It’s difficult not to feel daunted in our mission to get (and stay!) in shape. Sometimes it’s hard to fit in a weekly run, much less the five hours a week Harvard recommends to keep up the best cardiovascular health. Those who spend 40 hours a week in front of the computer in an office have an even bigger challenge. Yes, you can run up and down the stairwell at lunch, but there are only so many flights Lady Gaga on your iPod can push you up and down before you get bored. And usually the only place people want to go on their way out of work is home, not the gym. But, after more than 20 years of experience developing corporate wellness programs, Lee Vallely, owner of RedBird Pilates and Fitness in Austin sees all the time we spend at work as an opportunity to get in shape, not wither at our work stations. That’s where the RedBird specialized corporate wellness program comes in.
“We realized that we had to eliminate several of the ‘barriers to entry’ in terms of getting folks started on some type of fitness program,” said Lee. The mission for the RedBird program is to deliver fitness and wellness programming to community employers that is cost effective, easy to implement, easily accessible to a broad & diverse employee population, safe and shows results (that’s what we’re in it for, right?) Lee was especially influenced by research that shows that workplace workouts have a significant impact on employee morale and health – right in line with the RedBird philosophy to use Pilates not only for strength and alignment, but for overall wellness.
Statistics have shown for years that a healthier employee population is a more productive workforce and that both employers and employees save money through participating in these programs. Among the proven benefits are:
● Reduced absenteeism
● Improved employee health and lower healthcare costs
● Lower accident rates and workers compensation claims
● Lower short-term and long-term disability
● Lower employee turnover rates
● Lower costs to replace employees that retire early due to poor health or burnout
● Improved employee morale and commitment to the organization
● Enhanced corporate image; improved recruiting position
Bringing the dynamic RedBird fitness practice out of the studio and into local offices was an opportunity Lee couldn’t resist. One company that seemed like a natural fit was Austin-based Whole Foods.
Whole Foods has long been a leader in employee health initiatives. “It’s all part of our core values,” said Janna Clement, Whole Foods IT Team Leader and RedBird client. “At Whole Foods health and wellness are such an important part of what we stand for – not just for the customers shopping for organic apples in the stores, but also for their corporate and sales floor staff.” There are always new, innovative ways they are trying to encourage and support their employees to make healthy choices. Take the corporate headquarters here in Austin. Anyone want a Pilates roll up for breakfast with a tricep pushup on the side?
Three days a week, RedBird Pilates and Fitness instructors show up to lead Pilates, circuit training and body engineering classes to Whole Foods staff on site. Since its start in the fall of 2010 the program has been a big success.
Travis Bohmann, Southwest Regional Office Assistant, started taking the classes at work through a friend’s recommendation. For him, the convenience factor is the biggest bonus: “Since the instructors come to us, traffic and drive time aren’t valid excuses for missing a class!” Without those barriers (or the excuses we come up with to sound like barriers!) Travis and others in the WF program say their exercise routine has gotten a lot more routine. In fact, national research shows that because of this convenience, workplace fitness programs lead to a healthier workforce, which in turn, leads to lower health insurance premiums – a win-win for everybody.
Convenience is a major draw, but just because there are crunches in the conference room doesn’t mean you’re going to want to join in. We’ve all had exercise instructors that call out instructions from the front of the room, barely aware of who else is in the class, much less who’s hips are hiked up too much. Not so with the RedBird ravens. “The first time I was in a class I didn’t know Lee’s name yet but she came up to me and adjusted my position – I’d never had Pilates instructors with such focus on everyone’s alignment, even in a big class,” said Janna. “I can’t really cheat that much!”
Travis agrees. “I have taken Pilates for several years now, and the personal attention, the care taken to ensure we are working safely and protecting our backs and joints, the creativity in the class content, and the authenticity the RedBird instructors display is most impressive.”
And for some, workplace workouts are their first introduction to guided fitness. Before her experience with RedBird at Whole Foods, Susan Schneider, a vendor data specialist for the Global office, was an organized-fitness novice. “Never in a million years could you have gotten me to an exercise class before,” said Susan, ”the only reason I went to that first class was because it was with Whole Foods Market people.” But then, when she got to the class she took one look at the RedBird instructors Lee and Elisabeth and said, “OK, that’s what I want to look like – how do I do that?” Now, said Susan, she’s addicted.
Another aspect of at-work fitness classes the Whole Food crew mentioned was their appreciation for their employer. “It’s so great to know that I work for a company that cares about the health and well-being of its employees,” said Travis.
Whole Foods is just one of the corporate campuses RedBird works with to provide on site weekly workouts. For more info on how you can start a corporate program check out the corporate wellness section of our website.