Fitness Center for the Road Warrior

posted on Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tis the season of resolutions—commitments of losing weight, joining a gym, eating better. We all struggle. For some the opportunity to improve health is more than a question of will; it’s a lack of accessibility.

Recently the New York Times published an article about the health challenges facing truck drivers. Spending 12 hours a day sitting behind the wheel with few opportunities for fitness, easy-access health care, or better-for-you foods, our 18-wheeler friends suffer a disproportionately high risk for serious health disorders.

When you make your living on the road, you often sacrifice health, and truck drivers are not the only population at risk. Business travelers are also challenged to establish healthy routines other Americans enjoy, such as cooking and eating meals at home, gym memberships, and access to dental and physical health care providers.

Motivated by the tenets of the Healthiest State Initiative, a group of six Drake University certified public manager (CPM) students devised a plan to boost health for the road warriors passing through our state. Their goal: to offer opportunities for fitness at Iowa rest areas and welcome centers.

Using the model of public-private partnerships, the group looked for input from the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Iowa Tourism Office, Vocational Rehab, Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Deportment of Transportation as well local businesses as they pursued the project.

CPM Award

Team members pictured from left to right are Renee Shirley, Deb Shafer, Beverly Schmeling, Lonie Mezera, Carrie Hay and Lora Coffman.

“They were all very positive about the idea,” says class member Lonie Mezera. “We were blessed with a great team. Everybody stepped up and put some great ideas on the table.”

The proposal: installing outdoor circuit training equipment at an Iowa rest area to be known as a “Fitness Stop.”

With the research compiled and their report in the bag, the group met with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. “His feedback gave our team the momentum to proceed with the project and to hopefully bring the it to fruition,” says Lonie. “Most CPM projects are just an idea or concept. This one we want to implement.”


The Wilton Welcome Center, one of the most highly visited welcome centers in Iowa, is located on I-80 (westbound) near exit 271 between Iowa City and Davenport, offers travel information, transportation maps and ideas on interesting things to see and do in Iowa. The adjoining rest area looks to be the perfect destination for a first-in-the-nation Fitness Stop.

The group proposes the fitness equipment will besituated just off the paved walking trails. The well-lit, ADA-accessible fitness areas would offer strength-based, aerobic and flexibility training stations at incremental distances. The project would be easily accessible any season and at any time of day.

Lonie’s team is excited about the project. “Our proposal to create Fitness Stops at welcome Center/rest areas along our interstates is an example of how state-owned facilities can play an active role in Iowa’s health initiative and shows Iowa’s leadership in innovation by blending fitness with travel.”

The group is continuing to work to make this proposal a reality by Summer 2013. If all falls in place – – – when you’re traveling I80 this summer you’ll be able to swing by the Wilton Welcome Center and re-energize with a few minutes at the Fitness Stop.

SIDE NOTE: This Drake University Certified Public Manager’s project group received national honors for these efforts. They were recently presented with the George Askew Award for the utilization of management practices exemplifying the philosophy of the American Academy of Certified Public Managers® in the completion of an exceptional curriculum project.