Spotlight On: Sean McLaughlin

August 5, 2015


Sean McLaughlin

Recreation Management and Policy
MS Lecturer

Year Started at UNH: 2010

1.What does health mean to you?

 In a word, movement.  The human body was meant to work, to move, to perform.  Somehow, our society has become sedentary, and it both saddens and motivates me.  Sure, life expectancies are on the rise in most Western civilizations, but this can be attributed largely to medical advances, not to “health”.  I am not afraid of death – I am afraid of not living, and this ethos inspires me to remain active, healthy, and happy!

2.What do you do to make a healthy UNH? 

I rarely drive to campus.  When I am unable to commute by bicycle, I ride the UNH Wildcat Transit bus from Portsmouth – it amazes me that more people don’t take advantage of our fantastic FREE transportation system here at UNH.  My wife and I have always chosen to live within reach of public transportation, and it cuts down on our carbon emissions (we have only one car), travel costs, stress, and wasted time!  Why drive when you could either 1) be exercising, or 2) be working on the bus while someone else does the driving?  Also, I am a firm believer in leading by example – I used to be almost evangelical about people riding to work, or using alternative transportation or whatever – but I have realized over the years that this tact doesn’t work…people don’t like to feel bad about themselves.  So, I have learned to soften my approach.  After all, at the end of the day I can’t make choices for others.  When it comes to our health, or the health of our workplace, why wouldn’t we do everything possible to enhance it? 

3.How do you stay fit? 

My daily bike commute during the school year is about 12 miles each way, which works out to about an hour of relatively easy riding, twice a day.  So, my “workout” is built into my commute, and I obviously can take different routes depending on the amount of time I have.  No driving to the gym, no lunch break runs, no real “scheduled” fitness.  In additional to the physical health benefit of this routine, I show up to work with a clear head.  Likewise, when I get home, I am in a good state of mind, excited to see my wife and two daughters!  So, the mental health benefits definitely compliment the physical benefits.  When classes are not in session at UNH, I try to ride my mountain bike as much as possible.  I occasionally paddle out to surf, and I am planning to get a surf board rack for my bike so I can ride to the beach.

4.Do you have any tips for eating healthfully? 

For better or for worse, my wife is a dietician!  We have a huge garden, and our shelves are devoid of any processed or junk food, so my healthy eating choices are largely built in to my home environment.  That said, when I am commuting to work on a daily basis, and my metabolism is screaming, I sometimes sneak in some muffins or “calorie dense” snacks during the day.  I typically bring my own food to work, and we eat as a family most days at breakfast and dinner.  Again, much like using alternative transportation, preparing our own food not only saves us a tremendous amount of money, it is healthy and allows our family to spend time together!  My wife’s motto is a simple one – eat real food, in moderation, and the less you limit food choices with fad diets or quick fixes the better off you will be in the end!

5.How do you find motivation to stay healthy?

  I am motivated to stay healthy in several ways.  First, I look in the mirror.  I see wrinkles, and some gray hairs, and I sometimes I see my father.  But I also see life, and I am motivated to keep that fire in my eyes…to stay active and healthy as long as physically possible.  Second, I am motivated by comments I hear, or read.  Finally, I am motivated to stay healthy for my girls.  I want to go mountain biking with my daughters when they grow up.  I want to tour Europe on bike with my wife when I am in my 70’s.  And I’d like to be active and engaged with my grandchildren, should I be lucky enough to see that day!

6.Have you made any tangible improvements to your physical or mental well-being by making positive changes in your life?

 I have always had the perspective that life is short, and that I should try to live each day like it could be the last.  Now, this gets complicated with children, of course – but the mentality is the same, and as my girls get older I think it will get easier to, say, head to Prescott Park for a late show or pop over to the beach to watch the moon rise or whatever.  For me, taking a job at UNH was the most positive change I have ever made in my life, and one that has made me a better father, a better husband, and a better person.  UNH is a wonderful campus, and my department is like family – there is an incredible sense of collegiality here, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to explore the career path I have chosen. 

7.Anything else you would like to add that might encourage others on campus to make health efforts too? 

Experimentation is key.  Try riding the bus.  Try pedaling your bike one way to campus and riding the bus home.  Try parking at West Edge and walking, intentionally, to your office.  Try bringing your own food and limiting your intake of sodas and other junk “food”.  Try a new sport.  Try a new activity.  It doesn’t matter what it is, just get moving!  I think a lot of folks are intimidated by “healthy” people, which is a bummer.  Unfortunately, when I show up to campus all decked out in my commuting clothes and I am bouncing around in a great mood, not everyone appreciates it.  Some are offended, some are ashamed, and some are intimidated.  Personally, I have worked hard on walking this thin line – wanting others to know what I do in terms of bike commuting (leading by example), but not wanting to gloat about it (intimidating others) – and this is one of my biggest challenges.

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