Challenge Complete! Team Members from Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Pulse Cycle 250+ Miles for Charity


Last week, team members from Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Pulse met up in the Boston to start their 250+ mile cycling journey across 5 states in 4 days. The Cycle USA adventure brought together two companies from the Virgin Group in an effort that challenged them and raised money for the charity, Free the Children. (Check out our first blog post on this adventure here if you missed it) On Saturday, the Cycle USA 2014 team was met by staff from Virgin Atlantic as they officially crossed the finish, signaling the end to their journey. We spoke with the riders who shared details of their experience and thoughts on the adventure.

The whole ride was filled with beautiful scenery and plenty of hills – and a few sore muscles! Halfway through, cyclist Allison McDonald, Virgin Pulse, said, “I’m so proud to be a part of this amazing team! As an amateur cyclist, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into but I’ve already proved to myself that I can do this – and all the incredible support will keep me pushing on.”

Another participant, Virgin Pulse’s Jamie McLeod added, “The first 45 miles are always hard, so the tough job for the mornings after the long rides is to get everybody used to the aches and pains of the saddle and hips. And I’m happy to say we’ve done just that.”


Cyclists said one of the best parts of the ride was having the time to get to know fellow members of the Virgin Group family over delicious food and drinks at the end of each day.

Katharine Williams, Virgin Atlantic, who, among others, was instrumental in organizing Cycle USA 2014 said, “As one of the organizers and leaders of Cycle USA, it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to integrate staff, family and friends from Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Pulse to create an adventure where everyone pushes themselves out of their comfort zone.”


Catching up with the team afterwards, cyclists expressed the roller coaster of emotions they all experienced throughout the journey – nervousness to excitement, questions if they could do it, and finally the exhilaration of the last day knowing they were so close to making their goal and that they could do it! Amy Smith from the Virgin Atlantic group enthused, “I spent the most memorable week with the friendliest, most inclusive people I’ve ever met at the most well-organized event I’ve ever attended, and I’m a much better person for participating!” If this doesn’t spell success, then we don’t know what does!

“Last Wednesday, after weeks of training, ten Virgin Pulse cyclists met up with riders from Virgin Atlantic to begin their journey to New York City in a joint effort fundraiser for Free the Children,” said Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse. “It’s been exciting to follow their journey, and now that it’s over, we couldn’t be more proud of everyone’s efforts. Congratulations to all of the riders from Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Pulse on a successful effort, and a special shout out to all the organizers including Jared Harris from our own team for all your hard work in creating this great event.”

Taking a well deserved break by the water

What’s really amazing is that the good deeds and fundraising didn’t end at the start of the journey. Along the way, the team reported random acts of kindness. Strangers pulled off to the side of the road to help with a flat tire. Others wanted to hear about Free the Children while others made an on the spot cash donation.

After the adventure, Simon Bradley, VP of Marketing for North America with Virgin Atlantic, summed it up by saying, “What I remember most of all is the spirit of camaraderie that was formed among such a diverse group and how we managed to raise over $25,000 for Free the Children in the process!”

Cycle USA has once again been an amazing journey and collaboration between Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Pulse – one where everyone pulled together as a team to make a difference. Always up for a challenge, we’re excited about next year’s endeavor and the new stories we’ll have, miles we’ll tackle and funds we’ll raise!

Got a comment for the riders? Post it below or tweet it to us @virginpulse using #CycleUSA2014.

Is the ACA making your wellness program unfair?

icon-callouts-2 (2)The Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to be a hot topic in wellness. Last week, The Wall Street Journal had an interesting read about The Business Roundtable, a group of prominent CEOs, and its report calling for “more flexibility for employer wellness programs.”

The report claims that, while the ACA paved the way for employers to offer wellness programs that reward employees who achieve certain health goals and penalize those who come up short, these outcome-based programs need to provide different standards for workers who can’t meet certain health outcomes.

The Business Roundtable’s stance is that “outcomes-based incentives” can create a perception of unfairness against employees who’ve already got their health in check.  The problem here, according to the Roundtable, is that employees who are already maintaining healthy habits can complete simpler healthy tasks within the program – like drinking enough water each day – and receive the same reward as those employees who are working to meet more rigorous goals – like losing a significant amount of weight.

And it’s true – unfairness could come up in an outcomes-only incentives strategy, like rewarding employees who lose weight but offering nothing for those who may already have a healthy weight range to maintain it. But the article and the Roundtable neglected to mention that the regulations only apply to those wellness programs utilizing health insurance premiums or discounts as part of their incentive strategy in the first place. If you’re offering cash or a cash equivalent – or other non-monetary incentives – instead of using health insurance premiums, you won’t have to limit your program to the rules of the ACA regulations.

Maybe you are using health insurance premiums as part of your incentive strategy. Instituting an ACA-compliant program by taking a blended approach to incentives – one that includes outcomes-based, along with activity-only (meaningan activity that relies on compliance, like attending all sessions of a weight-loss class – rather than an outcome – like losing weight) and participation-based incentives – makes it easy to reward the behaviors you want to encourage your people to do. A blended approach rewards employees throughout their program journey for meeting the larger milestones and for completing smaller actions – driving sustainable healthy behavior change through daily interactions and engagement.

While traditional wellness programs (Wellness 1.0 as we call it), like the type highlighted in The Wall Street Journal, show employees you care about and are investing in their health, they also typically only target the sick, aiming to manage their illnesses and keep a handle on their risks. While these programs certainly have their place in a wellness strategy, on their own these types of programs don’t drive daily habits or long-term healthy behavior change, or reach and engage everyone in your workforce.

Looking to implement an ACA-compliant wellness program? Think beyond the limits of Wellness 1.0. Take a holistic approach to employee well-being and engagement with programs and strategies that support all aspects of their health. Drive daily healthy habits with a robust wellness incentives strategy that’s applicable to all your employees. By meeting your employees where they are on their well-being journey and giving them the tools and resources to hit their healthy goals, you’ll increase engagement, boost productivity, and create a workforce that’s thriving both at work and in life.

Virgin Pulse & Virgin Atlantic Team Up to Cycle 250 Miles for Charity!

VirginAtlantic_cycling_114Today, 40 cyclists from Virgin Pulse and Virgin Atlantic joined together to begin their Cycle USA charitable ride of over 250 miles! Cycle USA began as one of Virgin Atlantic’s initiatives to get Virgin employees “actively” involved in more charities by choosing a challenge (like cycling 250+ miles across all terrain), and then encouraging each volunteer to fundraise for that charity.

For the second year in a row, Virgin Pulse was more than happy to accept Virgin Atlantic’s invitation to team up with them this round as Virgin Pulse believes not only in living a healthy and active lifestyle, but in giving back to make the world a better, happier place.

While the cyclists have been training for weeks leading up to this, they’vealso all dedicated time to fundraising the selected charity for Cycle USA, Free the Children, an international organization that believes in a world where all children are free to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change. Which brings us back to…

BCThe 2014 Challenge: Complete set route from Boston to New York over three days, five states and a multitude of landscapes starting in Boston Common and finishing after a beautiful ride through Manhattan. The team was even cheered on by Virgin Atlantic flight attendants!

After this morning’s Boston Common sendoff, cyclists stopped over in Cochituate State Park for a well-deserved barbecue lunch! Rider Julian D’Sa, Virgin Atlantic took a break from the cornbread when asked about the ride and said, “Having a lot, a lot of fun. Beautiful countryside and a wonderful group. Constantly hungry.” Still 220 miles ahead? Understood!

After lunch, Virgin Pulse team member Jared Harris received a surprise recognition in the form of the illusive yellow jersey presented to him by Virgin Atlantic organizers for his commitment and success to raising money towards Free the Children. Here’s Jared in his new jersey!

The lunch also gave us a great chance to catch up with the team, hear their thoughts on what the ride means to them and what they’re expecting from this journey.

April Adema, Virgin Pulse, talked to us about the challenges: “The hardest part so far are the hills. It’s a bit of a mental game because you have to make sure you have just the right amount of space between the cyclists.” And Jamie McLeod, Virgin Pulse, added his enthusiasm, “I’m most excited about getting our non-cyclists to overcome their fear of riding for such a distance on back-to-back days. I think that will put us in a really great place; just fun to watch everyone get to that point.”

Our cyclists will keep us in the loop with live updates and pictures. Keep up with all the action on Twitter by following @VirginPulse and cheer the team on using #CycleUSA2014!

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Virgin Pulse clients and members discuss how we change lives for good!

Virgin Pulse clients and members discuss how we change lives for good!