WCU professor has passion for fitness

Betty Farmer during her morning fitness class in Cullowhee Recreational Center. Photo by Heather Mason.

Unassuming; That is the first word that comes to mind when you see Betty Farmer walking through the hallways of Stillwell Building. This five foot tall, blond, former collegiate cheerleader may appear harmless but there are many people at the Jackson County Recreation Department that would argue that point with you. Farmer is a fitness powerhouse.

Farmer, a communications professor at WCU, loves fitness. She has always been active, starting very young playing sports in elementary school and continuing into high school. She attended the University of Virginia-Wise, where she was a member of the tennis team for two years and a cheerleader for a year. With all of her achievements, she is still proud of her title as “the fastest girl in the fifth grade.”

Now, when she is not teaching at WCU, she can be found leading fitness classes three mornings a week at the recreation center in Cullowhee. She has earned a national certification for primary aerobics and she is a certified personal trainer. Although, early on she performed well in tennis and other sports, the 1980’s proved a popular time for step aerobics and she enjoyed this activity. When Farmer began working for the University, a small dance studio was in operation in Cullowhee. With her love of step aerobics and her communication skills, teaching fitness was a great way to combine the things she was good at doing. When the studio needed instructors, Farmer answered the call. The studio in Cullowhee eventually closed its doors. Farmer began working out on her own at the recreation park and when they needed fitness instructors, Farmer once again was able to do what she loved, teach fitness.

Farmer beams as she admits that the best part of her day is when she is teaching fitness. That enthusiasm can be felt by those who take her fitness classes. Some days she may have a small intimate class and other days the room can be filled with excited students ready to lunge and step their way to health.

“Betty pushes you but makes it fun. She has a lot of personality and knows everyone in her classes by name,” said Shannon Lominac, a former collegiate athlete and frequent student in Farmer’s step class.

Rusty Ellis, director of the Recreation department is also full of praise for Farmer.

”Betty is a great people person and she is hard core when it comes to fitness,” he describes her.  She has been working as a fitness instructor at the Recreation Department for almost eight years.

Jim Manning, Farmers husband, shares her healthy lifestyle. Manning, a former junior Olympic swimmer, participates in many activities with his wife. On their first date, Manning took her trail running around Lake Glenville.

“It is critical to have your partner’s support to obtain your fitness goals,” said Farmer. When you love to do something and your partner shares that passion, it becomes a way of life and Farmer promotes a healthy lifestyle with her family.”It is good for a relationship,” she added.

With such an emphasis on healthy living in her own life, Farmer is concerned for the well-being of today’s youth. As mother to Quinn, age 12, Farmer sees the growing problem of childhood obesity in her son’s school. She feels passionately about the need for more focus on recess and physical education in the school system.

When she is not working at WCU, teaching fitness classes, or juggling the duties of wife and mother, Farmer is always on the lookout for new ideas to keep her fitness class’s fun and challenging. She believes that moderation is the key to longevity when it comes to exercise and finding something that you really enjoy doing will keep you active for the long run. Farmer hopes to be able to maintain a moderate level of exercise for her lifetime but as it can do, exercise can be hard on the body as well as good for it. Farmer has experienced injuries over the years and knows that she must modify some activities so that she does not limit herself further.

“My classes are another family environment for me and I enjoy that part,” Farmer said. “I want to be able to provide an opportunity for people to train at a level they are comfortable with.”