New position at St. John’s brings focus on wellness

Published 1:38 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

As people age, the need to stay active and mobile becomes an essential part of staying well and having a good quality of life.

St. John’s Lutheran Community recently hired a new wellness director, Carter O’Brien, to assist in making this possible not only for St. John’s residents but for their staff members as well.

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Originally from Readlyn, Iowa, near Waverly, O’Brien attended Wartburg College and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in fitness management and a minor in business. After graduation he moved to Waterloo, Iowa, and worked as a personal trainer in the MercyOne hospital systems for over three years. O’Brien said he also worked in what he described as odd jobs before becoming the wellness director at St. John’s in early October.

He, his wife and daughter have lived in Albert Lea for a few months and are excited to meet people in the community, as well as find ways to stay active outside at parks and trails in the area.

Currently, O’Brien’s job involves designing and teaching fitness classes. Some of these include strength training, balance classes and walking groups. St. John’s also offers employee wellness classes for their staff. O’Brien plans and schedules these classes ahead of time and goes to different buildings on the St. John’s campus depending on the day.

O’Brien describes his transition from working in a hospital setting to working at St. John’s:

“The biggest difference is that … This is much more of a community itself,” he said. “When you’re working in more of a hospital setting you get the whole city.”

O’Brien said his main philosophy at work is “have fun” as well as using “exercise as medicine.”

“With my experience and my background, something like this fit kind of right away,” he said. “Being able to help somebody that might need help with balance or need a little bit of extra strength — and being able to kind of implement that with an entire community was an amazing opportunity.”

O’Brien said his favorite part of his new position is undoubtedly the residents.

“They’re extremely fun to work with,” he said. “They have a lot of stories that they share that are fun to listen to.”

O’Brien said his goals for the future at St. John’s involves trying to create the healthiest, happiest community possible. He wants to keep residents and staff engaged with fitness classes by introducing a variety of programs such as yoga or possibly dance.

He also said he wants to grow the wellness program in general.

“You make it enjoyable and I think my personal philosophy is just sticking with the exercise is very much medicine,” he said. “It can be therapy for a lot of people. It can be a social event for some people.”

O’Brien helps residents with lifestyle changes such as diet, and he also welcomes people to come by and say hello.

“If anyone just wants to stop in and talk, I’m open to talk,” he said.