Running in the 'Meda: Wellness programs

Running in the 'Meda: Wellness programs

Marty Beene

The author at this past Sunday's Masters Track & Field Championships. Photo courtesy of Marty Beene.

This week, I want to tell you about my experiences with a corporate wellness program, and to give you a brief recap of the Masters Championships track meet last Sunday at Chabot College.

Last October, I launched a running training program as part of Kaiser Permanente's East Bay employee wellness program. I helped a few dozen employees - including doctors, nurses, and administrative staff - in their quest to run or walk a half marathon or 5k in February. I'm starting a similar program with them next month for an October race. Yesterday, I helped staff one of the booths at the Oakland facility's annual wellness fair event in Mosswood Park.

Kaiser has one of the best employee wellness programs I've seen. Similar to another event at their Richmond facility where I also helped, seemingly every employee came out to participate. Sure, the free food and trinkets may have been the only attraction for a few people, but the vast, vast majority of participants were keenly interested in finding out what they could do to improve their own wellness.

Bear in mind that "wellness" is more than just eating right and exercising. Those two elements of one's lifestyle are definitely among the more important ones, but other things, such as safety, were also represented at the fair.

I was staffing a table to help educate people about physical activity, and I spoke with hundreds of people. Nearly all of them were genuinely interested in the opportunities that were available to them. One of the handouts at my table was the exercise class schedule for June, which included at least three classes (yoga, Zumba, "boot camps," etc.) almost every single work day, with most held at lunchtime and some held in the early evening.

The table next to mine was helping enroll people in the wellness incentive program. Each time an employee exercises or participates in an event like the fair, they earn points that they can later redeem for things like hats, sweatshirts, etc. Kaiser seems to have set up their program incentives so that they truly feel like a carrot and not a stick, as some employee wellness programs may feel at other companies. Kudos to Kaiser!

At the Pacific Association of USA Track & Field's annual Masters Track & Field Championships this past Sunday at Chabot College in Hayward, several world leading marks were achieved. At this time of year, athletes from the southern hemisphere tend to dominate the age group rankings, as they are just wrapping up their outdoor season. Marks from the Hayward meet put a pretty decent dent in those rankings.

As expected, 81-year-old Irene Obera hit the top time in the world in two events, the 400-meter and the 80-meter hurdles. She broke her own world record in the hurdles event by running it in 19.15 seconds. Debra Hoffman, 55, also excelled in the 400 meter race with a time of 1:08.00, and now leads the world in her age group.

Eighty-year-old Lynne Hurrell set world-leading marks in two events, as she crushed both the 800 meter and 1500 meter races. In the latter, she leads the second best time in the world by nearly five minutes. Her time of 7:39.05 is equivalent to running a mile in a little over eight minutes. Wow.

Hubert Evans, 61, was the only man to set a world leading time in a running event, with his 25.25 time in the 200-meters, but a few of the guys did quite well in the throws. Cameron Bolles, 51, and Ian Reed, 87 (!), each now lead the world rankings in the discus, while former Olympian Ed Burke, 75, now has a lead of more than seven meters on the second-ranked hammer thrower in his age group.

Oh, by the way, I ran well in the 10,000-meter race (25 laps!), hitting my best time in nearly 14 years, a 41:28.76 (about 6:40 per mile), an improvement of nearly a minute from last year. Fellow Alamedan John West beat me by almost two minutes, and our friend Casey Strange won the event. We're currently ranked fifth, eighth, and 10th in the world in our age group.

Two of the more intriguing events, which I unfortunately did not get to watch, were the 1500 meter race walk and the super weight throw. In the race walk event, two sub-masters athletes set world-leading age group times. Robyn Stevens, 32, set a time of 6:41.01, while Alexander Price, 33, completed the event in 6:56.59. Those times are equivalent to 7:10 and 7:27 for one mile. Think about that: go RUN a mile in 7:10 or 7:27, and then ponder the fact that these athletes race-walked it in that time.

The other event is one I have actually never watched, but it's now on my bucket list. Katherine Clausen De Contreras, 52, threw the super weight 6.31 meters. Yes, she threw a 25-pound object nearly 21 feet. Your homework for this week is to go mark out a distance of 6.31 meters, then imagine if you could possibly heave anything weighing 25 pounds using any kind of technique that far. I know what my answer is. What's yours?

Marty Beene, a USA Track & Field certified coach, is owner of Be The Runner; he coaches adults from beginners to veterans individually and in groups, and organizes fitness programs for corporate wellness. He can be reached at marty@BeTheRunner.com.