Research, Mind & body

Staff fitness instructor sweats to inspire, connect

By Anne Brice

Shane Barnard isn’t your ordinary fitness instructor. When she teaches fitness classes on campus, she brings an energy and dedication to exercise that goes above and beyond. “There are people in this world who have ‘it’ — the thing that makes you really excited to be around them and to know them,” says Devin Wicks, UC Berkeley’s director of fitness operations. “When Shane first started teaching, it was evident she had ‘it.’ ”

Shane Barnard says she wants people feeling a sense of pride when they leave her fitness classes. (UC Berkeley video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Phil Ebiner)

In addition to teaching a slew of cardio and strength training classes for students and staff on campus, Barnard is also part of a UC Berkeley program, WorkFit, that takes exercise directly to the workplace, from Annie’s Organics to the California Department of Public Health, to break common barriers to exercise and to motivate employees. She says these group workouts build a camaraderie among employees that creates a stronger, more collaborative work environment.

Barnard hasn’t always been the fitness guru she is today. She began as a lawyer representing children in foster care. But her heart wasn’t in it, and, after six years, she decided to switch careers. “I realized on a retreat, when I was thinking about what I wanted to be doing with my life in 10 years, that the law was nowhere in there,” she says. “It was all fitness and education. I had to make that leap.”

Devin Wicks, director of fitness at UC Berkeley, says one of his goals is to change the perception of what the fitness center offers. “My North star is, how do I change your life, not just how do I get you to run on a treadmill,” he says. (UC Berkeley video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Phil Ebiner)

Although practicing law wasn’t in the cards, Barnard still supports youth of all ages.

She’s a mentor in the Cal Independent Scholar Network, which pairs campus staffers with former foster youth. Student Rozie Beverly says Barnard has taught her to strategize and plan. “I always want to try new things, and Shane kind of keeps me grounded and keeps things realistic,” she says.

Last year, Barnard, along with her partner, Miwa Natsuki, a personal trainer at Cal Recreational Sports on campus, started a nonprofit fitness and health program for kids called UrbanPlay. The mission of the program is to educate and empower kids to make healthy decisions for themselves. “We’re not here to tell them what to do,” says Barnard. “We’re educating them through play.”

Each day, Barnard continues to inspire people to make fitness a part of their lives. “I really want people to feel that anything is possible.”