It’s no secret that workplace health and wellbeing programmes have a positive effect on employees, reducing sickness, improving health and increasing satisfaction among staff. But how about triathlon events?
Workplace health has advantages for bosses too since happier staff are more productive and the sense of team spirit which can result is invaluable.
Helping people achieve a happier, healthier lifestyle through participation in sport is the whole ethos behind our family firm You Can Sport.
We do that through individual and group coaching sessions in various sports, but more unusually in the business world through triathlon.
My wife Gillian, sons Gregg and Craig, daughter Michelle and I set up the firm last year when we were looking for something we could do together as a family.
We all love sport, particularly triathlon, and realised it’s an activity which is ideal for a business event and has more to offer than corporate days and traditional team-building exercises which can be boring.
Getting a company involved in their own triathlon is a fantastic initiative which genuinely changes lives and motivates staff.
The aim is to create a calendar moment in the year which staff can work towards then host a fun and innovative event which leaves participants feeling they’ve achieved something worthwhile and bonded with fellow employees.
Triathlon involves three disciplines – swim, bike and run – which makes it perfect for a multisport programme because everyone can do something.
The key is participation and you find that most people can either run, cycle or swim.
So, if they are unable or unwilling to take part in a full triathlon they can participate as a member of a relay team instead.
They can also get involved in organising the day and helping as marshals as well as cheering their workmates on.
It really is a great opportunity to get the whole company involved in a fitness activity and with training sessions held in advance over several months, the distances involved are accessible for everyone.
Towards the end of last year, we began working with leading salmon producers Scottish Sea Farms to deliver a successful in-house Triathlon Festival at the University of Stirling.
Both You Can Sport and Scottish Sea Farms are based in Stirling, so this was the ideal facility to host the event.
More than 100 employees, their families and suppliers took part in either a novice or sprint distance triathlon as individuals or relay teams.
They swam 400m or 750m in the university pool before heading out onto local roads to complete a 10k or 20k bike ride followed by a 2.5k or 5k run around the university grounds.
The triathlon was planned for May and around six months before that, we visited the company headquarters and gave a presentation to staff about what was involved and how we were looking to get everyone to take part.
Understandably, some people who were nervous and unsure if they could do it but it was to become part of the firm’s Year of Sport initiative and everyone was receptive to the idea.
Sea Farms have staff across Scotland and we used our online Training Peaks platform to communicate daily with participants to keep in touch and let them know what training they should be doing.
And for those based locally, our head coach Craig held two training sessions a week to increase fitness and activity levels.
These were followed by swimming sessions and we took them out cycling and running as the weather got better.
After six months training with us, there were real benefits which happened naturally – lots of people lost weight and eight stopped smoking.
Health and wellbeing improved and we saw a camaraderie and team spirit develop as everyone came together for a common purpose.
What was inspiring was to see how people who initially said they couldn’t manage a triathlon were totally engaged with the idea by the end of the training programme and looking forward to the day.
The triathlon itself was a big success – everyone who took part enjoyed it and the sense of accomplishment when they crossed the finish line with big smiles was amazing.
Olympic swimmer Michael Jamieson come along to give participants a few tips and to present prizes at the end of the day.
And the event wasn’t just for those competing, it became a festival for the whole family with fun activities for children and a BBQ after the races.
The triathlon also raised £35,000 for several charities supported by the firm and is now set to become an annual event.
Afterwards, we received positive feedback from staff and managers who said it had broken down barriers among them, motivated staff and helped increase team spirit and productivity.
Meanwhile, lots of those who took part have continued with their training and healthier, happier lifestyles which is exactly the result we were hoping for.
Graham Coull is founder of triathlon coaching firm You Can Sport