Wellness Program Highlight: University of Nebraska

Creating and sustaining a successful wellness program requires hard work and the best tools, as well as learning best practices from other organizations. Earlier this year, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Campus Recreation Center started their first walking program for both faculty and students. Amanda Robine and Marc Derrico are administrating the program and were gracious to share with us some details about their first experience with the Walker Tracker platform. We hope their feedback will help other similar organizations learn how they can better create or improve their programs.

UNL had its first Challenge with us earlier this year. How did participants respond to the new program?

Our participants jumped head first into this challenge. We have had triple the amount of participation in the WalkerTracker program, compared to previous programs. WalkerTracker’s user friendly and easy to navigate platform has been a huge reason for the success. Our participants enjoy being able to sync steps through apps they are already using and convert activities into steps to increase their chance of winning the challenge.

What has been the most difficult part of running a walking program?

The most difficult part of the walking program has been trying to reach beyond our participants to others at the University of Nebraska. In the beginning, we grew exponentially with great enthusiasm, but now that participants have settled in, we want to find more people to join who may not be aware of this program or they are resilient to join. This means we will be reaching out to current participants with the challenge of growing their team, and hitting the pavement to find groups who may be unaware of the program. We are excited to see even more potential as we move forward.

How about the easiest and most fun part of running a walking program?

The easiest part is managing all the participants. With the scheduled emails and automatic reenrollment into teams and competitions, managing everyone is simple. The most fun part is the actual competitions. Watching teams compete for the top spot and seeing movement on the leaderboards is awesome.

Any advice you would give to people organizing their first walking program?

We have a group of “Wellness Ambassadors” who did an excellent job in the very beginning to really grow our program. Our Wellness Ambassadors represent various departments around campus and recruited participants in their departments to participate in the walking program. From there participation grew. We would suggest something similar where you have team leaders who are very excited about the program. These leaders would work with you to get the news out about the program. Digital communication only works to a certain extent. Word of mouth from a colleague is most effective. From there, maintaining constant communication with participants and reminding them to do simple things such as syncing their devices and apps to get credit for their work.

Favorite feature on Walker Tracker or favorite part about working with Walker Tracker?

We have a ton of favorite features of WalkerTracker. Our top two favorites are:

  • We love that your activities do not expire. Previously we worked with a program that would not count activities if they were more than 72 hours prior to syncing. With WalkerTracker your window to sync your devices or count your activity is as big as the competition currently going on.
  • We also love that participants do not have to re-enroll in each challenge. We automatically start with a great group of walkers and can grow from there. Our participants like being very “hands-off” with syncing and joining the different challenges.

 

Did you hear of any personal success stories within your organization due to your use of Walker Tracker? 

One of our on campus groups found great success in this program. Our Wellness Ambassador for this particular department has had a hard time getting her team to buy-in to wellness programming. For some reason, this WalkerTracker program has been the turning point for the department. They have enjoyed participating in challenges and created a prize structure for the winning team in their department. The prize also focuses on wellness by bringing in nutrition workshops for the winning team. We are so excited to see the successes of our Wellness Ambassadors, and cannot wait to continue highlighting their stories.

 

 

My First Powerlifting Meet – I Said I Would Now I Have To Do It

Stephanie Green Powerlifter Extraordinaire

Stephanie at the Powerlifting Championships

Why Powerlifting?

I discovered lifting weights four years ago when a good friend of mine invited me to go to the gym with her. Lifting weights was never something I had been exposed to, but I immediately fell in love with it. As someone who struggled with hand-eye coordination (let’s be honest, whole-body coordination) their whole life, organized sports were never my forte. Lifting weights didn’t require me to handle a ball with agility or be able to predict my teammate’s movement, it was all about me and how much could I pick-up, pull, or push. Turns out, that was more than I expected!

 

Cut to Late 2016

The year 2016 ended up being the biggest year of my life. On a personal level, I made changes to where I lived and what I did for work, among myriad other things. When you find yourself in a new city, with a new job, and not knowing anyone, the gym can be a great starting place to meet new people. I found myself at an amazing little gym within walking distance of my new home, (if you’re in Portland it’s  Studio X, and I highly recommend you check it out). There I connected with a trainer who corrected my technique, pushed my limits, and encouraged me to go big. Long story short, when she suggested I sign up for a powerlifting meet, I did exactly that.

 

I said I would, now I have to!

You know how once you say you are going to do something, you have a new found sense of commitment? That was my training for this meet in a nutshell. I said I would, now I needed to perform. So on January 1st, I started training for my first powerlifting competition. Having no idea what to expect or what I was doing, my trainer gave me a program and I found myself in the gym four-to-five days a week for the next 14 weeks. I pushed the limits of what I thought I could do. I sweat. I shed a tear or two. I threw my hands up in victory. I screamed in frustration. There were times my body felt like it got hit by a truck. There were times I felt like I had conquered the world.

 

How did it go?

April 7th was the big day, and I won’t say I wasn’t nervous. Of course, I was! However, despite the nerves, I was also excited. This was it: time to see weeks of training, managing my diet, and pushing my body to its limits pay off. It was just me and the weights, and I was there to pick them up and put them down. On my first lift, I was marked down for form violations (read: apparently when nervous I lift my toes up when I squat), but once I hit my stride I had six perfect lifts and set new personal records in both my bench press and deadlift!

 

What was my take away?

I’m sure some of you are wondering at this point if I “won” or what place I ranked. Powerlifting meets are competitions after all, aren’t they? Yes, they are. But they also are one of the most supportive competitive experiences out there. I came in around the middle of my weight class, and for a first-time competitor that’s pretty good. I also walked away with new friends and a sense of achievement that rivals any other competitive experience I’ve had to date. The women I competed with were all amazing, strong women. Everyone was cheering each other on, and the phrase, “it’s all about competing with yourself and reaching your new personal best” was echoed throughout the day. I also walked away with a sense of personal pride. I set a goal, I worked hard, and I achieved it. That is what not only weightlifting, but any personal fitness journey is all about.

Power socks for powerlifting.

Power socks for powerlifting.

Oh, and I also walked away with a really cool new pair of deadlift socks monogrammed with the initials of my nickname, compliments of the Walker Tracker team. I’m pretty sure they helped push me to that new PR!

 

Have you participated in a new sport recently? Tell us about your experience. What made you decide to try a new sport or activity?

Walker Tracker on the Move – Staff Challenge Recap

Almost a month ago, I posted about our staff challenge and the results are in! Congratulations to Blanca Garcia-Rinder, our V.P. of Customer Success, for winning the Walker Tracker Rise and Grind Challenge! Our runner-ups include yours truly in second place and Kristina Peltier, our Marketing Manager, in third place.

Walker Tracker on the move.It’s always nice to take a moment to highlight the effort that was made as a whole group. During the challenge, we tracked 4,474,307 steps! But more important than the numbers were the beneficial experiences from participating in the challenge.

Taylor Welsh, our President and CEO, shared her experiences during the challenge:

“This challenge was a great motivator to focus on better sleep habits and being consistently active. Coinciding with the Rise and Grind challenge I began working out in the mornings instead of evenings. Man oh man did that make a difference in my energy levels throughout the day and quality of sleep at night.”

It’s experiences like this that demonstrate the power a wellness challenge has on forming healthy habits. The simple act of tracking wellness metrics creates personal awareness (e.g., is that really how little I sleep?). Awareness can motivate you to start making lifestyle changes that will help you reach your personal goals.

Once the goals are set, then motivation is key. Challenges can feel long when the initial excitement wears off, so it can be a ‘challenge’ to stay motivated.

Kristina shared a tip that kept her moving through the challenge:

“Schedule time for yourself.  Every day I would set aside time to go to a workout class or go for a walk. If it was on my calendar I would follow through and do it. This is how I made sure that I had steps or activities to add to my challenge tracking on a regular basis.”

It’s no surprise she was among the top finishers.

What will keep you motivated? It might be extrinsic (a cash prize or gift), or it may be intrinsic (feeling great about yourself for achieving a goal, no matter how small). Figure out what motivates you, then you will rock the challenge!

Back at the office, we’ll reflect on the fun we had during this past challenge for just a bit before we prepare for the next challenge because we walk the walk!

What do you and your friends do to stay motivated in a challenge or active regularly? We’d love to hear how you stay inspired.

Walker Tracker being active.

A few members of Walker Tracker taking a break with an afternoon walk.

Celebrate National Walking Day with Walker Tracker

Walking in the Park

Grab a four-legged friend, and go for a walk to celebrate.

What is National Walking Day?

National Walking Day falls on the first Wednesday of April each year. It was created in 2007 by the American Heart Association (AHA) as part of their efforts to encourage people to live healthier, more active lives. This year, the AHA has designated April “Move More Month” and is kicking it off on–you guessed it–National Walking Day! The goal is to get individuals to commit to at least 30 minutes of walking today and to increase physical activity all month long.


How can you celebrate?

It’s easy, just make sure you get in a 30-minute walk today and find ways to be more active throughout the month of April! Here are some great ideas to get you up and moving:

  • Skip the car and opt to walk, bike, or take public transit to work.
  • Make your meeting a walking meeting and bring your coworkers along for the walk.
  • Turn two 15-minute breaks at work into walking breaks will get you to that 30-minute goal. Or walk on your lunch break!
  • Skip the TV and take the family for an after-dinner walk.
  • Give your dog the extra exercise he craves and take him for a bonus 30-minute walk.
  • Getting your friends together for a walk is a great way to be active and catch up!
  • Take a group fitness class.
  • The weather is getting nice, so head outdoors and take a hike.
  • Indulge your competitive spirit and challenge your friends, family, or coworkers to a step or activity challenge!

Group Walk Outside

How is Walker Tracker celebrating?

As walking enthusiasts, we are excited to celebrate National Walking Day and want YOU to join us! Today our staff will be making a point to get up and get moving, with everyone pledging to get in a 30-minute walk. We will be sharing pictures on our Instagram and Facebook pages using the hashtags #WalkerTracker #ThisIsHowIWalk #WeBeWalkin. Share a picture of you w     alking today with the hashtags #WalkerTracker #ThisIsHowIWalk to be entered in to win some sweet Walker Tracker swag!

Walker Tracker will be celebrating all month long with specials for new programs that sign up in April. Click here for more details.

Happy Walking!

Welcome aboard Tiana and Michel

Hiring managers, have you ever ran into that moment where you have two stellar candidates and you just CANNOT make up your mind no matter how many lists you make? What do you do?

HIRE THEM BOTH!

We’re proud to introduce two new members to Walker Tracker’s Customer Success team: Tiana Le and Michel Waissman. Tiana and Michel work with our program members to help them navigate the site, troubleshoot issues and most importantly, they wrap up every ticket with words of encouragement. Not only are there here to support our participants but this dynamic duo have hopped right into making new challenge themes and overhauling our materials to make the self-help articles accessible and even, dare I say? fun!

Let’s hear from them:

Meet Michel

Hello Walker Tracker world!

Michel, Walker Tracker Support SpecialistI enjoy being part of a software company working to increase awareness and participation in human health.  It really makes my day when I am able to help a participant with an issue and they respond with positive feedback about their engagement.  Users have mentioned how much they love the Walker Tracker platform, and not only does that make me happy for our team, it motivates me to stay healthy too!  Personally, I stay active by biking and doing body-weight exercises. So, my favorite feature of Walker Tracker is that I can choose from a large variety of activities, including cycling and body-weight, to convert into steps.  This feature has allowed me to gain insight into my exercise routine and has motivated me to stay on top of it.

When I’m not at Walker Tracker, I spend my time in nature, with music, or learning about software.  I enjoy hiking and learning about the birds, plants, and animals that I come across. Recently, I encountered a pileated woodpecker in Forest Park, Portland.  They are stunning creatures! I have played music my entire life and spend my time listening, learning, and making all sorts of sounds – when in doubt I play the blues.  Find me with headphones on learning about the software that makes the world go ‘round and working to make a better user experience for Walker Tracker customers.

Walk on!

 

Meet Tiana

I love working for Walker Tracker because we are a company that I believe will help strengthen our communities. Health is so important, and sometimes it can be easy to forget about keeping up with health and fitness, especially with a busy work schedule. I think it’s amazing that Walker Tracker is helping companies and teams incorporate health into the community.

I enjoy working in Customer Success, it’s exciting for me to see what users are experiencing and think of ways that I can help them achieve a smooth Walker Tracker experience.

My favorite Walker Tracker feature, other than being able to view other people’s steps, is posting photos! I love seeing the photos that other people in my competitions are posting.

I am very into health and fitness. I strive to eat the cleanest diet possible by using local, organic and non-gmo produce and foods and a heavy reliance on vegetables! I also enjoy going to the gym as often as I can. If I can’t make it to the gym due to a tight schedule, I will go on a quick hike or walk in my neighborhood.

My favorite hobbies include making music, listening to music, creating websites, and researching/watching things that I find interesting. My mind is always looking for new information so I spend a lot of time researching and learning as much as I can when I have free time!

 

We’re so glad to have Michel and Tiana working with us and supporting our members who couldn’t be in better hands.

Now, where to put TWO desks when you only planned on one?

Meet Walker Tracker’s New Team Member – Jill Moran

Hey there! I’m Jill and I recently joined the Walker Tracker Marketing team! I’m originally from Long Beach, CA, but decided to ditch the sunshine for moody Portland in December 2010 and I haven’t looked back.

Why did you move to Portland?
I went to the University of Oregon and felt like I left a part of me in the Pacific Northwest after moving back to Southern California. I found an amazing program in Book Publishing & Technical Writing at Portland State University, so I packed up and headed for Portland.

What’s your ideal weekend?
Going on a long run (I’m always training for something), lots of coffee, finding some time to read, checking out a new brewery, watching a Portland Timbers match, getting some yummy food.

What’s your favorite word?
Accoutrement.

Important question… team cat or team dog?
Team any cute, cuddly creature! But if I must choose, team dog all the way.

Is your pedometer keeping up with you?

Wireless devices like Fitbit and Garmin claim to accurately measure a person’s activity levels throughout the day. As the devices continue to gain popularity, researchers at University of Florida’s Department of Health Policy and Outcomes have tested various devices and their accuracy across age groups.

Their findings? The devices aren’t as accurate as they claim to be. Here’s the nut:

“Over the past 5 years, wearable devices, smartphones, and apps have become more ubiquitous, and have become widely recommended tools of behavioral change for weight loss by the general press, the health and fitness industry, and health care providers. In this study, we evaluated the accuracy of a selection of recently available wearable wrist-worn devices and smartphones with respect to step counting, as well as the impact of several variables of interest, most notably age.

BMI, height, weight, and dominant hand do not seem to impact the accuracy of step count. However, age does affect accuracy, and some devices tend to underestimate the number of steps walked by older users of wearable devices. This finding may be a minor issue for people trying to lose weight by adhering to a 10,000-step walking program, as they may walk more than planned. However, older and/or slower participants focusing on increasing physical activity may be negatively affected, and may struggle mentally if they fall short of 10,000 steps.”

Read the full study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information here.

How does this apply to you, and to your Walker Tracker walking program? The most important thing to remember, perhaps, is that raising your activity level is relative, not absolute. With current technology, your device can’t always accurately tell you exactly how many steps you’ve taken, or how far you’ve traveled throughout the day. But it can give you a baseline average. It’s up to you to raise that average slowly over time. 5,000 steps on your Garmin might be 7,000 steps on my FitBit. The most important thing is to keep raising that average, a little every day.

 

 

Linked Study: Mobile Device Accuracy for Step Counting Across Age Groups
Copyright ©François Modave, Yi Guo, Jiang Bian, Matthew J Gurka, Alice Parish, Megan D Smith, Alexandra M Lee, Thomas W Buford. Originally published in JMIR Mhealth and Uhealth (http://mhealth.jmir.org), 28.06.2017.

Walking For Water – World Water Day

Every day, I turn on the faucet without a thought, unable to imagine what I would do if nothing came out. It seems like I am always hearing about how important hydration is for health, especially while being physically active, and I do my best to stay hydrated throughout the day. I recently learned that if you held all of the water in the world in a gallon jug (~3.85 liters), there would only be about a tablespoon of fresh water. With such a statistic, it does cause me to pause and think about how blessed I am to have fresh water on demand, as well as wonder what can be done to help the 2.1 billion people lacking access to safely managed drinking water services (United Nations World Water Development Report 2018). This reflection is timely, as today is World Water Day, a day to draw attention to the importance of fresh and clean water.

On Sunday, April 29th, Walker Tracker is participating in the Carry5 Walk For Water, a fundraiser for Water 1st International. The walk involves carrying water for 5 kilometers in solidarity with the 1 billion people who lack access to clean water. Walker Tracker is supporting Water 1st International because sustainable water and sanitation projects improve health & wellbeing, as well as create opportunity in the world’s poorest communities. Every $85 raised provides one person with clean water and a toilet FOR LIFE.

Walking for your health is important, but you might also consider being physically active for a cause that is important to you. Many nonprofits hold walking fundraisers. Another option, if your nonprofit of choice does not hold a similar event is to create your own fundraiser by asking for donations based on your own physical activity. You could participant in a local 5k walk/run or sports tournament and ask coworkers, family, and friends for donations. You would be helping your health and your cause. A win-win. What will you walk for?

To donate or learn more about Water 1st and the Carry5 Walk visit https://water1st.org/carry5/portland/. Stay tuned for updates on our walk.

Introducing Our Newest Walker Tracker Team Member

We are excited to welcome a new member of our team, Nick Buckingham. Nick is joining our growing business development team. We asked Nick a little about himself, and here is what he had to say: 

How long have you lived in Portland?
I have lived in Portland pretty much my whole life, with a couple of years in Northern California. I left Portland a couple years ago to spend a very short time period up in Seattle. This was short lived because nothing really compares to Portland. 

Are you team dog or team cat?
I’m definitely team dog. I have one puppy, named Emma. She is a very sassy dachshund. 

What is something important about you people should know?
I have a six-year-old son that keeps me on my toes daily.  

How do you like to be active?
Mostly outdoor activities including trips to the beach and hiking almost every weekend.

What is a fun fact about you?
I enjoy writing in my free time, as well as reading when I can, and I just completed my first manuscript- a fiction novel.  

International Women’s Day – Celebrating the Work Women Do

Walker Tracker's Management Team

Walker Tracker’s amazing management team: Stephanie Green, Ben Parzybok, Taylor Welsh, and Blanca Garcia-Rinder

International Women’s Day is March 8th and Walker Tracker is proud to celebrate and acknowledge the work women are doing both at our company and around the world. This has been a big year for women everywhere and for the women at Walker Tracker.

In January the list of leaders for the Fortune 500 companies came out and there were more women on it than ever, growing from 21 to 31 female CEOS- the highest number since the list started in 1955. While this is great news, there is still a lot of work to be done, as that is only 6.4% of the companies with female leadership.

Women have outnumbered men on college campuses since 1988 and yet hold far less leadership positions from corporate executive officers, board seats, and college deans to law firm partners, film directors and congressional seats. (For more details see the article: “The Women’s Leadership Gap” by the Center for American Progress )

At Walker Tracker we are proud to be a part of a growing number of companies working to bridge this gap. From our CEO, Taylor Welsh, to two out of three of our departments being head by female leaders, we have a strong female presence throughout our organization. We have female representation on every team from customer success to sales to development! We believe this diversity strengthens our perspective as a company and allows us to better partner with our clients to engage all of their employees in a variety of wellness initiatives.

To celebrate International Women’s Day we are releasing a limited time challenge map “Influential Women Throughout History.” Walk around the world and unlock milestone pins with content about these amazing leaders who helped blaze the trail for all women everywhere! This map will be available to all our new and current programs through the end of March, as well as a challenge open to anyone on our community site starting, March 8th.