Chuck Thomas, head of fitness at the Portsmouth Campus Student Center, is happy to help. Thomas, 52, is in great shape, and he wants everybody at TCC – students, faculty and staff – to make fitness part of their regimen.
“We’ve got something for everyone,” he said.
Thomas is giddy about all the offerings in the building’s third floor fitness center, which rivals the YMCA for the latest equipment. In addition to the state-of-the-art cardio machines, free weights and circuit training stations, the fitness center will soon offer volleyball, badminton, tennis and pickle ball and a Boxmaster, the ultimate boxing training system suitable for all levels. Thomas would like to develop a partnership with Girls, Inc., a nearby center for youth, to teach aqua fitness classes, too.
“The Boxmaster is really going to be a big attraction,” Thomas said. “We’re going to offer kickball, flag football, volleyball and basketball intramurals. We’re trying to build a program to include yoga, Zumba and all the latest fitness trends out there.”
While the Portsmouth’s fitness center is only four months old (each of the college’s student centers also have one to call their own), Thomas isn’t new to TCC, having worked as an adjunct fitness instructor here for the last 13 years. The chance to mentor students full time, particularly young African-American men, appealed to him. A recreation specialist at Parks & Recreation for the City of Virginia Beach for 25 years, Thomas watched the student centers being built on all the campuses and realized he wanted to be part of introducing fitness to TCC students.
“We have to build a fitness culture around here,” he said. “The campuses aren’t used to having fitness on campus, so the biggest challenge is selling students on it, getting them to come in and use the facility. They don’t understand how fortunate they are to have it.”
Growing up the son of a single mother and surrounded by eight sisters, Thomas jokes that his getaway was athletics. The local recreation center in Hinesville, Ga., became a second home, and minus a father in the house, Thomas found a mentor there who he remains in touch with today.
“He told me I had a future in recreation,” Thomas said.
Thomas played tailback in high school and ran track but after a failed attempt to play college football, he joined the Navy. While working as an aircraft mechanic, he found himself most interested in the sports available to keep him and his peers active.
That led him to his career in Virginia Beach, where he served as a fitness instructor and a U.S. Amateur Boxing fitness coach in addition to recreation specialist.
“That gave me the foundation for being in this profession,” Thomas said. “Everything I learned there, I’ve brought with me. It’s all going to expose itself.”
His own fitness isn’t in question. While sweet tea and oatmeal cookies are weaknesses, “If I eat it, I burn it,” he said, heavily relying on nonimpact deep water training.
Thomas advocates fitness for reducing the mental strain of classes and the stress that comes with everyday life. He’s seen female students improve their self-esteem thanks to being part of his kickboxing class. “One is even playing basketball with the guys,” he said. In addition to students, he’d like to see more faculty and staff become involved.
“I’ve been fortunate to live, work, play and enjoy my life,” Thomas said. “My mom used to tell me if you ever find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I found it.”