Growing up, you were more likely to find Elise McHatton delivering speeches or engaging in spirited debates than putting on a sports uniform.  

“Ironically, I wasn’t an athlete or into fitness in high school,” McHatton said. “My friends and I skated a little bit at our local ice rink in the winter, but that was the extent of it.” 

While skating on a particularly slippery rink with friends one day, McHatton lost her balance and slammed her foot into the rink boards, shattering her right ankle.  

“I laid on the couch for weeks after that,” McHatton said. “Once I was healed, I knew I had to do something to get moving and be fit.”  

Motivated to start moving again, McHatton walked into her local gym looking for a group to help keep her motivated. She discovered a passion for group exercise classes, particularly the morning classes. Working out early in the day became McHatton’s version of a morning coffee.  

“If I didn’t get my morning workout in, I felt like I was missing something,” McHatton said. “Us morning workout people are either dedicated or crazy, maybe a combination of both. The groups I work out with realize it’s the quietest time in their head, in their day or in their responsibilities.” 

Despite lacking experience in teaching group exercise classes, McHatton approached the gym’s owner and asked to lead an early morning step aerobics class.  

“I fell so in love with teaching group exercise classes that I dropped out of my business administration degree and switched to exercise physiology,” McHatton said. “I was three and a half years into my business degree but knew I’d be happier doing what I love.” 

After graduating with her exercise physiology degree, McHatton said she’s done just about everything one can do in the exercise physiology world. From teaching group exercise classes for almost 30 years to being an exercise physiologist in a cardiac pulmonary rehab clinic and holding a position as a director at a corporate wellness company, McHatton emphasized that wellness has “just been a part of [her] DNA for the last 30 years.” 

Now serving as the director of claims at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE), McHatton gets her group exercise fix by teaching classes at Blue Cross Centre for her BCBSNE coworkers. 

“Watching people’s progress is the best,” McHatton said. “Maybe they came in for their first class and couldn’t lift three pounds, but now they’re lifting eight pounds a couple of months later.” 

McHatton’s in-office group exercise classes have been a success thanks to the unwavering support of BCBSNE. The Wellness team’s assistance in crafting a schedule and her coworkers’ dedication to showing up for 30 minutes of intense workouts have been instrumental in the program’s popularity. 

Between the YMCA and McHatton, BCBSNE hosts at least one group exercise class each month for employees. McHatton said the classes provide employees with an opportunity to step away from their desks for a little while to lift weights, break a sweat and, as she humorously put it, “bemoan about having another 10 pushups.” 

“I love giving back to the organization and just being able to take that little break out of the day and give people a mental pause, get the blood flowing and the oxygen moving,” McHatton said.  

While fitness is a big part of McHatton’s overall well-being, she recognizes that exercise is just one aspect of wellness. She encourages her students to keep going on their own personal journeys, emphasizing that the road to well-being isn’t a straight path, but often a winding road with many highs and lows. 

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