Fleet Feet team sprints to Get Fit Challenge victory

Some might think that the employees at Fleet Feet Sports Madison had a leg up when it came to competing in this year’s IB Get Fit Challenge.

Fleet. Feet. Fit.

That flows off the tongue pretty easily, don’t you think? And after all, helping people stay in shape is the store’s whole raison d’être.

But just because you work at a shop that specializes in running and fitness apparel doesn’t mean you’re going to automatically be Usain Bolt.

“We didn’t think healthy food could be good. … It was like, ‘Really? I like carrots and I’m looking for my hummus?’” — Matt Anderson, owner, Fleet Feet Sports Madison

“I actually thought about that, because I wondered if people were going to say, ‘Oh, they’re a retail fitness store, they’re not in an office cubicle environment,’” said Matt Anderson, owner of Fleet Feet Sports Madison and a member of the company’s four-person fitness team. “It may have given us some advantage as far as knowing what we needed to do, but obviously we still needed to do it. And Matt [Reller] from our team lost 50 pounds, and Taylor [Key] lost 40, and I think Curtis [Hall] lost 15. So we still had a lot of work to do. So I don’t know that’s much of an advantage other than having better access to merchandise.”

Of course, staying active is at best half the battle when it comes to getting — and staying — fit. Much of the Fleet Feet team’s focus involved avoiding the fitness minefields that many modern working environments are beset with — including ready access to high-calorie restaurant food.

“We really focused on nutrition; I think that was the biggest thing for us,” said Anderson. “And we fell into a trap here because we have a Chipotle and a Chin’s in this shopping center, and a Cousin’s, so if you forget to make your lunch in the morning, it’s really easy to walk down there and get a thousand-calorie burrito.

“So we started doing a shared lunch here at the store with a lot of crockpot recipes. Someone would take a shift each day of the week, and then we would focus more on the healthy lunches during the challenge.”

Anderson and the rest of the team also stayed on the straight and narrow by using an app called MyFitnessPal, which allows users to monitor their activity levels and food intake to determine whether they’re on track.

It also can help people cheat a bit on their diets without going completely off the rails.

“I think that helped us the most because we were just more aware of what we were eating, and it makes you exercise a bit more, because you see that when I work out and burn 500 to 700 calories, that means I kind of get to eat almost what I want — kind of like a budget for calories. But if you start to slack at all, pulling MyFitnessPal up again and logging what you’re eating shows you, ‘Oh, I can’t have that extra candy bar or extra piece of pumpkin pie,’ and it keeps you more accountable.”



While the members of Fleet Feet’s Get Fit team helped keep each other honest, they also drew support from the rest of the staff — proving that making fitness a top priority in the workplace can pay dividends above and beyond what people are doing individually.

The entire staff helped out with the company’s healthy potluck lunches, and a weekly staff workout drew plenty of interest as well.

“The big thing was that our whole staff was onboard,” said Anderson. “There were four of us doing the challenge, but our whole staff kind of jumped in and did the healthier meals and other activities, and we had them write their goals on our board, too.”

Reaping the rewards

Fleet Feet’s success in getting everyone to buy into the fitness challenge has no doubt helped the company become more effective and efficient, given that many of its employees are on their feet during the day helping customers, and without a reservoir of positive energy, any transaction — particularly a late-afternoon one — can go south in a hurry.

“We have more energy and are less likely to get super sleepy in the afternoon,” said Anderson. “You sleep a lot better when you’re really active, so you’re not losing sleep. … And if you’re in a better mood to begin with, it’s going to be a better customer interaction.”

They also discovered that fitness is not just about running — no matter how fleet your feet may be.

“While we focus on running specifically most of the time, a lot of the other cross-fit things that we did can be additionally beneficial,” said Anderson. “It helps with strengthening and improving your core.”

Meanwhile, Anderson and the rest of his team discovered that healthy eating can be a lot more satisfying than they ever imagined.

“Because we had other people here who were helping to make food, we discovered a lot of new food,” said Anderson. “We didn’t think healthy food could be good. I think we all discovered hummus and carrots as opposed to just eating a bag of chips. It was like, ‘Really? I like carrots and I’m looking for my hummus?’ So that was a weird change of diet.”

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