For Elisa Terry, life has always been about staying active.
As the daughter of parents who studied recreation in college, Terry remembers spending family time at local tracks and parks and walking with her dad through her hometown of Huntington Beach.
But somewhere down the line, lifestyles began to change. As the program director for UCLA’s recreation and wellness program, Terry, now 40 and living in Santa Monica, sees a world where movement has not only lost its value, but has become nearly impossible.
“The jobs are more sedentary. Everything is made more convenient to us,” she said. “Things have just gotten … a little off kilter and we need balance.”
To help people move, Terry has created WRABBLE, fitness adventure puzzles that combine movement and questions to foster activity with a purpose. The puzzles consist of a series of questions that can only be solved by getting outside and walking around to find the answers. Each solution corresponds to a letter and the letters spell out the puzzle’s final solution.
“Any type of physical movement is fun for me, but that isn’t the case for some other folks,” Terry said. “There needs to be another element to it that makes it more interesting.”
Terry first tried out this concept with her staff at UCLA, giving people five days to complete a puzzle on campus. Ordinarily, WRABBLE should take about an hour and a half to complete, but many people only have 15 minute breaks and lunch hours to find the answers. It is integrating more movement like this into the day-to-day that Terry believes is important.
“You don’t have to join a gym, you don’t have to make things complicated,” Terry said. “You just have to restore a little bit of movement and physical activity to your daily life.”
As someone who has been involved with UCLA’s recreation department ever since she was a sociology student at the university, Terry’s athletic experience is expansive.
The former Bruin rower has taught classes on everything from yoga to basic movement, seeing fundamental activity as the key to staying healthy.
“If we go back to basics, back to exploring and just simple human movement and making it fun, you can achieve fitness,” Terry said. “When you are physically active, those feelings translate into other aspects of your life.”
With WRABBLE, Terry hopes that she will inspire other people, including Santa Monica residents, to embrace this type of lifestyle.
In fact, over Labor Day weekend, Terry created a Santa Monica edition of the puzzle in honor of the pier’s 100th birthday. Having lived in the city for over 11 years, Terry was inspired by local sites and landmarks, including many that go unnoticed when traveling by car. Through activities such as walking, running or biking, Terry feels that local residents can utilize the puzzles on weekends or during work breaks to exercise and explore. She even hopes to create new WRABBLE puzzles to reflect what’s going on in different areas of Santa Monica.
“It can expose people to new places that they have never seen,” Terry said. “The beach is my route for the most part, so exploring other parts will be interesting for me.”
On a typical Saturday, for example, Terry leaves her apartment on Third Street and heads straight for a walk on the beach, followed by a yoga class at Exhale Spa in Downtown. From there, it’s back to the beach to catch some sun and body board before playing a game of paddle tennis in Venice Beach. By the end of the day, Terry is ready to see a movie or grab a bite to eat with friends.
“You have to have an energy balance,” Terry said.
Despite her myriad activities, Terry recognizes that not everyone is willing to get active right away. In a fitness course she teaches at UCLA, Terry always tells her students that these things take time.
“Be open to the information I’m giving you,” Terry tells them. “Somewhere down the line when something else happens and you think that might be a good idea for [you] to improve [your] health, then that’s the time for you to implement it.”
There is no secret to Terry’s fitness philosophy.
“Fitness is not rocket science,” Terry said. “Just get out and explore.”