STRIVE Challenge: One for the Bucket List

Last week Virgin Group kicked off the Strive Challenge, a month-long journey to the top of the Matterhorn in support to Big Change, a UK-based charity that supports young people in becoming their best selves.

The core team has spent the past week running and biking – completing three back-to-back marathons, and cycling nearly 280 miles through France. They also planned to row across the English Channel, though hurricane conditions thwarted that attempt. (The team will be giving it another go later on during the challenge.)

Our own team member and experienced marathon runner Fran DeYoung hopped across the pond to participate in the challenge’s final marathon leg on August 9. Fran, who’s got more than two dozen marathons under his belt, has spent the past decade aiming to reach his goal of completing one marathon per state. Currently, he’s raced in 25 of them – and now he’s taken that goal international, having completed a marathon in London!

One of the most important components of training for a race is maintaining healthy habits. During training, Fran pays close attention to his physical activity, nutrition, and sleep, saying that as he nears race day he gets very particular about what, when and how much he’s eating.

“Training, nutrition, and sleep all have to work together,” Fran explains. “If you ignore one, the other two will suffer and you won’t be able to optimize. The three all have to work in unison and when you’re in a marathon, you have to be in tune to those elements. They help you be aware, measure and stay engaged in the activity you’re doing.”

Fran, who says he tries to keep in “race-ready” shape all year long, completed his last marathon over a year ago and was eager to step up to the STRIVE Challenge with just three weeks to build up his mileage.  Despite the limited amount of prep time, Fran says the biggest hurdle wasn’t those weeks leading up to the race. Rather, it was the run itself – which ended up clocking in at 32 miles, enough to qualify as an ultra-marathon.

“Before the run, I’m not sure I thought I could nail 32 miles, but when I found out we did it I was happy,” Fran shares. “An ultra-marathon was on my bucket list.”

Along with the STRIVE Challenge’s core team members, Fran wore his Virgin Pulse Max™ activity tracking device on race day – racking up some 65,000 steps. He didn’t keep track of his mileage during the run, however, and says he and the other runners had no idea how far they were running. The STRIVE Challenge organizers and staff did their best to keep runners in the dark, too.

“They didn’t tell us we were doing 32 miles,” says Fran. “Initially the race was a marathon length, but adding the extra miles was a really big deal – a really big challenge – for anyone. I just kept asking the water station folks how much longer to go, and they kept playing it coy. But everyone knew it felt like a very long finish!” he added.

Fran ran with a small group, and says that the team-mentality was key in staying motivated and crossing the finish line.

“It felt like we were all part of the Virgin family and trying to achieve a goal bigger than ourselves,” Fran says. “I think that’s the big takeaway: you can achieve amazing things when you work together and you’re part of a common goal.”

Now that he can cross another item off his bucket list, Fran’s ready to keep on running and tackle more marathons across the U.S.

“For me, running is a metaphor for life in terms of setting and accomplishing goals and being able to achieve more than you could ever imagine,” he explains.
STRIVE’s not over yet! Track the core team’s daily progress and updates, follow @StriveChallenge and #WeStrive, or consider donating to help drive the STRIVE mission. Don’t forget to check back here, and follow @VirginPulse for updates! 

STRIVE Challenge: Hitting New Heights in 600 Miles

StriveToday marks the kick-off of Virgin Group’s STRIVE Challenge, a month-long journey across London to reach the peak of the Matterhorn.

A core team of 10 people, including Sam Branson, are running, rowing, biking and hiking more than 600 miles – with hundreds of others joining in on different legs along the way. All of their activity is part of the STRIVE Challenge’s effort to raise more than $1M in support of Big Change, a UK-based charity supporting young people in developing skills to become healthy, happy, productive adults.

We’re excited to support the STRIVE spirit by syncing up the core team with our own Max™ activity tracking devices and Polar heart rate monitors which sync with our software. The team will be able to use their devices to keep tabs on their efforts by tracking steps, active minutes, calories burned, and more.

As anyone who’s every tested their physical limits or hit a major healthy goal will tell you, the journey is just as important as the destination. That’s why STRIVE core team has spent weeks training and preparing for the challenge, completing alpine and rowing training, physical endurance and stress tests, and making sure they’re in tip-top shape.

Looking to help your workforce hit their health goals? No matter what they may be, we’ve got your employees’ backs with a handful of tips to help them get there. Share the below tips with your workforce and post your own in the comments section.

  1. Make it a daily habit: Whether they’re taking up running or cutting back on the sweets, your employees won’t get too far in their efforts unless they make their healthy goals a daily practice.
  2. Don’t go it alone: Encourage your workforce to loop family and friends in on their goals. These people will help support your employees when they need it most – and may even be motivated in the process!
  3. Keep tabs on your progress: Remind employees to track their progress using an activity tracking device or keeping a journal to remind them of just how far they’ve come.

You can join in on STRIVE, too! Track the core team’s daily progress and updates and share them socially or consider donating help drive the STRIVE mission. Don’t forget to check back here, and follow @VirginPulse for updates!

A Round of Applause for the 2014 Healthies Award Winners!

As National Employee Wellness Month closes out, we wanted to take a minute to recognize some inspiring people who embody a healthy spirit all year round.  Each year, we present our Healthies Awards to ce6a00d8350185bc53ef01a73dcd0960970d-320wilebrate individuals for their efforts to improve and maintain their overall well-being by committing to healthy, sustainable behaviors.

This year we received thousands of inspiring stories from individuals who’ve changed their lives for good by improving their health. In our mind they’re all winners, which made this particular challenging—but we did select some standouts in five categories who we thought were extra inspiring!

One of the Healthies recipients in the Significant Health Improvements category, Vinod Sagi told his story of how the Virgin Pulse program helps him keep tabs on his activity, nutrition and sleep. Today, his BMI is in the normal range, and Vinod no longer needs medications to control his blood pressure and diabetes.

Vinod says he’s “turned back the clock. I feel 20 years younger now. I am now on a mission to encourage my friends and family to take care of [their] health now, and not to procrastinate like I did.

“Age does not matter, take action now and you will be amazed how your body reacts when you track your steps, food, and sleep. Not only I have wowed my family and friends, but my doctor was very surprised with my remarkable achievements,” he adds.

And now, without further ado, please join us in congratulating our winners. Click their names to learn more about their inspiring stories and what they’ve done to meet some major healthy milestones.

2014 Healthies Awards Recipients

These folks saw dramatic results after committing themselves to healthier lifestyles, including substantial weight loss, reversal of chronic medical conditions, improved relationships, increased energy and higher productivity levels. Congrats to all this year’s recipients! Keep up the great work!

Are your employees achieving note-worthy health improvements as a result of your wellness program? We’d love to hear about it! Leave us a comment below. 

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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!