Steve De Cruz

Computing Systems & Support Administrator – School of Computing and Mathematics.

It’s a well-worn cliché that exercise is good for the mind, emotions and body. I have been a member of the gym at Keele for ten years, and I organise and participate in the twice weekly staff football game. If you see someone wandering round campus with a bag of bibs and footballs, chances are it’s me. And I can testify that it’s cliché for a good reason.

As IT Systems Administrator in the School of Computer Science and Maths, my job is most definitely contained within four walls. It’s the kind of job where daylight is not necessarily a daily component.

Until my late teens, and going away to university, I was very athletic. My life was dominated by sprinting and football, and I competed at both. But at university in Newcastle (Upon Tyne, not Under Lyme) my accommodation was miles away from the university sports facilities, and it felt like a huge effort to go there and exercise.

Luckily for staff and students at Keele, the sports facilities are as convenient as they are excellent. I go to the gym three lunch times a week, and play football with colleagues on the other two. Both are just a short walk across campus. I find that it’s so much more cheap and convenient than other fitness options, and adds variety to the working day.

It goes without saying that these activities have a positive impact on my physical well-being. Both going to the gym and playing football have obvious benefits like breaks away from work - not just sitting at the desk eating a sandwich or walking to the shop to buy food. I can go to the gym and relieve stress and work frustrations, and stimulate my brain through change of scenery and change of pace. I go back to office feeling more positive and with exercise endorphins, generally feeling more focused and energised. It breaks up the normal day and gives me something to look forward to.

Even light stretches in the kinesis room at the gym when not in the mood to do a super human workout and a shower in the middle of the day is refreshing. Or working up more of a sweat and busting my lungs sprinting on the track in the summer.

But there are also some unexpected benefits for my emotional and mental well-being. I should probably not admit that going to work is sometimes a chore (though I sure that everyone can empathise with this) but knowing that I’m also going to be running around in the outdoors is very motivating.

The outdoor exercise and fresh air is completely different from being cooped up indoors. There’s the occasional sunshine (!) and fun and interesting games in the rain or snow. You feel like you’re experiencing the day rather than just going through a routine and being isolated in one little office. Connecting with the weather and the outdoors makes you feel more alive, more motivated and prepared for the working day.

Staff Football also allows me to get to know colleagues that I would never otherwise have the chance to mix with – It’s a great way to foster friendships and collegial working relationships and to network away from the standard workshop, training or conventional university meetings.

People from all walks of university life participate, from Estates to physios, postgrads to professors. It’s a game that doesn’t discriminate. It’s great to see people that have not played for years regardless of whether they are in their 20s or their 60s develop in fitness and confidence from month to month. It’s always good natured and supportive, and irrespective of the actual score seems to usually come down to last goal wins.

It’s nice to walk around campus and see people you play football with who you otherwise wouldn’t know, and be able give a little nod or a wink about a terrible tackle, incredible goal or embarrassing nutmeg!

The camaraderie makes you feel like you are back at school at the playground having a game to play at lunch time rather than an hour sat in the canteen eating a sandwich or something.

So for a convenient change to your normal routine head to the gym or for a game of football. I’ll be the guy with the bibs.

Active Keele - Steve De Criz