Kirsten YelvingtonThe UAB Department of Neurosurgery is spotlighting staff to focus on the importance of hobbies for stress relief, wellness, and self-care. The goal of the series is to connect individuals across the department by highlighting their hobby as it relates to mental, physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, environmental, social, and financial wellness.

Kirsten Yelvington is the Operations Administrator for the Department of Neurosurgery. Her background as a registered EEG/EMU tech turned neurodiagnostics manager and instructor of neurology allows her to understand the medical, research, education and business aspects of her position. She is a mom of three, and just celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary in July.

“Family for me is always my top priority which appears odd for those that do not know that my family still lives in Florida. The decision for me to move to Birmingham was a family decision and fully supported- they all agree that I am much happier here. We all love the piece of paradise that we have found and once my son graduates from high school and is settled in college, my husband will move up here as well. In my role as Operations Administrator for Neurosurgery, I have been able to learn, grow and contribute to a vibrant department which has been very gratifying. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know as many people at UAB as possible and learning as much as I can about the department and the institution. My greatest challenge has been learning how to navigate the multiple platforms and distinguishing between HSF and UAB. Getting there- thanks for being patient while I continue to learn!”

Yelvington Kettle

What hobby do you currently focus on in your downtime?

"I don’t know if I would label my exercise regime as a hobby, but more of a habit that keeps me balanced. Every morning I wake at 4:30 and either lift free weights or do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) exercises. My equipment is in my home and consists of a few dumbbells, club bells, kettle bells, medicine balls, and resistance bands. I call my space my playground and I smile whenever I walk into my “gym”. It is by no means a high tech space with all the latest gadgets. In fact, the club bells can be traced back to Ancient Egypt and Persia while the kettle bells originated in ancient Russia. I enjoy reading about different forms of exercise and trying new things. If I like it, I incorporate it in my routine. Many of the exercises I do for HIIT are body weight so when I travel and there is no equipment, I am still able to get my workout in. The key for me is, I need to enjoy what I am doing. I chose a time of day that works for me- for sure 4:30 is not everyone’s ideal time, but I know that if I wait until the evening, I most likely will not workout. I chose exercises that I am able to do in my space with my equipment. My routine is challenging but I left the school of, “no pain, no gain” a long time ago and now respect what my body is able to do without getting injured."

What inspired you to explore this hobby?

"My downtime is limited and there was a time that I did not unplug at all and my health and wellbeing suffered. Too many negative influences were hitting me at once and I knew I had to change. I was feeling tired and in pain all of the time and I was miserable.  Someone once encouraged me to lift weights to feel strong both physically and mentally and once I started, I was hooked.  I did not dread exercise anymore and actually looked forward to it. Osteoporosis also runs in my family and my grandmothers shrunk to under 5’ and both had fractured hips. Studies show that resistance training builds/retains bone density better than supplemental calcium- which is great news for me- hate pills!"

Yelvington tossHave you noticed a change in your well-being since beginning this hobby and how does that translate into your work?  

"I absolutely have noticed a change in my wellbeing with consistent, healthy habits. Lifting weights has strengthened my mindset and reduces my stress level. If I’m feeling frustrated, I go to my playground and toss the medicine ball or swing the club bells. I’ll also do a few yoga stretches and breathing exercises and before I know it, I start feeling strong and am able to put everything in proper perspective. I also believe that the routine of lifting weights and HIIT exercise keeps me in the mind set of “what’s the next step” which works well in a dynamic department where adaptation and change are a constant. Nutrition is a major component of my exercise regime and also contributes to my wellbeing. I stay away from processed foods and stick to fresh fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish, oatmeal and a variety of healthy fats."

What makes you proud about lifting weights?

"Lifting weights has done so much more for me than just keeping in physical shape. My entire way of thinking has gone from all or none to working through problems and setting attainable goals. I attribute the peace of mind that I have now and the ability to keep things in perspective to my daily habits of exercise and nutrition. The bonus is, I am in the best physical shape that I have ever been in."