Ray Rodriguez doesn’t believe he’s giving up anything by spending his 30-minute lunch break walking and running a two-mile loop around his office in Torrance. “It’s good for your health. It’s not too much to give up to keep yourself together,” he says.
Rodriguez is one of about 40 employees at Alcoa Fastening Systems who regularly participate in the lunchtime fitness endeavor. Alcoa, a company that manufactures fasteners for aircraft, is a neighbor to Torrance Memorial Medical Center. A while back, the walkers and runners caught the eye of Elaine McRae, director of Torrance Memorial University (TMU) and chair of the Leadership, Education and Wellness council, which helps spearhead efforts for employees at Torrance Memorial.
That’s when McRae met Luci Sinclair, RN, COHN, an occupational health nurse at Alcoa, and learned more about the neighboring company’s commitment to healthy living. “Our wellness program incorporates annual health fairs, flu shots and annual smoking cessation programs,” says Sinclair. “We do biannual blood drives, and this year we participated in the Go Red for Women campaign with flyers, educational displays and the opportunity to donate to the American Cancer Association.”
And getting healthy at Alcoa is a win-win. Through the company’s Healthy Rewards plan, employees are rewarded for knowing their numbers (blood pressure, BMI, blood sugar and cholesterol), participating in health and wellness programs, and getting an annual physical with their personal physician.
The break-time walking program began with just a few people about three years ago and grew from there. Some of the participants circle up as far as Hawthorne Boulevard or Crenshaw Boulevard, depending on how fast they can walk or run.
“It gives our employees an opportunity to be outside, spend time with their friends, and it is fun,” says Sinclair. “I believe our work attendance might be a bit better [as a result of run club participation], and people are more relaxed with the sometimes tedious work we do.”
Rodriguez joined the walking group as part of a personal journey that he began last May. “I wanted to make a change in my life. So I changed my diet and started walking and biking,” he says.
His goal: lose 100 pounds by the end of January. He’s more than halfway there, and as of November had reached the 70-pound weight-loss mark. In addition to the two miles he walks at lunch—usually with the encouragement of a fellow co-worker—he often walks along the beach at night near his home in San Pedro and rides his bike between five and 10 miles when he can.
What drives Rodriguez? He has five children, three still living at home, whom he wants to stay healthy for. “My kids are active, and I want to keep up with them,” says Rodriguez. But he gets even more drive from his desire to win.
One day his 13-year-old son challenged Rodriguez to a race in the canyon area near their home. Though the young boy beat him back then, Rodriguez told his son, “One day we’ll come back and we’ll race, and I’ll beat you.”
Rodriguez hopes that day comes soon after the new year. It seems a little healthy competition can go a long way.
Across the street at Torrance Memorial, the hospital takes pride in not only helping the members of the community live longer, healthier lives but also in helping employees maintain that same level of health and longevity. That’s why McRae’s Leadership, Education and Wellness Council, partially inspired by the Alcoa group, chose to launch Vitality as part of the Embracing Wellness program at Torrance Memorial.
Over the last few years, McRae and the council launched an on-campus farmers market, weekly deliveries of fresh fruits and vegetables through Tanaka Farms, healthy food tastings, and an increase in the variety of healthy foods in the hospital’s cafeteria. Torrance Memorial also regularly has teams that participate in training and racing in programs such as Race for Diabetes and the Heart Walk.
Vitality, which will be implemented in January, is an interactive and personalized wellness program that makes it easy for users to set and track personal goals and measurements.
“Working in a medical center is a very stressful job. We are implementing the Vitality program to bring that culture of wellness to the employees so that they take care of themselves not only when they are at work but also when they are at home,” says MaryJane Bouman, RN.
Employees can enroll in Vitality by having their biometrics taken on campus. Then the employee can input this information into a system and earn points by setting and reaching fitness goals and recording educational credits such as CPR certification and First Aid certification. Points can also be earned for activities such as donating blood and recording proper management of diseases. Points accrued can be redeemed for prizes of all sizes—including reduced stays at luxury hotels!
For some like Rodriguez, the biggest prize will be the pride. “I want to be able to say to my son, ‘Now you see what hard work can do.’”