Insurance services is not a field known for springing steps, happy smiles and trash talk. But a senior vice president of ABD Insurance and Financial Services has brought physical fitness and its surrounding euphoria to his team, with a program at least one of his clients intends to adopt.
It started with the gear. Brian Hetherington received a gift of a "Nike+" kit from his wife this past Christmas, a $300-plus package that includes an Apple (AAPL) iPod Nano music player and a pair of Nike Inc. (NKE) sneakers outfitted with a special computer chip. The product, released last summer, lets users track how far and how fast they’ve run or walked, upload the information to their computer and compare it with other workouts and other users — in this case, co-workers.
In late February, Hetherington challenged members of the technology and general business practices group, which he heads, to do 45 workouts each in 90 days, a total of 3,000 workouts over that time. The payoff? Aside from the good feelings, he gave the Nike+ kit to everyone who agreed to sign on.
"You need to work out three hours a week in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle," Hetherington said. "The end of last year, I was working really long hours, eating garbage, and not working out. I think [now] productivity’s higher, the mood’s a lot better."
Some of the staff had been fit once but had slacked for a year or so and gained weight.
Others, such as assistant VP Sue Hickman, hadn’t been active in a long time. Hickman came in fifth on a "who can do the most miles in 20 days" challenge, walking 100 miles, and is now training for June’s San Diego Rock ’n’ Roll half-marathon walk, benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
"I decided to join this prior to the fitness challenge, but the two went hand in hand," she said. "I’m turning 50 next year, so I’m trying to get the old bod in shape."
Several staffers said they enjoyed the Nike+ features, like the ability to play a chosen "power song" (think Survivor’s "Eye of the Tiger") with the touch of a button while struggling overa hill and a recording of Lance Armstrong that announces "Congratulations ... you’ve just done your best three-mile walk."
Their efforts have encouraged at least one client to give it a try.
"I was just totally blown away by the level of competition," said Bill Evanow, a vice president with Salesforce.com. "For me, wanting to get kind of a kick-start was crucial."