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A Bellin Health clinical exercise physiologist earns national honor

Brian Cleven named top sports medicine professional by ACSM

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March 20, 2024

MARINETTE — Brian Cleven said he admits he is a busy guy.

A registered clinical exercise physiologist at Bellin Health in Marinette, Cleven organizes a local 5K heart run/walk and a series of local sports events, trains for Ironman competitions and runs at least a mile every day (he’s kept that last commitment for almost 14 years.)

Cleven’s work with Bellin’s cardiac patients and his commitment to community fitness recently received national recognition by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) — who named him 2024 Certified Professional of the Year.

“What made me so proud to receive the award is that I come from (Peshtigo) with one stoplight where I have the honor to share my knowledge with the community and the people that I love,” he said. “I would be lying if I said success comes easy. There are no shortcuts to success, only hard work, dedication and perseverance.”

Supporting the community
Inspired by the success of Bellin’s community races in Green Bay, Cleven said he created the Bellin Health Marinette 5K Heart Run/Walk, which also includes a children’s run and a one-mile community walk.

Originally slated to begin in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic held it up a bit — but the event is now in its third year, set for April 27.

“Bellin’s mission is to help improve the health and well-being of the communities it serves and hosting the 5K is a way to celebrate that commitment in Marinette and help community members get active and stay healthy,” he said.

Cleven said he also sits on the steering committee for the Tri-City Event Series, a Marinette County nutrition and physical activity community health partnership work group.

The group, he said, created a website with a listing of physical activity events in Peshtigo, Marinette and Menominee, Michigan.

Cleven said participants earn a point for every event they attend and are invited to an annual banquet if they earn four points in a calendar year.

For the past three years, Brian Cleven has organized the Bellin Health Marinette 5K Heart Run/Walk. Submitted Photo

For the event series, which features monthly activities, Cleven said he found sponsors and supporters to help raise awareness, including getting then-back-up Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love to attend an event and cheer participants on.

“The series motivates community members to become more physically active and feel more connected,” he said. “We hope to continue to build awareness and support for these events so we grow not only participation in the 5K Heart Run/Walk, but create interest in a larger community event, such as a half-marathon.”

The series’ tagline is: “In partnership, we all win,” which Cleven said sums up the program.

He said the task force’s partners and sponsors all work together to make the events a success.

Not his first award
This isn’t the first time Cleven’s efforts were recognized.

In 2023, Cleven received the Rural Health Ambassador Award from the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative for his efforts in creating the 5K run/walk and the event series.

The ambassador award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated exceptional commitment in advocating for their organizations and have made significant contributions to rural health care.

Focused on fitness
Staying active, Cleven said, is an important part of his life.

In addition to his daily running habit, he said he has participated in 12 Ironmen triathlons and plans to compete in the well-known Hawai’i triathlon in 2026.

An Ironman triathlon includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.22-mile run.

Cleven said he and his wife, Amy, competed in their first triathlon a year after they married.

Though he’s devoted a lot of time to running in his adult years, Cleven said he did not start as a runner.

In high school, he said he played football until he suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery and physical therapy.

The injury, Cleven said, inspired him to pursue a career in sports medicine, instead of becoming a pilot like he had planned — though he did earn his pilot’s license at age 17.

“I saw firsthand the impact health care can have on people’s lives,” he said.

Cleven received his master’s degree in exercise science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

He started his career in health care at Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette as a registered clinical exercise physiologist and licensed athletic trainer.

In 2017, Cleven joined Bellin Health in Marinette.

Cleven said he decided to apply for the ACSM Certified Professional of the Year to help draw attention to the fitness activities he is trying to grow in his hometown.

“I want to keep growing the event series and the 5K race and thought earning this award would draw more attention to what we are doing to make Marinette a better city to be physically active in,” he said.

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