Bridging the gap between Fitness and Corporate Wellness

Last year, I had the chance to attend a seminar put on by WELCOA (I would recommended it as a good starting point in Wellness). I was one of the very few fitness coaches to attend. In fact, I was the only coach I could find in the whole room. Instead, I was surrounded by the “front office” folk who handle wellness administration, benefit coordination, and everything else we A.D.D fitness people don’t do so well. Yes… Like a caged lion with no attention span, I lurked among “white collars” for 3 days.


At one point during the conference, the presenters began to talk about intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation.


“It’s not all about incentives anymore! We have to figure out what motivates people on the inside…”


In my mind, I was going, “Right… did I pay for this information? Because every coach and trainer already knows we need to figure out what intrinsically motivates people to get them to change their body and health.”


Then two things occurred to me:


  • The “corporate wellness” industry is trying to catch up to what the “fitness” industry already knows.
  • Coaches and trainers are having a tough time communicating their knowledge to the business world.


Yes there are differences. But at the core of each industry, we are trying to accomplish the same thing: get people to change the lives.


It might be for different reasons; for a coach or trainer it’s just our job, our passion, and how we build our business. For a business it simply makes sense to have healthier, more productive people who don’t cost us as much in healthcare dollars, who show up to work, and have the energy to do more work when there. But in either case, we are shooting at the same target and if we hit it: we affect our bottom line and build more business!


We’ve known in fitness for years that while extrinsic motivation works in the short term, rarely does it lead to lifestyle changes and permanent health results. Instead, we’ve found that permanent results come from lifestyle changes that result from behavioral changes derived from some sort of intrinsic motivation.


This is where coaching comes into play and can provide huge dividends to businesses. Coaches are trained in the art of behavioral change (or at least the good ones are). Setting goals and sticking to them by finding some sort of emotional link tied to accomplishing the goal is the key to changing someone’s life. This is not accomplished with a $25 gas card for your winning the walking challenge. And it is where Corporate Wellness has struggled.


On the flip side, coaches and trainers have struggled to show the corporate world the ROI (return on investment) or VOI (value of investment) behind merging with a coaching mindset. In fact, a lot of “corporate wellness” programs I’ve seen, led by fitness coaches, are misguided and only lead to increased costs rather than any return. The daily beat you down boot camps have no place in this world because there’s no sustainable return.


For these two worlds to truly emerge, we need fitness coaches and trainers focused in the right areas:


  • Proper movement to avoid pain and injury i.e higher health care costs
  • Practical nutrition to make healthy living realistic for business people
  • Holistic wellness including traditional fitness measures (VO2 Max, weight, %BF, etc.) and non-traditional measures related to the human being (stress levels in all areas of life, productivity, willingness to change, perceived happiness, etc.)
  • Providing a return to both the employee and the business through not only cost savings but increasing the number of highly productive people


We also need businesses to open up to the idea of coaching. Having a dedicated person for employees to approach with their struggles, goals, questions, and so forth, makes the difference between Wellness success and failure.


When employees have a dedicated professional to approach they feel a more personal connection to the end goal; not only their personal end goal, but also to the goals of the business that invested in them as a person.


Some great, immediate resources for the Wellness Professional looking to build their behavioral change repertoire:


  1. Switch, written by Dan Heath and Chip Heath. A great book all about the human psyche and change.
  2. Drive, written by Daniel H. Pink. He makes a great argument against using external motivators.

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