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.

 

 

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!

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.

We Walk The Walk! – Walker Tracker’s Latest Staff Challenge

Last week, with the streets covered with snow, I stepped outside decked out in layers and snow gear ready to trek through the snow. Why didn’t I stay inside and hide from the cold? Well, a challenge is underway and there are steps to be taken!

Walk for fun and health

Here at Walker Tracker, we actually do walk the walk. Our staff enjoys competing against each other in our own activity challenges. Our quarterly challenge is going on right now: The Walker Tracker Rise and Grind Challenge. The challenge is an example of our custom points challenges. Each day, competitors can earn points by meeting the daily step goal, logging sleep hours, posting photos, and answering questions throughout the challenge.

So, why does this challenge focus on sleep? “We’ve found that an active lifestyle requires consistent and sufficient sleep, so in addition to encouraging everyone to meet their daily step goals we also wanted them cognizant of how much sleep they’re getting,” says our Account Executive Cyan Cooper, who is administering the challenge. He also highlights that “people tend to wear sleep deprivation as a badge of honor, but losing sleep robs you of your energy, diminishes just about every measurable health metric, and significantly increases your chances of Alzheimer’s.” Check out previous blogs with more info on sleep and tips on how to get more sleep.

The challenge is not just for bragging rights, there are real stakes! Top steppers receive coffee gift cards, to help keep us focused and hard at work I’d imagine. But, the simple act of recognition, whether it be a certificate at an awards ceremony or a gift card or other prize, can be very motivating.

A common question I get is what kinds of incentives should I provide challenge winners? It really depends on the organization’s population and culture. It’s always a good idea to reward healthy behaviors with prizes that promote healthy habits. A few ideas include:

• A gift card to by fresh produce, sporting goods, massage, or music
• An activity tracking device
• A personal training session

To be honest, I’m not the most competitive person, but I’m looking forward to having fun and feeling good about my activity level during this challenge. Who will emerge victorious? Who will be left to sweep up the dust (or snow?)? Stay tuned or follow us on social media at Facebook or Twitter to hear how it turns out.

A Walker Tracker Christmas Story

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Parzybok house, not a creature was stirring, not even a kitty cat; The hiking socks were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that pedometers soon would be there!

Ever wonder how it all started?  Well, I’ve enlisted some help to tell our tale.  Meet Laura Moulton, partner of Walker Tracker CTO & Founder, Ben Parzybok, who has been so gracious as to recount.

“Not too many people know the story of how Walker Tracker came to be, but I think it’s a good one.

Many years ago, Ben’s brother Ezra stuffed each of our Christmas stockings with a pedometer. These were cheap, rattly pedometers that did not record steps very acccurately, but we all gamely wore them on our belts anyway. Since our extended family began competing for the highest step counts, and since we were in different parts of the country, Ben decided to write the code for a website where people could enter their steps, along with commentary about their experience. Word of his website spread, and more family and friends began to participate. In no time, there was a robust walking community of several thousand, entering their steps and encouraging each other along the way. This was during a period of time when Ben worked a regular day job, (generally as a web designer for different corporations), and maintained the Walker Tracker project at night and on weekends. He was also writing novels and being a very hands-on dad to our 2 children at the same time, so it was a lot to juggle.

Around 2010, Ben began to explore ways to make Walker Tracker a revenue-generating company, instead of just a side project. His timing was perfect – many corporations had begun to look for wellness programs for their employees, and the walking program Walker Tracker offered was exactly what they were looking for. Ben took the risk and went full-time with Walker Tracker, and the company has been growing and thriving ever since. I’m so impressed with the caliber of people who have joined over the years – they are a stellar, dedicated team that has become its own kind of family. At home, with our own family, the little kids who played at Ben’s feet while he built the code for Walker Tracker are now teenagers who live for the annual white elephant gift exchange at the company holiday party. We’re grateful to Ben for his creative brain, for his supportive team that makes all the work happen, and for the companies who rely on Walker Tracker to help their own employees thrive and be successful.”

Ben with son Cohen, daughter Sylvie and Laura, our narrator.

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!

 

 

 

New trackers: Water & Fruits & Veggies

As an admin, if you want to add a new type of tracker to your program – you can now do so in Admin > Customize Program > Control Custom Metrics.

We have two widgets there that can be instantly turned on in a program.

Water Tracking

We worked under the old adage that you should drink eight eight-ounce of water a day (8×8). Excess water is not necessarily good for you, so our water tracker maxes out at eight. We also want to emphasize that while the 8×8 rule is a handy memory device, it’s worth reading up on how much water you really need per day.  The water tracker is meant as a means to quantify something that has until now been subjective. For further reading on water intake: Mayo ClinicAuthorityNutrition

Fruit & Veggies Tracking

As a whole, Americans eat far fewer servings of fruits and vegetables than the CDC recommends. The science behind this is clear: Eating ample fruits and vegetables correlates to better heart health, lower cancer risk, decreased risk of stroke, better eyesight, lower blood pressure, and many other positives. Read more about it at Harvard’s School of Public Health. Our tracker, like the water tracker, is there to help you quantify something that has remained subjective. We want to make tracking quick and easy — unlike full-blown food trackers you use once and then forget about. A tool that allows you a moment of reflection about your diet, and an opportunity to track these dietary habits over time.

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For program admins who are running challenges around these trackers – there is a great download tool that allows you to specify thresholds and pull data over date ranges.

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Enjoy!

May Featured Admin: Kerry Davis from PAXmwr

The Navy at Patuxent River is one of our first customers and they have been using the site for years.  It wouldn’t be the success that it is without the leadership and enthusiasm of Kerry Davis.

 

1. Why did you want to start a walking program?

I was inspired at the ACSM Health/Fitness Summit in 2008 (I can’t remember the year for sure!). They featured several programs which were geared toward just getting people MOVING, even if it is just adding steps to their daily lives.

I knew that there were a lot of very busy people in my community, who did not have the time to get away from work for a lunchtime workout. I also knew there were a lot of people who would be intimidated to come to the gym or to take a group fitness class. So, I wanted to create a program that would cater to both of these populations, where they could do all of the walking on their own time and in a comfortable location to them.

 

 2. What has been the most difficult part? How did you overcome that?

The most difficult part has been deciding what prizes to give! I have many repeat participants, so I like to have different prizes for them, and it is hard to know how many prizes to have on hand at the beginning of the program.

 

3. How about the most successful and fun part?

It is so exciting to talk to the participants who have really made a change in their lives because of programs like this. One lady was very competitive, and she told me that she would walk in place at her desk while checking e-mails so that she could keep getting steps! Others have told me about decreasing medications, and weight loss! Small changes really can make a big difference in your life.

 

 4. Any advice you would give to people just starting a walking program?

Use the WalkerTracker website! The very first time that I used the website for a walking program, I had 325 participants. It was very overwhelming because I did not know how to use the website to collect the data. Ben contacted me because he saw how many people had just signed up for the website, and my programs have been MUCH easier to run since!

 

 5. Favorite part about Walker Tracker?

My favorite part is really the people in the background. Taylor and Ben and others have done an amazing job helping me set up the website to reach the goals that I have set for each program.

As far as the website itself goes, I like the step converter. I also like that the participants can choose their level of involvement. Some will get really into it and post pictures and comments, and others simply want to enter steps in each day.

 

6. Any other comments

My participants have really enjoyed the maps. We are getting ready to try the points system for the first time, so I look forward to that! Thank you so much for everything!

Admin of the Month – Aimee McCarthy

Behind every successful walking program is a superstar administrator.  This month I am happy to introduce the “Walker Tracker Administrator of the Month” to our blog.  This prestigious award is given to program admins that go above and beyond for the success of their walking program.

Below is an interview with Aimee McCarthy from Canon CITS.  She has been running an excellent Walker Tracker program and knows what it takes to keep her employees motivated and the challenges exciting.

 

1) What made you want to start a walking program?

Our employees sit at a desk all day, answering phone calls from customers, so there is little opportunity to move during the workday.  I wanted to implement a program that everyone could do, that wasn’t hard or complicated, and wasn’t intimidating, especially for employees who don’t currently exercise.  Walking is something “easy” to do and can be fit it at various times throughout the day, wherever you are.

 

2) What has been the biggest struggle?

The hardest part is probably keeping engagement up.  There are a group of people who sign up, but don’t ever log their steps and I don’t know if they are participating, but not getting online, or if they are just not using the pedometer at all.

 

3) The easiest/most successful part?

The site makes it easy to track and interact with other employees and that seems to be really enjoyable for participants.  I love that we can do challenge after challenge with this program.  Short-term goals seem to work best with our company wide challenges, and it’s nice to be working toward something new every few weeks or months.

 

4) What advice would you give to people just starting a walking program?

As with most wellness initiatives, communication and marketing will go a long way.  Market the program in various ways, through email, flyers, word of mouth, any way that works for your population.  Incentives are always a good draw to get people to participate.  I periodically send out reminder emails talking about the challenge, showing the leader board, and reminding people to enter their steps on the site, which I think helps to keep engagement up.

 

5) Favorite feature on Walker Tracker?

Being able to text my steps in.  The pedometers we bought don’t store data, so it makes it easy to text in your number and reset the pedometer at the end of the day.  I also like the social aspect of it.  It’s nice when participants post on the challenge board, but it’s not too much a part of the program for those who aren’t into social media.

 

6) Any other comments

We have enjoyed our time using Walker Tracker so far.  I was hoping this system would be easier to use than walking programs we’ve done in the past and it has been.  Reporting and tracking is very important and I like that I can do most of that right from the admin section of the website.  Taylor is always really quick to respond and will give marketing materials for our new challenges which I really appreciate.

US Embassy Walking Challenge

Sometimes a client truly delights us with their programs. Today, during our all program’s meeting, we were all tickled by the competition currently running between the US Embassy in Katmandu and the US Embassy in Warsaw. The two embassies are competing against each other in a walk from Poland to Tibet. As an embassy brat myself—my stepfather served in Mexico, in Colombia, and in Croatia—I love the idea of embassy friends and colleagues competing and collaborating in a walking challenge. Go Warsaw! Go Katmandu! You think we can get other Embassies to pile on, and do a world-wide challenge?