Commit to fit: The 2015 Get Fit Challenge

From the pages of In Business magazine.

At this stage in the life of IB’s Get Fit Challenge, much like The Biggest Loser, the contestants know what they’re in for. They’re working hard to be crowned the most fit, and there’s no easy path to victory. But that’s precisely why many of the individuals and teams competing this year chose to participate.

Whether they’re fitness novices or former athletes, they’ve all struggled at one time or another with their weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and they were looking for motivation to get fit and accountability to hold their feet to the fire. What better way to succeed than by putting themselves in front of Dane County’s business community?

This year’s individual contestants are looking to improve the state of their personal and professional lives and gain the confidence they need to pursue any goal put in front of them. The common thread linking the competing teams is an organizational desire to improve the collective fitness of each employee and, in turn, improve their ability to respond to the needs of their customers and clients.

The 2015 Get Fit Challenge winners will be announced at the annual IB Expo in October, and you can follow the contestants’ progress throughout the competition online at

The Women

Bonnie Bailey, business development, SVA

When Bonnie Bailey was younger, she was slim. Even after three children, she was able to take off the pounds, but as she reached the 40-year mark, and then passed 50, she found the weight harder to shed. Most motivated when she can keep her focus on a fitness goal and can compete with others, Bailey firmly believes the opportunity to work with a trainer will provide the push she needs to create a plan that works best for her.

Karen Hodgkiss, owner, KLH freelance

Working from a home office, Karen Hodgkiss had all of the flexibility to squeeze in a workout, but none of the motivation. Now, with one daughter grown and the other soon leaving for college, Hodgkiss and her husband plan to travel more often, and she doesn’t want to be the one holding them back. Known for excellence in project management, Hodgkiss wants to apply those skills to establishing a regular fitness regimen.

Kate Karre, HR administrator, Johnson Block & Co.

There’s nothing like a health scare to provide motivation for improving one’s lifestyle. For Kate Karre, a recent medical diagnosis necessitated a permanent change. Now that she’s completed her MBA, she has the time to start easing back into a fitness routine she can maintain for life. Confident the new diet and fitness habits she picks up will make her happier in her personal and professional lives, she’s even optimistic about those good habits rubbing off on others.

Alexandra Radel, marketing communications specialist, WPS Health Insurance

Having struggled with her weight for much of her life, Alexandra Radel knows how difficult it can be to stay motivated and maintain a fitness routine. While she enjoys working out and attending classes at her gym, she feels that she recently hit a plateau. Newly single, Alexandra says getting fit will give her the confidence she needs to get out of her comfort zone and start pursuing her long-term goals, both personal and professional.

Sara Tetzloff, PR & social media account executive, Hiebing

Sara Tetzloff used to be an avid runner, training for 5Ks and half marathons on a consistent basis. However, becoming a mother and transitioning to a new work environment has captured much of her free time. As Sara’s weight increased, her confidence waned, but she’s ready to return to her former healthy lifestyle. Sara is using her son as motivation, noting that being fit will give her the energy she needs to keep up with her family.



The Men

Ben Cowan, president, Full Scale Promotions LLC

A former hockey player, Ben Cowan knows what it’s like to be in top shape. But over the past several years, the 33-year-old has seen his weight yo-yo as he’s tried workouts like P90X, lost weight, and then gained it back after 90 days passed. Knowing the toll years of sports have taken on his body, Cowan is eager to establish a long-term fitness plan that will relieve some of the pressure on his joints.

John Ganahl, general manager, Air-Lec Industries LLC

John Ganahl attributes his erratic workout routine to one thing: willpower. It’s a mental block he’s struggled to overcome, and it’s the difference, he says, between actually being fit and just getting fit. While issues of willpower have derailed his fitness plans in the past, the grandfather of two desperately wants to watch his grandchildren grow up and be an active participant in their lives and the lives of his two sons.

Steve Huck, general manager & certified building service executive, Coverall Health Based Cleaning System

When Steve Huck learned last summer that he was pre-diabetic and had sleep apnea, he knew it was time to make a serious lifestyle change. He’s set an ambitious goal: to get under 200 pounds, a weight he hasn’t carried in almost 20 years. Working out primarily from home, Steve is looking forward to sleeping better and being happier as he drops the weight he’s struggled to shed.

Bob Nennig, attorney, Nennig Law Offices LLC

Bob Nennig admits he’s starting from square one in this competition. He doesn’t have a regular fitness regimen and often finds exercise challenging as a result of tearing an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) more than once. For Nennig, getting fit will enable him to take a more active role in his teenage daughters’ lives, have more energy, and maintain his focus on daily tasks in his law office, where opportunities to work out are rare.

Donald Tweedt, account executive, TDS Telecom

Donald Tweedt used to be religious about working out, but fatherhood and a life behind a desk changed all that. Now that his daughter is grown and he’s single again, he’s eager for guidance to get his fitness routine back on track. “I find that my confidence in my professional abilities is closely tied to how I feel about myself,” he says. “In sales, confidence is a difference- maker, and I’m looking to make a difference.”



The Teams

Applied Tech
Cliff McDonald, Riley Ruegsegger, and Dustin Serrault

It’s fair to say the team members from Applied Tech are guinea pigs. While they are participating in the IB Get Fit Challenge for multiple reasons, they also will be taking ideas back to the office in order to help implement a company-wide corporate health initiative.

Marketing Manager Dustin Serrault says the team is looking forward to participating because they know it will help them grow stronger, not just physically but also in their working relationships. Team members also feel that Get Fit is a great way to get Applied Tech’s name out in the community. Serrault notes he and his team members want Applied Tech’s clients and the greater Madison community to see the organization as healthy and strong.

Another reason the team from Applied Tech is participating is because the company is interested in implementing an event like Get Fit within the organization. With a corporate desire to encourage fitness at the office, Applied Tech’s management team feels this is the first step to move the organization toward its goal of encouraging everyone to pursue a fit lifestyle.

Serrault says Applied Tech likely won’t split the company into teams for its own version of Get Fit; rather, it will work as one to reach company-wide fitness goals. If that means the Applied Tech team needs to get a little sweaty in order to find out what works best for the entire company, so be it. They’re up to the challenge.

Community Partnerships Inc.
Scott Strong, Mercy Greenwald, Carrie Tourek, and Lori Duzan

Having seen the Get Fit Challenge in previous years, Scott Strong knew the employees at Community Partnerships would want to form a team. After all, they’re a competitive bunch.

Community Partnerships provides services to children, young adults, and families that are affected by mental illness, and that work can be taxing. Internal conversations with staff about taking care of themselves and not bringing work home are frequent.

Strong says each team member has a personal motivation for working together to improve overall health and fitness. For Lead Family Support Specialist/Site Coordinator Mercy Greenwald, it involves losing the last 10 pounds toward her goal of shedding 100 pounds over the past three years. As a team, they want to bring the integration of self-care and fitness into their work and, they hope, the wider community in which they they work, notes Strong.

As summer gets underway, the Community Partnerships team plans to take individual training sessions to the next level by getting together for running sessions. Strong and team member Lori Duzan both have set goals of running their first 5K, while Carrie Tourek and Greenwald each want to improve their results on longer runs. At work, they’ve also devoted more time to walking, including holding walking meetings in an effort to stay active during the workday.

Working for a nonprofit can be stressful, but by taking care of themselves, team members know they’ll be better equipped to help take care of others.

Connections Counseling LLC
Skye Tikkanen, Marykay Aide, and Shelly Dutch

The team from Connections Counseling decided to take on the Get Fit Challenge to support the mission of its clinic, which helps people who struggle with substance abuse and mental illness.

Team captain Marykay Aide says she and her teammates have their own reasons for participating, too. Aide had major surgery last November and needs to lose weight and get into shape after a lengthy recuperation period.

Shelly Dutch wants to improve her diet and focus on building upper body strength to balance out her already strong cardio routine.

Skye Tikkanen has been struggling with her own health challenges and is hoping the competition gives her the extra push to do what she can whenever she’s able.

Because they work varied schedules, each team member works out on her own. Aide participates in the Killer Kurves (K2) program at the Fit Moms for Life Transformation Center, which includes boot camp workouts, healthy eating, and community support. (Dutch is another Fit Moms for Life participant).

Tikkanen’s exercise regimen is largely dependent on her health, but on the recommendation of her doctor, she is trying recumbent bicycling.

Aide is confident that by competing in this challenge, the team from Connections Counseling can demonstrate that addiction, mental illness, and other health issues do not have to preclude a healthy, balanced life.

Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Badgerland Council
Marci Henderson, Christine Posey, Courtney Feuquay, and Caroline Seals

Contrary to what some customers might think, the Girl Scouts is about more than just selling cookies.

Since founder Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low organized the first Girl Scout troop in 1912, in Savannah, Ga., it’s been the Girl Scouts mission to help girls discover their strengths, passions, and talents. It’s no different for The Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Badgerland Council, which continues to build the courage, confidence, and character of girls. There’s no better way to show girls how to build character than by taking the Get Fit Challenge.

In addition to character-building, there is some team-building involved. According to CEO Marci Henderson, the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Badgerland Council team is particularly excited to participate in the Get Fit Challenge because they’ll be competing alongside colleagues they usually don’t work closely with. So it’s a perfect opportunity to get to know some of their coworkers better.

Henderson noted that one team member gained close to 40 pounds after she quit smoking a couple of years ago. Since then, she’s struggled to get back to a healthy body mass index. While she feels she’s fit, she wants to become even healthier.

Self-improvement is a common theme with each member of this team, notes Henderson. They all want to live healthier lives, and they also hope to bring some of the knowledge they gain about fitness back to the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Badgerland Council staff.

Great Wolf Resorts
Kimberly Schaefer, Molly Fox, and Melissa Blettner

When you work for a resort company, it’s only natural to want to be in great shape. For busy professionals, sometimes even the motivation of looking fantastic on a water slide isn’t enough to start making necessary lifestyle changes and embrace a new fitness and diet regimen.

Great Wolf Resorts already has a corporate health program, Wolf Wellness. Through lunch-and-learn sessions, the program gives tips and suggestions for living a healthier lifestyle, and employees are provided an annual health screening.

The program is encouraged but not mandatory, which is a significant reason why the team from Great Wolf is participating in the Get Fit Challenge. All three team members say they want to get healthy for themselves, but the best way to achieve that is by being accountable to their teammates, whom they don’t want to let down.

For CEO Kimberly Schaefer, this is a lifestyle change. With so many things competing for her time, Schaefer says it’s great to have additional motivation and support from her coworkers.

Team member Molly Fox is looking to achieve personal goals of weight loss and being strong, healthy, and fit. She knows that working out as a team will help hold each of them accountable, and motivate each of them to keep pushing toward their goals.

Health and wellness is also very important to Melissa Blettner. Hoping to increase her fitness level as she gets older, she feels the team challenge format will help her stay accountable to herself and her team.



Hausmann-Johnson Insurance
Barry Richter, David Kruse, Melissa Schultz, and Kyle VonRuden

As a leading health benefits organization in Madison, the Hausmann-Johnson team believes they have to practice what they preach.

After recognizing a pattern of bad habits during the 2014 holiday season, Team Hausmann-Johnson knew something had to change. According to Benefits Account Manager Melissa Schultz, the sheer volume of cakes, cheese, sausage, and cookies that kept appearing in the office was remarkable. Employees realized that eating all that food each day left them feeling lethargic and negatively impacted their motivation.

For team members Barry Richter and Kyle VonRuden, that realization was particularly eye-opening. Richter, a former professional hockey player, says he never used to worry about staying in shape because it was his job. VonRuden was a member of the 1995 Badger men’s soccer team that captured a national championship. That’s something his kids think is cool, but as they get older he’s found it harder and harder to come up with excuses for why he’s not as active as he used to be.

Schultz and team member David Kruse also have their share of motivation. Schultz says she’s ready to take back her body after devoting it to her second daughter for the past three years through pregnancy and nursing. And Kruse, who reached his peak weight of 325 pounds in 2010 and has since lost 70 pounds, is looking for ways to continue the progress he’s already made. He’ll be competing in a number of races in the coming months while working toward his goal of running a half marathon in late summer.

Johnson Bank
Amber Krogman, Amy Hottman, Jennifer Mistretta, and Michael Kosolcharoen

Let’s be honest, just about everyone has the potential to be healthier and in better shape. The Johnson Bank team is no different, and they saw the Get Fit Challenge as the perfect solution to promote good health and exercise in a fun way.

Echoing many of the other teams, Commercial Insurance Sales Executive Amber Krogman says a big factor in the team’s participation is accountability. Many of the team members’ fitness routines seem to come and go in waves. They’re very motivated but then they fall off. The team environment makes them accountable to each other. As a bonus, she says, they enjoy spending time together as a team.

While they plan to work out individually the majority of the time, Krogman says the group has talked about taking advantage of one-time class opportunities at fitness facilities throughout Dane County. That way, teammates can support local businesses and get a sense of what’s out there. Collectively, the team’s goals are eating healthier, improving flexibility, and growing stronger.

As salespeople, individual members have a natural drive to be competitive. Knowing they’re participating in the challenge to push each other, as well as competing against nine other teams, is all the motivation they need to pursue their fitness goals.

Like many of the other teams, Team Johnson Bank has plans to take what’s learned and apply it in a corporate initiative. Johnson Bank is also planning healthier meals in the office, including healthy pot lucks, with any proceeds raised going to local charities.

Koss Insurance and Financial Services
Daniel Koss, Michael Koss, Jessica Koss, and Robert Koss

There’s a lot of stress associated with the challenges of maintaining and growing a local business. The fact that Koss Insurance and Financial Services is a family-owned and operated business is rewarding, notes Robert Koss, but it can add its own set of challenges and stress.

Koss is hopeful the fitness challenge will prove to be an excellent team-building exercise. He’s optimistic that learning how to lead healthier lives will allow the team to better manage the various dimensions of stress.

Koss notes that all four team members have packed on a few pounds over the past year. Sitting in the same office with each other for eight to 10 hours a day also makes it easy to eat poorly and avoid exercise.

However, like most families, the Koss’ are competitive. When Robert saw an ad for the Get Fit Challenge, he knew it would be a good endeavor to attempt as a group. Having the support of family also makes it easier to hold each other accountable.

Koss notes that team members all belong to fitness clubs and they currently make sure the others are actually going to work out. They’re also participating in a 24-day eating challenge to learn to eat healthier and make healthy eating habits a new part of their lifestyles.

Team Koss has set a goal of losing at least 100 pounds collectively, primarily by making healthy food choices. The firm believes that making these small changes will directly benefit the business by reducing stress, increasing energy levels, improving attitudes, and encouraging better decision-making.

Waddell & Reed Financial Advisors
Casey Collins, Trevor Conti, Sam Yang, and Steve Aune

As financial professionals, Team Waddell & Reed help their clients manage the complex nuances of the modern financial world. While the job is very rewarding, it’s not without its share of stress.

Team members are confident that if they can manage the stress of the job through a healthy exercise routine, it will not only improve their overall health but also allow them to make a more profound impact on the lives of their clients.

Casey Collins says each team member believes he already leads a physically active life, but sometimes it helps to have personal accountability partners. By participating in the contest, not only do they have their team members to hold them accountable as a group, they also have the desire to place well in the competition.

While primarily focusing on improving strength, flexibility, and overall endurance, each one has lofty goals beyond this competition. Sam Yang aspires to participate in the Chinese National Ping Pong Tournament. Collins is an avid practitioner of yoga and eventually plans to obtain his teaching certification. Steve Aune wants to partake in another Little Grand Canyon Half Marathon. Trevor Conti, a long-time horseback rider, will participate in Equine Affaire, an annual riding competition for horse enthusiasts.

Team Waddell & Reed is also hoping some of their hard work will rub off on coworkers. With 16 licensed financial advisors in their office, the team has planned running sessions at lunch and instituted personal accountability partners to get officemates involved in fitness, too.

Tingalls Graphic Design
Britt Leach, Tara Ingalls, Kallie Johnson, and Alyssa Daubs

As graphic designers, members of Team Tingalls spend a lot of time sitting behind a desk each workday, and they’re keenly aware of just how unhealthy that can be. So a key reason they decided to join the Get Fit Challenge was to provide some extra motivation to get up and get moving, and because they focus on creative graphic design collaboration, this challenge gives them another outlet to connect and support one another.

Owner/Creative Director Tara Ingalls says beyond individual goals, the team has a collective goal of being more active while they’re at the office. They typically eat lunch together every day and discuss grocery shopping, healthy snack choices, and healthy meal preparation at home. They’ve also instituted Fitness Fridays, giving them an excuse to walk two miles every Friday as a team-building exercise.

Graphic designer Alyssa Daubs says the group also takes advantage of every opportunity to just grab a quick stroll around the pond or do some stretching exercises throughout the day. In an effort to break the shackles of the office desk chair, they all have adjustable standing desks to encourage them to get out of the sitting position that can create a host of health problems for professionals.

One thing that helps Kallie Johnson is training for races. Knowing there’s an ultimate goal at the end — and that she paid for them — helps her stay motivated. Being a part of a team also helps because nobody wants to be the one who let the team down, she notes.

For Britt Leach, this has been an ideal way to ease into running, for the first time in her life, and learn to love it.



Treat your workout like a client

For busy professionals, finding time to squeeze in a workout between the obligations of work and family can be a battle. When you’re always on the run — figuratively, at least — sticking to healthy foods can be low on your list of priorities.

Plan ahead and find little ways to save the time you need to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, advises Megan Dolan of Fleet Feet Sports.

Yet the trainers who work with our Get Fit Challenge contestants agree it is possible to get exercise and eat healthy, even with the busiest of schedules. They say it helps if you treat your fitness routine like a client or coworker, schedule time in your day for a workout, and then keep the appointment. If you wouldn’t let a client down by missing a meeting, you won’t let yourself down either.

For busy professionals who may be new to fitness or are returning after a lengthy layoff, the key is figuring out how to consistently incorporate exercise into their lifestyle, notes Megan Dolan, director of training programs with Fleet Feet Sports.

“A lot of it is just planning ahead,” Dolan explains. “Is there work you can do ahead of time to free yourself up? Maybe you can prepare your breakfast the night before. Saving time on little things like this can actually create the time you need to fit in a workout.”

Jamie Zietlow, a certified strength and conditioning specialist with Harbor Athletic Club, concurs, adding, “If you make fitness and a healthy lifestyle a priority, you’ll find that you have more energy for other aspects of your busy life. I know that sounds crazy, but when you’re working out regularly, you’ll also start sleeping better. Combine that with a healthy diet and suddenly you won’t be getting tired halfway through your workday.”

When you’re looking to incorporate a healthy diet into your new fitness routine, Dolan says it’s important to have the support of family and friends. “If you don’t have that support at home, it’s going to be very difficult. With businesspeople, a lot of times they’re very tempted with foods at work. It comes back to planning ahead. What healthy meals can you make ahead of time that the whole family will enjoy? If there’s constantly food around the office, pack a healthy lunch the night before.”

From using a standing workstation to taking the stairs instead of the elevator, there are many ways to burn extra caolories during the workday, says Jamie Zietlow, of Harbor Athletic club.

Food is fuel, and a lot of people don’t think of it that way, Dolan adds. “Your body works most efficiently and effectively with the proper fuel. Diet and exercise are both important. The balance between the two is going to be different for everybody, but both do need to be a part of your plan.”

If you’re too busy to exercise, take advantage of opportunities to get moving at work, Zietlow adds. “Anything you can do to get your blood pumping and burn some extra calories is going to help. If you’re comfortable at a standing workstation, even part of the time, that’s great. Standing burns twice as many calories as sitting. Take your lunch and walk outside to eat. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk the long way around the office to go to a meeting or talk to a coworker about something. Stand up periodically and stretch. You don’t have to feel defeated if you can’t workout for a half-hour or an hour. Even these little things are better than doing nothing.”

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