Companies know that healthy employees are happy employees. They miss less work due to illness, they have more energy when on the job, and they are more likely to stay with the company long term. It’s no wonder companies work hard to promote healthy eating and fitness. The challenge, however, can be finding ways to make it stick.
At SMS Equipment, a small Action Team was developed and gave a lot of thought to how to make fitness easier for its employees. In 2012 they began offering Lunch & Learn sessions, inviting in speakers to inform employees about healthy eating and living.
This grew into a partnerships with the Spruce Grove TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre (TLC), where SMS employees were able to purchase discounted yearly memberships, encouraging them to stay fit year round.
As anyone who has tried knows, it’s easy to start a workout program but hard to stick with it. To encourage first timers to keep coming back, the Action Team introduced Team SMS. Once a week, SMS employees would meet in Spruce Grove to train together at the TLC in two groups: Fit by Choice, for those just starting on their fitness journey, and Pro-fit, for those who have been working out for a while and wanted a greater challenge.
That was a good beginning but Nikki Smart, a Marketing Coordinator at SMS and a key part of what became the Healthy By Choice (HbC) team, knew that to make real and lasting differences in the lives of employees there needed to be goals; some achievements to strive towards and challenges to overcome. Even better, those challenges should be part of a team effort. She knew that SMS employees are strong team players, and love the challenge of working together towards a big goal.
That was when Nikki and the rest of the team hit upon the idea of adventure races - big cross country events that attract teams from across the province to compete in the great outdoors. Not just any races though - SMS Equipment takes its teams to some of the toughest obstacle courses and most challenging terrain in the country. The tougher the challenge, the greater the camaraderie, and the greater the incentive to stick with the program.
Nikki and her co-worker Roy Lapa, the Marketing & Communications Manager, have big plans for the Healthy by Choice program. In addition to continuing the group workouts and adventures races, they are looking for ways to make the program scaleable across Canada. “We’ve seen how motivated the program can make employees about taking charge of their own fitness,” Nikki says, “and we want to bring those benefits to SMS Equipment branches from coast to coast.” The plans right now include publicizing the Healthy by Choice programs activities to other branches, and provide details on how to set up new teams.
The Healthy by Choice team have also embraced technology to help spread the fitness message throughout SMS. They have been testing different platforms as a viable way to scale the HbC program across Canada which includes apps useable on desktops, tablets, and smartphones. They are hoping that through the use of technology they will be able to supply personalized training for any level of fitness. Whether a user wants to run a marathon or just start a regular workout routine, technology can help them meet their fitness goals.
Some of the races SMS teams compete in
Five Peaks >> Hosted at some of the most spectacular natural sites across the province and Canada, Five Peaks trail races invites participants to race over rocks and fallen trees, wade through muddy paths and streams, all in striving for the best time.
Spartan Sprint >> A competition that puts an emphasis on speed over endurance, the Spartan Sprint is a 5 kilometer race studded with 20 different challenges like rope climbs, slopes, and hurdles. Mud Hero >> Another mud-filled event, Mud Hero challenges teams to complete 10 kilometers of trails and obstacle courses through enormous volumes of mud. Participants have to wade through lagoons, surmount slippery slopes, clamber across rope nets, and dodge giant swinging bags over watery drops.
Tough Mudder >> For those who love a challenge, Tough Mudder events brings together teams to complete challenging obstacle courses. Races average 10-12 miles of rough terrain that test strength, stamina, and mental grit. Tough Mudder has no prizes or winners podiums - completing the course is its own reward.
“I have met a larger group of fellow employees from other departments and branches that I do not interact with in the pursuit of my general duties. This allows me to put ‘faces’ to match the names of my co-workers. In fact I ceased thinking of the fellow HBC members as ‘co-workers’ and instead think of them as ‘Teammates’. I also find that the sessions being led by a motivating leader makes me push myself harder. This has removed self-imposed ideas I had on what the upper limits of my physical fitness capabilities are. - Michael Hartikainen, Reporting and BI Analyst
Key to the program’s success has been the “choice” part of “Healthy by Choice” - no pressure, no guilt, no coercion, just a program where coworkers come together to support each other in keeping fit and having fun.