Small Business Strategies: How to launch a workplace fitness competition

Tribe FitnessYou don’t have to be a big corporation to have a company wellness program. A fitness competition is a great way to bring wellness to life in your office, and it’s not particularly expensive or cumbersome to pull off. At Tribe, our fitness competition is an annual event, starting sometime just after the new year and having us all buffed out just in time for swimsuit season. (You can see some of our top contestants in the photo at above.) Here’s how we do it:

Rules of the game: Everyone is eligible to play, but no one has to. (For instance, our accountant Lauren never plays because she says, “I already look good in a bikini and that’s all that matters.”) The duration of the contest is 12 weeks.

The prize: A cash prize is good. We offer $500 cash to the winner, but I think our folks would participate with just as much zeal if the prize were only twenty bucks. After a few weeks, the contest becomes about much more than money. Whatever you offer as the prize is potentially the only expense of the competition.

Individual entries: Each player comes up with their own fitness plan and sets a goal to complete so many workouts or hours of exercise weekly. That goal cannot be altered once the contest begins. We’ve had people do everything from early-morning outdoor boot camp to late night hockey games to training for a marathon. Players are urged to set a goal that’s not too ambitious to pull off week after week, but not so modest a goal that the rest of the group will make fun of it.

Wellness hours: We also allow everyone to put up to five hours a week on their time sheets for wellness hours. That means they can take a long lunch to do a yoga class down the street or take a mid-afternoon break to work out in our office building’s tiny gym downstairs. Many days we’re too busy in the office for them to take advantage of that, but they seem to really like this option, when there’s time for it.

Scoring: We make a giant chart with everyone’s name and squares for each of the 12 weeks. On Monday mornings, we all stand in front of the chart and report on whether or not we’ve met our goal for the previous week. If you did, you get a star. If you didn’t, nothing. There are no partial points. If you only did four of the five workouts that comprise your goal, no star. Honor system prevails. 

The winner: The person with the most stars at the end of 12 weeks wins the prize. But along the way, the competition gets fierce. At Tribe, we frequently have ad hoc teams spring up, despite the fact that it’s an individual score. One year Team Studio was the big rival for Team Breezeway (which was composed of everyone with a desk sort of in the hallway because they don’t have a real office.) One year we had several finalists tied at the end of 12 weeks and had to go into sudden death, which stretched out for a couple of months and was painful to watch. This year we agreed to settle any ties with a vote, for which aggressive campaigning is allowed.

The benefits: At the end of 12 weeks, everyone is more fit. A few of our people have made dramatic changes in their bodies and lives through the fitness competition. It’s also a healthy change to have us all competing on the same level playing field, so the intern is as likely to rise to the top as the CEO. (Maybe more so.) Maybe most importantly,  it elevates the sense of camaraderie and fun at work. You can feel a  heightened level of energy in the office, and that probably impacts our work as well.


2 responses to “Small Business Strategies: How to launch a workplace fitness competition

  1. Pingback: Small Business Strategies: How to launch a workplace fitness competition

  2. I love this idea. I always do better when I am challenged by coworkers at anything and particularly exercixing and dieting. Since I am self-employed, it’s tough to stay on track with proper eating and regular exercise. I should investiage some of the online resources, maybe I will approach it from that angle. Good ideas and of course, healthier employees do better work and are happier too.

    Great! Sandy Wheeler
    @ladiestravel, @thedivacruiser, @bnblady

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