Fitness director’s dedication to health and PNW


Towfiq Tofail

John Bobalik, PNW fitness director, leads abs and core exercise class.

John Bobalik, PNW fitness director, who is 69, has maintained his fitness lifestyle since high school.

“I ran track in high school and college, and there’s many reasons to stick to exercising,” Bobalik said. “It makes you feel and function better and keeps you young. In the fitness field, you have to be a good role model. If not, you lose credibility.”

Bobalik has other roles in PNW’s fitness centers. He leads the beginner, intermediate, and extreme abs and core classes, and he’s involved in the Silver Sneakers Program, an outreach exercise program for older adults. He also coordinates the annual races, the Spring Fling Run and the Jennie Hamilton Fall Frolic.

Bobalik also teaches exercise physiology during the fall semester and is a chair in the Jennie Hamilton and John Friend Scholarship Committee.

“My whole life has been wrapped up in fitness, and I like helping people in the fitness environment,” Bobalik said.

Bobalik became involved in the fitness industry in the late 1980s. He worked for the Hammond Clinic in corporate fitness.

Before working at the Hammond Clinic, Bobalik taught sociology and health at Bishop Noll Institute for seven years. He was also the assistant track coach and head cross-country coach. After attending graduate school at Purdue West-Lafayette, he taught at Highland High School for three years.

When Bobalik got his teaching position, he quit running and fell out of his fitness lifestyle.

“I was at the indoor track at Bishop Noll and was going to run two miles. I only ran five laps and had to stop. I thought, ‘Geez, I’m only 25 years old and can’t run half a mile. How am I going to be when I’m 45?’” Bobalik said. “I said, enough of this, I’m going to start running again, get on a regular exercise program and just continue with it.”

Bobalik said that this was a good wake-up call for him.

“Sometimes when you’re young and fairly fit, you think you’re invincible. You can do anything, anytime. It doesn’t always work like that,” Bobalik said. “I also continued with my fitness lifestyle because I practice what I preach.”

Bobalik then became fitness director when PUC wanted someone to run the new Fitness and Recreation Center.

PUC and Hammond Clinic came together to create the recreation center. The Hammond Clinic needed a space for corporate executives to exercise. John Friend, athletics consultant and former PUC athletic director, proposed to have it developed at PUC. With the merger, Bobalik was hired and ran it with Rob Jenson, former fitness director.

Tabitha Stills, recreation center manager, said she has known Bobalik since she started working at the FRC in 1993. She said Bobalik was her mentor and the reason she pursued fitness.

“John’s a great boss, very encouraging, easy to learn from and bends over backwards to help anyone,” Stills said. “I have never seen him angry or upset. He’s positive and upbeat. He just goes above and beyond.”

Stills said that Bobalik takes great pride in the PNW fitness centers and does not want them to be viewed as typical gyms.

“The fitness centers are his life, and he dedicates so much time to them. His wife and I joke that I see him more than she does,” Stills said. “He’s never sitting behind the desk and is always helping on the floor.”

Bobalik said he wants students to take advantage of what the PNW fitness centers offer. He said students have to be pointed in the right direction without being in an intimidating environment.

“For students that have many pressures, academic and normal pressures from everyday life, coming in here is a great stress release,” Bobalik said. “There’s different ways to release stress, say you could go to a bar, but that’s not a beneficial way to relieve stress. This is a much more pleasant outlet. You can see obvious benefits, and socialize with friends, new people and instructors.”

Bobalik advises students to be smart when starting a healthy fitness routine.

“Find a place to start somewhere and start slowly. I would say the main thing is to find a fitness professional,” Bobalik said. “They will get you to a safe start, teach you to use the equipment and exercises correctly. Most importantly, find someone that will make you feel comfortable to make progress.”

Bobalik said it is important to set realistic fitness expectations and goals.

“There’s things you can get instantly, but this isn’t a computer program,” Bobalik said. “What you’re really looking at is a long-term commitment to exercise, fitness and taking care of yourself. You’re going to eat, comb your hair, brush your teeth every day, so you might as well get in a good healthy fitness routine. Pace yourself, be consistent and you’ll make progress.’

Bobalik said he likes working at the fitness centers because he never knows who is going to be affected.

“You never know who you’re going to benefit. You can never tell, and that’s exciting,” Bobalik said. “At the same time, you never want to burn a bridge with someone or shut the door on that person. You don’t judge that person. You just continue to work with him or her.”

Bobalik mostly does aerobic exercises, resistance training and cross fit training that involves pull-ups and body curls. He was born in Hessville and now lives in Munster with his wife and three cats.