Brief maintenance window planned: 2/6

There will be a brief maintenance window at 1am EST on Saturday, February 6th for an infrastructure upgrade.

For more information and updates, see:

http://status.walkertracker.com/post/138495062003/planned-downtime-saturday-february-6th

Resolutions

It’s that time of year. Many of us resolve to change some lingering bad behavior and set Jan 1 as the date we’ll do it….cold turkey. As of today, 35% of us have already broken the promise we made to ourselves. Of course, this statistic doesn’t even consider the other half, who never bother to try in the first place.

“That which is measured, improves”. Pearson’s Law has always been an unofficial ‘tag line’ of Walker Tracker. While this concept may not work for slumping batters or the national debt, it tends to work pretty well on waistlines.  Try starting this year by choosing a health metric you’d like to improve, then measure and record it daily.

The Walker Tracker journal and custom metrics are great ways to do this, and it can be completely private. Over time, you’ll find that journaling allows you to draw strength from previous successes and learn from the times it was really tough.

 

New: Walker Tracker iOS 2.0!

Today we have a new iOS version available. Hooray!

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Grab your copy now

This new version features a totally re-designed

  • Activity Stats pane
  • Activity Log pane
  • Activity-adding, step journal photo uploading panes.
  • Apple Health connection
  • Competition Chooser

We also rebuilt the app entirely in Apple’s new language, Swift, which we hope will be an excellent platform moving forward. Expect the pace of releases to accelerate.

Let us know what you think — of course we’d really like your positive review. If you have issues, please contact support, we’d love to help.

Team Names – the good, the bad, and the just plain weird.

We have some incredibly creative folks on our Walker Tracker teams. In gathering together a list, it came to me that the only way to let each one shine was in a Mad Lib (you know, that game you played as a kid – on paper, before computers and Angry Birds). All team names are bolded.  Enjoy!

 

It’s no Victorious Secret that we Will Walk for Steps (or, for that matter, Will Walk For Coffee). From Happy Hour Hikers to Butt Strutters, we’re all here for the same reason – Miles for Smiles! Because walking makes us healthier and happier people.

You may think you’re Tougher Than Squirrels, but it really is a challenge to get 10,000 steps in every day!   Don’t be the Sole Survivors, encourage others to join in the motion and Walk It Like It’s Hot.   Whether you’re Speedy Sloths or Total Borons, the Worst Pace Scenario is you’ll be healthier by adding more activity into your life.

Walker Tracker invites you all to catch the Walking Fever and start by Taking a Simple Walk To Mordor. The Walking Gamers are on to something – make it fun and cut Footloose.

If you ever find yourself BETWEEN A WALK AND A HARD PLACE, and you’re not quite feeling like the Lean Green Walking Machine, start slow, just like The Creepy Crawlers. You’ve got to start somewhere so why not here? Why not now? Does a Bear Walk in the Woods?

By now you’re probably sick of me Walking on Eggshells and want to get to the point. So here it is: find your Sole Mates (whether a human, dog, or your favorite tennis shoes), and Step In The Name Of Love.

After all, aren’t we all hoping for World Peace, Love & Organic Brown Rice? So, Let’s Get Physical. Unite all you Walkaholics and RESTLESS SOLES. DON’T BELIEVE ME JUST WALK!

I wish you all Happy Feet and a Buen Camino. Don’t Fear The Walking Alive – join em!

 

 

A list of close calls:

Cats and Bacon

Kittens! With Amber Mittens!

Bacon! A Miniature Poodle

The Big Meoski

Hazardous Waist Removal

Coconut Oil Moves Like Jagger

The Sashay Patrol

Christopher Walken’s

Light-footed larks

Game Over Dude

(OGSP) Overlord Galactic Space Pirates

HOTSPUDS

The She-Yetis

Cheddar Biscuit Twins

Holy Walkamole

Happy Huffers

Bananas For Budgets

Deep Fried Zucchini

 

Taking a break is not giving up – it gives back!

We all need to rest at some point. Taking a break from your work, walking competition or committed hobby will help you feel more relaxed, refreshed and healthy. An Oxford Economics (2014) study showed that only 58% of U.S. employees take full advantage of the paid time off they earn during the year. So if you’re in the other 42%, it is time for some fun.

Too much work and not enough play can result in chronic stress. Ongoing stress can negatively impact your thinking, attitudes, health, and relationships. Sometimes it can be challenging to get away, yet a break has tremendous value. You’ll improve our health, sleep better, focus on your creative ideas and be more engaged when you get back to work. Most importantly, you’ll have time to spend with friends and family, isn’t that what life is about?

Continue reading for some tips on different breaks you can take:

For a vacation – Plan ahead for even less stress. Adding your away time to a shared work calendar lets others prepare for your absence and step in for you on the must-do tasks. You don’t have to drive or fly hundreds of miles to take your break; it can be as simple as taking a dog for a walk, meditating, or taking a few days off to just relax at home.

For your walking challenges – Short 6-8 week challenges are ideal. Then let participants take a break for a few weeks. They deserve the rest and you can expect them to return ready for the next challenge. Bonus: you also get extra time to promote your next event!

For your committed hobby – My partner is a musician and has several band ‘projects’. Coordinating groups of people, playing shows and pressure to come up with new material can be stressful.  Take a break from your hobby for a week or two and try something new. You’ll return to your passion with gusto, because you missed it!

Why do we feel so strongly about you taking a break? A 2011 Intuit study reports that women who don’t take vacations are more likely to suffer from heart disease than women who take a couple vacations a year. The same study shows that men who vacation are 32% less likely to die of a heart attack. The cherry on top? Vacationers report that they experience an 82% increase in job performance post-trip!

So, take a break!

10 Essential Elements of a Company Walking Program

Okay, youʼre in charge of your organization’s wellness initiative and the first thing that comes to mind is starting up a walking challenge.

So, whatʼs the best way to get started?

At Walker Tracker, we’ve worked with just about every type of organization. Some have launched incredibly successful programs with enthusiastic, long-term participation and a lasting impact on the culture, while others have languished with low participation rates and mediocre results. From our vantage point, weʼve been able to observe different approaches used by company administrators as they launch their walking programs. We learned from these implementations and compiled a list of “best practices” that will give your program the best chance to succeed.

The following steps will help ensure your walking program is a hit that will plant the seeds for systemic change within your organization.

1) Obtain executive sponsorship. No doubt you’ve already heard/read this, but the plain truth is that executive leadership probably has the single biggest impact on success or failure. Employees will know if the executive team is committed to company wellness and will respond accordingly. Getting buy-in from the executive suite will likely give you a bigger budget, and the moral support will be be wind in your sails.

The best programs include consistent messaging and encouragement from the C-suite and visible participation in the program. This should NOT be a case of “do as I say, not as I do”. Our advice – put the execs on a team, and make sure everyone knows about it.

2) Plan ahead. Walking-based activity programs should be an integral component of a well-thought-out, adequately funded, comprehensive, corporate wellness initiative. Quite simply, walking represents the one activity that a majority of employees can do, but employees facing health or physical challenges should also have a way to participate (via activity converters, for example). Here are some tips on planning and organization:

-Assign a program administrator. This should be someone that has the authority and responsibility for setting the administrative parameters, communications, and resolving issues.

-Set a firm start date – be sure to allow time (30 days or more) to market the program to your employees.

-Define your participation goals, e.g. 30% of the employees, or, 50% of sales and marketing employees, etc. The participation goals should relate directly to the general health/wellness of your employee base and the overall responsiveness of employees to company-sponsored initiatives. Pick a number that represents success, and also stretches the status-quo.

-Define the metrics you need to capture to measure success. Walking-oriented wellness programs have shown themselves to be very good investments, but in order to justify the programʼs continued existence it is necessary to document results with meaningful metrics. Make sure you capture baseline statistics to compare against.

-Plan the walking program itself around a theme, challenge event, or competition. Walker Tracker enables you to set up many different types of challenges or competitions, so be creative and choose something that will engage employees’ imaginations or competitive juices.

-Competitions should be relatively short— we’ve found 8 to 12 weeks to be a “sweet spot” of program duration—with new challenges scheduled regularly. This gives employees a way to wipe the slate clean and start over if they fall behind in the first challenge.

3) Reach out to employees well before the program is scheduled to begin. Let them know that you will be starting a walking program and encourage them to indicate their interest in participating. Recruit enthusiastic responders to serve as your “wellness champions” – they can be your best asset. Actively promote the program’s theme or initial challenge event to build excitement and encourage the forming of smaller groups or teams.

4) Use a good tracking device. This is likely the biggest part of your budget, but we canʼt stress enough how important this is. The most successful programs use high-quality, wireless, accelerometer-based pedometers (e.g. Fitbit, Pebble, Jawbone, Misfit, Garmin).

-Our advice is to standardize as much as possible on a single device because even the best trackers count steps differently and you’ll cut down on complaints if everyone has the same device. That said, we also suggest that you allow participants to use a device they may have purchased on their own. Remember, the ultimate goal is to get people to take responsibility for their own health, so purchasing a device is a good start.
.
-Rule of thumb: if a pedometer is under $10, it is probably a relative low-quality device. Plan to spend at least $15-$25 for a good-quality, manual entry device and over $40 for wireless devices that connect automatically.

-Many companies sponsor a portion or all of the pedometerʼs cost, but one good option is to have the employee kick in some money as well. This is a really good way to ensure that the employees are invested in the programʼs success. Itʼs really surprising how much difference a $10 employee contribution makes to overall diligence and enthusiasm. Allowing employees to pay for devices through payroll deduction will get you more participants than asking them to pay directly via credit card or check.

5) Register users. Once your walking challenge portal is ready to accept new participants (hopefully on Walker Tracker), you can send out invitations via company email or perhaps hold an “all hands” meeting. If you have a large organization, you should allow 1-2 weeks for registration just to make sure you donʼt miss those that are on vacation or on sick leave. Communicate multiple times.

6) Involve families. Several high-profile studies have indicated that spousal participation in fitness programs can greatly increase their efficacy. Consider opening your program to your employees’ families. It’s a great, low-cost way to encourage employees to take wellness home.

7) Invite the world! The United States is a bit unique in the world in that employees access healthcare through their employer. This isn’t the case in most other countries. So, while your wellness goals may be slightly different in your international locations, inviting everyone to participate is an excellent way to build good will throughout your entire employee base. International employees really feel “part of the family” when they are invited to participate in challenge events.

8) Use the “power of teams” Team challenges tend to be more successful than challenges involving individual participants. Take advantage of the natural competitive elements in your organization to make the challenge fun and engaging. So, in addition to larger department or location-based teams, we also recommend smaller teams of 10 or fewer. Small teams tend to provide an extra level of accountability and improved results. You can also tap team captains to help you recruit!

9) Continually advertise the program’s goals. Your corporate wellness goals should not be a secret—articulating your goals can have a really positive impact on your employees’ enthusiasm and participation. Publicize your goals widely throughout the organization and let your employees know the organization’s progress toward the goals.

10) Most important: Make it fun, fun, fun! No explanation needed here.

7 Healthy Thanksgiving Alternatives

However you observe it, Thanksgiving is typically a time of year where family and friends get together to enjoy each other’s company. For some it’s also a time where we give thanks and reflect on what we are grateful for in our lives. If you live in the United States, the holiday has historical importance and relevance to our country’s history. For a specific description of the holiday, see Google’s definition:

“an annual national holiday marked by religious observances and a traditional meal including turkey. The holiday commemorates a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621, and is held in the US on the fourth Thursday in November. A similar holiday is held in Canada, usually on the second Monday in October.”

While Thanksgiving has deep history and it’s own meaning for everyone – for most people the day is often centered around the meal they enjoy with their family and friends. A lot of the time, the food people eat on this day is rich in both taste and calories. Trying new (and healthy) things during the holidays can be difficult, but for those who are in the process of making lifestyle changes with their diet, there are still plenty of healthy options out there. For anyone wanting to stick with lighter and more nutrient filled foods, or for anyone looking to try something new, here are some healthy alternatives.

 

Pumpkin Soup:

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Mayo Clinic Dietician Tip:

Canned pumpkin puree is available all year. When pumpkins are in season, however, you can make your own puree by roasting a small pie pumpkin and processing the flesh in a blender or food processor.

 

Ingredients:

3/4 cup water, divided

1 small onion, chopped

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

2 cups unsalted vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup milk

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 green onion top, chopped

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Read more: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/recipes

 

Orange Cranberry Relish

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Health Facts: One cup of this traditional favorite contains less than 50 calories. In addition, cranberries contain powerful nutrients called PACs (proanythocyanidins) that play a role in helping to maintain the health of bones, teeth and the immune system.

 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of Natural Pecans

3 cups Cranberries

1/2 cup Sugar

1 medium Orange

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 cup Juiced Orange

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/recipes

 

Salad Greens with Pears, Fennel and Walnuts

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Mayo Clinic Dietitian tip:

Resembling a rounded, swollen cluster of celery stalks with green-tinged ribs, fennel is related to the herb and spice seeds of the same name. All share a mild, sweet licorice flavor. Strip away any coarse outer portion of the fennel bulb before using in recipes.

 

Ingredients:

6 cups mixed salad greens

1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced

2 medium pears, cored, quartered and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

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Read more: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/recipes

 

Herb-rubbed Turkey au jus

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Mayo Clinic Dietician tip:

Instead of adding butter to the turkey and serving it with gravy, this healthy version is complemented with an herbal rub and a flavorful au jus.

 

Ingredients:

For the rub

2 teaspoons dried sage

1 tablespoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 whole turkey (about 15 pounds), thawed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup water

For the au jus

2 teaspoons dried sage

1 tablespoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup apple juice

1 cup defatted pan drippings

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Read more: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/recipes

 

Sweet Potato Puff

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Health Facts: Sweet potatoes boast a powerful antioxidant (beta-carotene), which helps maintain healthy skin and also plays a vital role in eye health.. The complex carbs in sweet potato are also easy to digest and a great source of energy.

 

Ingredients:

4 cups Mashed Sweet Potatoes

2/3 cup Sugar

1/3 cup Butter

2 Eggs

1 large Egg White

1/2 cup Milk

1 1/2 cup Vanilla Extract

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/recipes

 

Cauliflower Mashed ‘Potatoes’

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Mayo Clinic Dietician tip: This nonstarchy vegetable version of mashed potatoes is lower in calories and carbohydrates and a good source of vitamin C and folate.

 

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower

1 clove garlic

1 leek, white only, split in 4 pieces

1 tablespoon butter

Pepper to taste

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Read more: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/recipes

 

Pumpkin Morning Muffins

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Health Facts: A half-cup of canned pumpkin contains only 42 calories (if you can, try and find fresh Pumpkin when in season), yet contains nearly four grams of fiber to keep your digestive system healthy and loads of vitamin A and potassium which is important for heart health and muscle function.

 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Vegetable Oil Spread

1/2 cup Brown Sugar

1 cup Canned Pumpkin

2 Banana-medium

1/4 cup Milk

2 eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup Flour All-Purpose

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

2 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 cup diced cranberries

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/recipes

 

We hope you have a fun and safe holiday!

The 5:3:1 method that can transform your work day

Stress, you can’t escape it. Whether it’s stress from work or life in general, it has its way of creeping into your life and stealing your happiness. There is a difference between good and bad stress. Good stress lasts for short periods of time and is usually related to a task that has a determined end point. Bad stress however, lasts for long periods of time, alters your mood and makes you feel sick. Thankfully there are three things you can do throughout your day that can help combat stress. I challenge everyone, myself included, to try out these three simple things that neuroscientist Richie Davidson has determined to help reduce stress and bring happiness back into your day.

First, before you start work, take 5 minutes to meditate. But, “How do you meditate?” you might ask. Well don’t you worry (get it: stress=worry), the folks at Mindful have you covered. Visit their page here to learn how.

Second, write down 3 good things that happened throughout your day. These can be small but they help bring attention to the fact that although the day may have been challenging, there most likely were at least 3 things that went well. I have the saying, “Every day may not be good, but there is good in every day” displayed in my house as a reminder of this.

Lastly, perform 1 act of kindness every day. A great opportunity to do this is while you are at work. It brings happiness to both you and the person you help.

These are all pretty reasonable and easy things to do that can really make a difference in your work and every day life. What have you go to lose except a little stress?

 

Our program admins know best – Interview with Health Solutions

Walker Tracker programs are most successful when they are backed by an excellent admin. Our stellar admins are continuously challenging their group and actively communicating to their group engaged. One of these wellness champs is admin Dawn Yengich from Health Solutions, a behavioral health facility. We sent Dawn a few questions and of course she came back with excellent advice on how to start and structure a program, come up with incentives and keep your team moving. Read our interview with Dawn below.

 

WT: Health Solutions (Formerly Spanish Peaks) had its first Challenge with us in early 2015. How did participants respond to the new program and did you find it easy to get started when you first started working with us?

DY: Our staff was VERY excited to begin the competition. We gave them 2 weeks to enroll themselves in the program. At that time we had 50% participation. Blanca (Program Manager) and Chris (Business Development) were my contacts. They made it very easy to work with. They are easy to get a hold of and responded to my emails at all hours of the day.

Beginning the Walker Tracker program changed our office dynamics. With several facilities peppered across the city, many employees had never met. Once they were on a team together, they were emailing each other and some travelled from one facility to the next to walk with their teammates during lunch. Execs were taking their team on walk meetings so they could get their steps in.

 

WT: Why did you decide to start a walking program?

DY: We work for a behavioral health facility. Our clinicians talk to their clients about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. We came to the realization that we needed to lead by example and get ourselves healthy, too!

 

WT: What has been the most difficult part?

DY: The most difficult part was moving from our first competition, where employees got to choose their teams, to randomized teams. People were fit to be tied!! But after the first 2 days, people calmed down and decided they liked it better. People got to meet someone new and lower movement levels were encouraged by higher movement levels to get more steps. It was fantastic!

 

WT: How about the easiest and most fun part?

DY: The easiest part is that if you are wearing a Bluetooth device, you really don’t have to do much to participate. It’s done for you! You can spend your time actually moving instead of sitting at your computer. You can follow the competition on the app on your phone and contribute to the newsfeed and gift points to your friends while you are walking!!

 

WT: You and your participants use a variety of pedometers. Some use wireless devices and some use the manual entry style. How do these work for you?

DY: Of course, I like the easy and low maintenance of the Bluetooth devices. It’s foolproof and accurate. Some use their phones as a pedometer but you can’t take the phone into the shower like a Fitbit or Jawbone bracelet. They’re missing a couple hundred steps in there!!

 

WT: Your ongoing program has had great results. Users are engaged and keep plugging away at the challenge until the end date. What tools do you use to keep participants engaged?

DY: I ask my program manager for suggestions on how to change the competitions. Not only do we use a new map every time, but we randomize our teams, on some competitions we only allow for steps, in others we allow for activities to be included too. Changing the competitions keeps it fresh. I also change the way incentives are given. Some competitions the 1st team to pass a milestone gets a gift, other competitions I have a drawing for a gift from those that reached their goal for a week straight. My program manager is a great consultant to help figure out new ways to layout the program.

 

WT: Any advice you would give to people just starting a walking program?

DY: Do it now. You will reap so many benefits! Not only will your employees health improve; you will create a more cohesive team environment. Your employees will never want to leave when they are given the benefit of a wellness program!

 

WT: Do you have a favorite feature on Walker Tracker or favorite part about working with Walker Tracker? 


DY: I really like the graphs and charts that are available. I can pull statistics at any given time to add to a managerial report and show how much our movement is improving and how many are participating. With the statistics it is easy to justify the cost of the program, which is very minimal considering what you get.

 

WT: You’re running a Tour of Africa challenge right now. What are the benefits of these map competitions? Do your walkers have a favorite so far?

DY: I liked the European Backpack map the best so far. Walker Tracker assigned our teams some very clever names. Some team members decided they would research how to say hello in each of the countries we walked through. Whenever they walked through a new country, the newsfeed would be filled with a foreign language. It was lots of fun!

 

WT: You use a “prize vault” to incentivize walkers. Tell us a little more about this system and what incentives have you found your participants value most?

DY: I’ve added a question at sign up that asks employees what they’d like to see in the prize vault and I pack my treasure chest with items that are requested most. I’ve learned that discount stores like Ross or TJ Maxx have VERY REASONABLE fitness equipment. I am able to stock my vault with items $10 and under. Participants earn an item from the prize vault once they reach a new level. They are emailed a congratulations email with a spreadsheet of items available to choose from. Our employees really like exercise balls, essential oil diffusers, spa eye masks, water bottles, kettle bells, company logo t-shirts, and weighted hula hoops. They also like to choose gift cards. I offer $10 or $15 gift cards to local restaurants and stores: Sports Authority, grocery store, Amazon, Bass Pro Shop, Target, Wal-Mart, etc. It’s just $10 but people get so excited because they know they earned it!

 

 

 

The dangers of all things…. PUMPKIN!

It’s that time of year – pumpkin spice this, pumpkin bread that. I did a little investigating. Below are two of the most popular pumpkin items this time of year and how to make it healthier.

 

The number 1 offender: The Pumpkin Spice latte

This tops my list because it’s a sneaky one – you may think your drink is about 200 calories, go ahead and double that. A 16-ounce Pumpkin Spice Latte is 380-420 calories. The worst part is the 50 GRAMS OF SUGAR. That is twice the amount of recommended sugar for your entire day.

pumplatte

The calorie fix: first, downsize to 8 ounces, leave the whipped cream off, ask for skim or 1% milk and half the amount of syrup. You’ve just saved yourself about 300 calories (this variation runs about 100 calories).

 

Close in second: Pumpkin Roll Cake

Bring on the rolls! One serving (which is A LOT smaller than you think) is 370 calories and has about 43 grams of sugar.

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The calorie fix: if you bake it, you get to control what’s added – try to lighten up by using ½ or ¾ the amount of sugar, replace the 12oz of cream cheese with 6oz light cream cheese and 6oz greek yogurt, and less one or two egg yolks. Voilà you’ve halved your calorie intake!

  

 

And now… the flip side!   Pumpkin can be a great addition to your diet. Check out these health benefits you can receive from pumpkin.