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'My president is stronger than yours': Oberlin college tackles fitness lifestyle through president's weight loss journey

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Posted at 7:37 AM, Oct 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-25 07:40:24-04

OBERLIN. OHIO — Staying fit was always second nature for Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar, a former high school student-athlete. But she suddenly struggled after she graduated.

I had this kind of up and down weight journey that had me sort of Yo-Yo’ing back and forth, she explained.

Eventually, motherhood came and Ambar, who is now raising 14-year-old triplets as a single mom, says her health was no longer a top priority.

“When I got to Oberlin I just said to myself, if you can be president of a college and you can be a single mom, then you can solve this weight issue doggonit.”

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Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar.

So, the mom, college president and attorney took on yet another challenge. She changed her diet and started spending her mornings at the weight room on campus.

“When I was about a year in, I was going to the gym at 5:30 a.m. and the football team would show up at 6 a.m. and I was working out in the same place in the weight room with the football tea,” Ambar said. “I would jump in periodically to their sets and things and got to know some of the students really well over the course of those first sort of year or so and it just became kind of a thing.”

However, Ambar would be forced to overcome another challenge trying to connect with her students when the pandemic hit. Though, her own workout challenges on social media would help her reconnect.

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Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar.

“We invited the campus to come and flip tires with me,” she said. “We said to students, if you can flip more tires than with me, then we will give you a monetary award…The coolest thing that happened out of that was that an anonymous donor gave us $18,000 in honor of the 18 tire flips that I did in 60 seconds.”

On a mission to make health and fitness a lifestyle on campus and keep the momentum going, Ambar’s team came up with a “Presidential Bootcamp” class.

“There's a class on campus called Presidential Boot Camp and they meet regularly and try to do some of the exercises that I do when I come in the pop in that class,” she said. “Those students work that whole semester to be able to deliver this workout video for our alumni.”

Now 90 pounds lighter, this super mom, attorney and academic leader is proud of her journey and a new phrase coined by those she's inspired.

“One of the cool things that came out of the tire flip was these T-shirts that everybody got that says, “my president is stronger than your president…I think they’re pretty proud,” she said. “I'm the type of president that tries to connect with students in all sorts of ways, but this has been a fun way to get engaged with our students and certainly our athletic program.”

Ambar shares her workouts and recipes on her personal social media accounts as a way of holding herself accountable.

To follow along, click here.