GCU staffers making fitness their soul desire

May 05, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

The Team Walking Challenge, which ends this week, is all about making fitness a habit. One of the participants, Rob Gronbech, put it in terms that anyone at Grand Canyon University can understand.

“We talk at GCU about finding your purpose,” he said. “Living a better life and eating healthy, this is a way of finding your purpose.”

The Walking Challenge, the just-for-fun competition organized by the newly formed Wellness Committee, ends Saturday, and more prizes will be awarded after that. But more wellness events are in the works.

Gronbech, an enrollment counselor in the Military Division, was third in the latest Walking Challenge standings, having gone the equivalent of 483 miles since the competition began on March 10. Bonnie Trask of Human Resources was first with 521 miles, followed by Alyssa Smith of the Office of Academic Records at 516. “Steps” are earned for all types of physical activity, from aerobics to weightlifting to even vacuuming.

Here’s how they’ve done it. Feel free to use their stories for inspiration and maybe to find your purpose, too.


Bonnie Trask

Bonnie Trask

When Trask’s husband died of pancreatic cancer in 2009, she said she turned to food in her grief and gained 120 pounds. But then a talk from her doctor was more than she could stomach.

“He said, ‘You’re on a road to self-destruction,’” she said. “I was borderline diabetic. That’s when I started looking at my eating habits.”

The doctor put her on a meal plan, and the weight slowly started coming off. But after battling a long illness she didn’t get clearance from the doc to begin her exercise regimen until late January, and the Walking Challenge came along at a perfect time. “I was really glad when they announced they were doing this,” she said.

Like most dedicated fitness enthusiasts, Trask has a goal: She wants to look good for her wedding in August. She credits her fiancé, Michael King, for much of her success – he, too, follows a strict fitness regimen. “He’s been a very good motivation for me,” she said.

Trask, 49, starts her day with at least a half-hour of cycling, lifts weights and then, once she’s at work, walks around the 27th Avenue campus, goes on the treadmill and lifts weights during breaks. She and King go for walks after work 2-3 nights a week and embark on much longer bike rides on weekends.

“I smile a lot when I’m out there on my bike,” she said. “For me, it’s a stress reliever – the sights, the sounds, being out in nature. It motivates me more than the treadmill.”

Her efforts have resulted in blood pressure that she calls “textbook perfect 120 over 80,” but there’s still work to be done. Trask said she wants to lose 20 to 30 more pounds and admits that sticking with her regimen isn’t easy.

“I don’t want to get back in that old groove, but it would be easy to fall back into that,” she said. “It’s a struggle.”



Alyssa Smith

Alyssa Smith

Smith isn’t a newcomer to the fitness game. She was a three-sport athlete at Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix, and she said that when she and her husband, Matt, started dating they used to hike five days a week.“I just like being active, especially because I’m sitting in a desk eight hours a day,” she said. “I have to get out and do something.”

And, oh boy, does she ever do something. Smith, 26, said that she and Matt go cycling for at least an hour just about every evening, she does some weightlifting and, like Trask, she takes a lot of walks around the 27th Avenue building.

Her eating habits aren’t quite as pristine, but she tries to eat healthy and doesn’t eat out much. Because she works out so diligently she feels comfortable keeping bread and pasta as key items in her meal plan. “I love bread,” she said.


Like Trask, Gronbech has a significant goal and had to make major changes in his lifestyle to get on a path toward it. The 13-year Navy veteran wants to re-enlist to reach the 20-year mark, but he won’t be allowed to return to regular duty until his body fat is lower.

Rob Gronbech

Rob Gronbech

“My belly is kind of holding me back,” he said, patting his midsection.

If Gronbech, 43, keeps doing what he’s doing, he soon will have less midsection to pat. He starts his day with 30-45 minutes of pushups and situps, then walks at least three miles. He also lifts weights three times a week and likes to go bowling, and when he’s at work at the GCU campus in Peoria, he walks around the nearby park once or twice a day.

He also stopping drinking soda, sticking with iced tea, water and orange juice instead, and keeps his food portions to the recommended size of a fist.

Gronbech said this is “the first time in awhile” that he has worked out regularly, and he admitted that the Navy isn’t the only reason he has gotten back on track.

“My mom was on me to lose weight,” he said.

Contact Rick Vacek at 602.639.8203 or [email protected].


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