difficult workout, remember that not every workout is going to be great. Just because you don’t sweat in a workout doesn’t mean it isn’t an effective workout. It’s a process, and change isn’t going to happen overnight, it’s going to happen over months.”
And, lastly, Mena advised, “Celebrate off-the-scale victories. Do you feel better? Do you feel more energized? Do your clothes fit better? Celebrate, not just the numbers on the scale, but also those little off-scale victories.”
by Trena Reed ’97