This week, we´re talking about fitness. After all, employee development isn´t just about sitting still during a workshop. To help you get and stay fit I talked to award-winning speaker and author Joe Sweeney. I met Joe on my first visit to Rancho La Puerta Fitness Resort and Spa where I have taught writing courses over the last three years. He´s a straight shooter with a wicked sense of humor and a no-nonsense method for getting his students to take care of themselves.
Joe guides, inspires and motivates. He also is responsible for ripples of quiet laughter that often occur during his classes and his introductions to certain difficult hikes. He helps people get started with exercise, stick with it and fit physical activity into a busy life. Through his personal stories of confronting obstacles head-on, he shares lessons about goal achievement, facing fear and perseverance. A professional speaker and trainer since 1990, Joe presents keynotes, seminars, workshops and spouse programs to corporations, associations and schools, and he has guided more than 30,000 people toward healthy, productive and adventure-filled living. Since 1980 he has spent over 400 weeks as an instructor and speaker at Rancho La Puerta Fitness Resort & Spa, North America´s oldest destination fitness resort.
Here´s part two of my interview with Joe (part one appears in the January 8, 2007 post):
Leslie: Do you think that companies should give their employees fitness accounts not unlike what corporations are doing about health insurance?
Joe: Yes, besides developing more productive employees, it’s a great move for improved morale. Workers like it when they feel the company really cares about their wellbeing. It can also save money in the long run by reducing on the job injuries and health claims.
Leslie: What about bringing fitness into the workplace? I´ve heard of massage therapists going into offices and offering chair massages for weary employees, but what about fitness classes that would get those workers out of their chairs?
Joe: Stretch breaks led by a fitness professional will feel good and re-energize overworked employees. If a company makes such sessions mandatory, then they should be brief, say 10-15 minutes.
Leslie: Your book is titled "I Know I Should Exercise, But . . . 7 Steps to Removing Your "But" From Exercise." How would you apply your seven steps to a corporate environment?
Joe: My book emphasizes fitting fitness in and there are many ways to achieve that at work. Step 2 is “Give Pace a Chance.” In other words, don’t do too much too soon. You can stretch for 2 minutes in your chair, go for a 5-minute walk when you have a break, or go “Netwalking"?¢” with a colleague, where work topics are discussed afoot. Step 4 is “Gather Support.” You can form a lunchtime or before or after work walking group. Walking with fellow employees strengthens moral as well as muscles, and you are more likely to do it when others are depending on you. Step 7 is “Make Exercise a Priority.” Remind yourself (and your boss) that if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be the most productive employee possible.
Leslie: I´ve taken your stretch classes and now I understand the value of that form of exercise even though a lot of people wouldn´t typically see that as exercise. Why is stretching so important and how can an office worker incorporate that into the workday?
Joe: Stretching releases tension and stress, improves posture and mobility, helps correct back problems and prevent future back problems. The best time to stretch is after warming up the body, since warm muscles stretch easier than cold muscles. Employees could go for a 5-10 minute walk, then return to their desk chair and sit with their hands interlaced behind their head with elbows out and lift their chest toward the ceiling, stretching tight shoulder and chest muscles and countering the tendency to round the shoulders over while doing computer work. Better yet, perform the same stretch while standing to relieve the discomfort of sitting all day long.