How do you get the deskbound off their butts and into the gym? It’s a question on the minds of trainers at Iron Works, the employeeonly fitness center at Hagerty in Traverse City.
The classic car insurer has invested perhaps more than any other northern Michigan workplace in employee health.
Of course all workplaces have a group of staffers who are active workout types, those first to take advantage of workplace fitness incentives. But what about those who prefer to curl up on the couch and have a snack?
ATTRACT THE SEDENTARY
Hagerty has invested a lot in employee fitness, paying entry fees for running races throughout the year, whether it’s a $25 5K or an $80 triathlon. The company pays workers who forgo a parking space to keep their bicycle going.
But the centerpiece of Hagerty’s drive for fitness is Iron Works, a gym that opened around a year ago and was designed to appeal to a larger segment of the workforce.
One of the strategies at Iron Works has been to offer fitness classes scheduled throughout the day.
“We were encouraged to do as many beginning and intermediate classes as possible, because we’d be happiest if the most sedentary were being attracted to the gym,” said Doug Peterson, the trainer who runs Iron Works and his own trainers’ gym, Rock Bottom.
Peterson helped design Iron Works to entice the reluctant.
“It was kind of a balance -- did you put in too much really intimidating-looking equipment?” Peterson said. “You want to make the gym-goers happy, but not intimidate those people who have never ever done a class before.”
He also said he hired trainers who would be friendly and encouraging to people unfamiliar with the gym environment.
Peterson believes Hagerty has seen success in getting people into the gym who otherwise wouldn’t have gone.
Iron Works saw 9,742 visits in 2013, 303 of which were “first visits.” Seventy five percent of those – roughly a third of the workforce -- came five times or more.
‘KEEP YOU ACCOUNTABLE’
More than half of visits to Iron Works were for fitness classes, as opposed to people coming to the gym to use the equipment on their own.
The classes, which include boot camp, indoor cycling, and all-around fitness, meet in the modern, equipment-filled trainers’ gym located behind frosted glass along Lake Ave.
Peterson believes the small group training classes can entice people into gyms because they offer a comfortable environment to learn how to exercise.
The strategy worked for Michelle Ayers, a Hagerty employee who had in the past wanted to join a gym, but the inconvenience enabled her to talk herself out of it.
Ayers said the fitness classes have made it easier for her to make exercise a regular part of her routine.
“You can just have somebody telling you what you need to do and you don’t have to think about it,” she said. “Somebody said to me yesterday, ‘I love the classes, because if it was just a gym, I would never go.’ And it’s so true, because you have somebody there to keep you accountable.” Peterson believes small group fitness classes can help anyone work harder in the gym. “I know that when I travel, I’m going to work harder if I’m in a class. I may know how to do a lot, but I think for the most part, you are always going to push yourself a lot harder if you’re in a class,” Peterson said. “There’s always somebody a little less fit that is being motivated by you, or a little more fit that you are motivated by, and that’s kind of the beauty of the small group setting.”
MOTIVATION AT MUNSON
Lyndsay Douglass, wellness coordinator at Munson Medical Center, said she thinks a lot about how to get the not-naturally-inclined into fitness programs.
Employees who are committed to health and activity are recruited in each department to encourage their coworkers to get active, she said.
“We look at how we can be both motivating and inspiring to those people to make that first step,” Douglass said.
Last June, Munson sponsored a 5K run for employees, a race meant to encourage the ones who hadn’t thought about running or jogging before.
It was free to employees and their guests and saw 700 participants. She said a third to a half of participants had never thought of doing a 5K before.
Douglass said the idea was to make it non-intimidating and make people feel like it was OK to walk. With so many people there just to give it a try, the mood of the event was relaxed and noncompetitive, she said.
Munson employees are eligible for discounts at fitness centers and yoga studios throughout the area.
But there is also an emphasis to get employees into groups to exercise. Munson hosts Zumba classes on site to make them cheaper and easier for employees to attend and to make them part of the social life at work.
“I think it’s huge to have that social support,” Douglass said.