The Corporate Connection
The foundation of a strong corporate fitness program is built from the top down.
Client: QuinStar Technology Inc.
Personal Trainer: Connie Morrill
Crossing into corporate. Prior to transitioning into a fitness career in 1983, personal trainer Connie Morrill spent 20 years as a professional dancer. In 2004 she made another career shift. “I had a client who owned a business, and she asked if I would work with her employees,” recalls Morrill. “I taught them how to develop their own workout programs, and I touched a bit on eating and how to make time to take care of themselves.”
The 3 years she spent there proved successful. “Because of that program, I received referrals for doing 1-day workshops at other companies.
Gaining referrals. One referral (for more than 1 day) came from Leo Fong, CEO of QuinStar Technology Inc., in Torrance, California. “We have many long-term, very dedicated employees at QuinStar,” Fong says. “We have worked together in the same business and technology areas for many years.” But his employees’ dedication to work meant long hours and increased stress. “I had had a good experience working with a personal trainer to help me improve my physical health,” he adds. “I decided to offer the same benefit to all our employees, so we can continue our work together for a longer time.”
Morrill was thrilled at the opportunity. “I was so impressed and excited with his reasoning,” Morrill says. “He wanted to bring in a program that would motivate and energize his employees and make them healthier.” Morrill and Fong, along with the director of human resources, outlined a plan to bring a wellness program to QuinStar.
Motivating management. The trio agreed to start with a soft-handed approach. At first the 12-week program included only seven spots, and those were offered to management. Fong believed that involving individuals of strong influence was crucial in encouraging widespread participation.
“The response was mixed initially,” Fong recalls. “So we continued the program, offering it to employees with the most motivation to be in the program.”
Beginning with basics. “The employees’ major concern was learning exercises, relieving stress and getting stronger,” Morrill says. She decided to start with the basics.
Morrill met with the group twice per week for about 50–55 minutes per session. She started with a 5- to 7-minute warm-up that included calisthenics, such as marches and step-touches. Participants transitioned to strength exercises that focused on opposing muscle groups like biceps and triceps or hamstrings and quadriceps. As time passed, Morrill incorporated more challenging, multimovement exercises. The sessions ended with balance work followed by stretching, meditation and relaxation.
Addressing hurdles. “I think my greatest challenge has been the language barrier with some of the ethnically diverse staff,” she concedes. To ensure success, she focuses on repetition, demonstration and hands-on approaches. “With the bigger groups, it has been really fun for them to watch each other. The new people watch the experienced group, which makes things very interactive.”
Another challenge Morrill faces is that she doesn’t have the time in a session to offer regular weigh-ins or measurements. “I never thought this would grow like it has, so I have to address that hurdle.”
Being the change. “Toward the end of the 12 weeks, interest among other employees grew, so Fong decided to run the program again—this time with 16 employees,” Morrill says. She repeated the previous “basics” program to make sure everyone was up to speed. Morrill now works with 40 employees and continually upgrades the program to meet their needs.
To accommodate the growing number of participants, Fong sacrificed his own office in order to increase the size of the exercise area. “He has continued to buy fitness equipment and is a strong participant in the program,” she adds. “I wish more CEOs and Corporate America could take a lesson from this company and understand how beneficial [a program like this] is.”
Fong is thrilled with the results. “Employees are more conscious of behaviors that promote healthy bodies and minds,” he says. “They are working out more and discussing healthy ways of eating. Besides the weight losses and higher self-esteem, we have a very happy workforce and a high morale.”