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Dr. Christopher M. Torres

New SUNY Potsdam Professor Encourages Philosophy of “Fun” in Exercise Science Program

Dr. Christopher M. Torres joined SUNY Potsdam’s exercise science program last fall with the theory of making exercise fun, a philosophy he tries to impart to his students. “If you can incorporate play and not say ‘we’re going to do exercise’ but you’re going to say, ‘let’s go the gym and play,’ you change that mindset. You change that paradigm and all of a sudden, it’s fun again,” he said.

Long before he started working as a professor at SUNY Potsdam, Torres was having fun playing the role of Disney characters at Walt Disney World.  “I got called in to be one of the characters. Based on my height and my weight, I was either Tiger, Goofy or the Beast. It was just a great experience,” Torres said.

His work at Disney was just one of the many positions he held in the hospitality industry in his early years. He worked as a photographer’s assistant, cleaned hotel rooms and worked in restaurants and hotels in other capacities. He also became a SCUBA Divemaster. He started working at a dive shop in Portland, Oregon, a decision which ultimately shaped his future career.

One day, while leaning over to pick up a SCUBA tank, he inadvertently injured his back. “I had strained my lower back to the point where I couldn’t walk. I could barely move. I spent a week literally lying down on the floor. It was even hard to breathe,” Torres recalls.

During his rehabilitation and in talking with his doctor, he became fascinated by the mechanics of the human body. He was intrigued how micro traumas from something as simple as lifting a SCUBA tank the wrong way could cause lower back injuries. His growing interest in human physiology led him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Community Health Education at Portland State University.

It was there that he got involved in Olympic weightlifting. He was in the midst of trying out for the Olympic team, to represent his home country of Puerto Rico, when he injured his hamstring and lower back again. Not slowing down his career aspirations, he entered the masters and Ph.D. program at The Ohio State University. He graduated last year with a Doctor of Philosophy in Exercise and Physical Activity Behavior.

“It’s been this amazing trajectory and I feel lucky at the fact that I had all of these experiences prior to actually starting my academics and scholarship portion of my life. The person that I am right now is based on all of these experiences that I had,” Torres said.

Now at SUNY Potsdam, he is already making a name for himself. He was recently selected as the New York state director for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). The NSCA is a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to strength and conditioning for improved physical performance and is regarded as the worldwide authority on strength and conditioning issues.

“He brings a passion and drive that will propel our exercise science program to become recognized and renown in the region and state,” said Kathleen M. O'Rourke, chair of SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Community Health.

Torres brings a strong applied learning approach to SUNY Potsdam’s exercise science program. This semester he worked with colleagues and students to test out a new hydrostatic weighing machine in the Maxcy Hall pool. The equipment, which accurately measures body composition, is very unique and not available anywhere north of Syracuse. Torres and SUNY Potsdam's Exercise Science Program Coordinator, Tanya K. Hewitt, plan to use the hydrostatic weighing apparatus in their upcoming exercise science classes.

While working with his students, Torres tries to relay the importance of enjoying exercise. “Weight training should be fun, conditioning should be fun, exercise should be fun…I try to integrate that spirit into my classes” he said.