Dem Lager, a recreation assistant at White Sands Missile Range’s Bell Gym, who played a key role in the WSMR Wellness Program that strives to keep installation employees fit, has come full circle since her arrival as an intern.
Lager started her journey at WSMR as an intern in 2015. As an intern she and a fellow intern helped develop the content for the now very successful Wellness Program.
“She was the student first, then intern and now she’s staff,” said Bell Gym Fitness Program Specialist Dawn Armstrong.
Lager also attended New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where Armstrong was her instructor for several of her courses. Armstrong continues to teach at NMSU in the Kinesiology and Dance Department and has been teaching there since 2006.
“The really great thing is we have a unique relationship you don’t see too often,” Armstrong said.
Lager said she decided to apply for the internship because she heard great things about it through a fellow classmate.
“I always offer up the internship program. Some students go into physical therapy, medicine, and a lot go into Health and Wellness, so this a great opportunity,” Armstrong said.
Since Lager’s arrival in 2015 she has already been awarded two Garrison Command coins for her efforts in the Wellness Program and for completing her internship with the gym. Lager’s most recent coin was the first of WSMR Garrison Commander Col. Brian Michelson’s newer series. Michelson personally presented the coin to her Jan. 11.
“I’ve learned a lot working for the government,” Lager said.
Lager facilitated the Wellness Program while Armstrong was on maternity leave. Armstrong said she was very pleased with the way she handled the program during her absence.
“I have enjoyed working on this program at the gym with the interns. It is always neat to see them develop and grow,” Armstrong said.
The WSMR community is a unique challenge because most of the individuals who come into the gym or participate in the program are new to the concept of working out, Lager said. She said her past experience has had her working with individuals who were very committed to working out and had done so all of their lives.
“I’ve never really worked with beginners. I’ve learned how to get people involved and strive for better results,” Lager said.
Armstrong said the Wellness Program has brought out individuals who have shied away from working out in the past. Getting to know Lager, Armstrong, and future interns helps individuals feel comfortable enough to share their weight and health goals, Armstrong said.
“There’s a lack of initiative on their part because they don’t know what is being offered. One of our goals is to try and change that perspective. I think they’re finally starting to realize that they have someone looking out for their best interest,” Armstrong said.
Lager said the best part of working with these types of individuals is when they ask for a new workout plan because they’ve already conquered their goals on their last one. She said she’s definitely seen a change in attitude in individuals who have participated in the Wellness Program before.
“People who have never been in a gym before are returning to ride mountain bikes on the weekend,” Lager said.
“We want people to understand that we’re here for retention. We want to stay. We’re here to keep growing and keep developing,” Armstrong added. “We all have worked hard together and look forward to continued success.”
Lager said she will be starting graduate school in May. She said she will stay in the health and wellness realm but is not sure if she wants to work in the preventative or medical realm. She said she hopes to continue to work for the Department of Defense.
“I love the team I work with. I feel that it’s very strong right now,” Lager said.
The latest Wellness Program began in October and will run through April. Currently, Armstrong said there is a waiting list with10 individuals for the next six-month session. She said there will be some changes that will be coming up in the next session, including a more flexible schedule. Individuals will now be able to stay in the program longer than six months if they desire.
“We’ve created this program not only for the WSMR community but for our personal development,” Armstrong said. “We are allowing anyone to enter into the Wellness Program, six months isn’t set in stone.”
Portions of the gym were shut down for the major part of 2015 due to construction. At the end of 2015 the gym opened its doors to customers with a completely new interior, flooring and locker rooms.
“It’s more approachable, more inviting and definitely more functioning now,” Armstrong said.