The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 1, 2010

Verizon Wireless employee fitness center working out

Center — with classes and trainers — a popular perk

MANKATO — Megan Meyer can’t find a reason to put off working out anymore.

“You can’t use the weather as an excuse. We have to come in anyway,” said Meyer, who was working out this week at a new state-of-the-art employee fitness center at the Verizon Wireless Customer Service Center.

Josh Forsythe has always been fairly dedicated to working out but admits it’s easy to let it slide. “It’s hard in the winter. You don’t want to drive to the Y when it’s cold. This just makes it so easy. You can come early in the morning or on breaks,” he said.

“And they have such a nice variety of equipment, you don’t get bored.”

Meyer and Forsythe have put enough time and dedication into the fitness center that they are the first “members of the month” for the Mankato Verizon center.

Kellie Riedl and Dani Deuschle, the two full-time professional trainers on site, say they will pick two members each month who not only use the center often, but who show a strong commitment to their personal fitness program.   

Joe Hall, director of customer service, said the center has been a hit, with half of Verizon’s 500 local employees already choosing to pay the $15 monthly fee to use the center.

Besides a wide variety of workout machines and weights, the center offers exercise classes and nutritional and wellness counseling.

“We have the classes,” Hall said, “but what’s nice is that with the professional trainers on site, people can schedule time to talk to them and get one-on-one advice.”

Forsythe said that personal attention expanded his experience from just workouts on machines. “They’re willing to do personal training with you. I never did weight training before, but they set up a program for me. It’s awesome.”

The wellness center concept at Verizon began in 1990 when Mark Monteyne developed the idea. Monteyne, who was a customer service representative, made a proposal to corporate officials.

“We put in one step machine and one treadmill,” said Monteyne, who now serves as Verizon’s national fitness coach. He was in Mankato recently to open the Verizon fitness center, the 36th center in Verizon facilities.

Monteyne said the concept of healthy employees being more productive employees permeates the corporate culture.

“We think it’s the best employee benefit from the human resources aspect.”

He said the center is a place to give employees a respite from a demanding job.

“It they’re taking 60 or 70 calls a day, it’s high stress levels. This gets them away from their desk and gets them in their happy place.”

Participation among employees has been strong. Nationwide, 42 percent of employees pay the $15 monthly membership to the wellness centers, a far higher participation rate than most corporate wellness programs, which average about 15 percent.

The center is open from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Members have access to a variety of wellness programs such as personal training, group exercise classes, health fairs, health screenings, Weight Watchers at Work, smoking-cessation programs and intramural sports leagues.

The center has more than 20 cardio machines, 15 strength training machines and a Spin Room. The 15 spin bikes in the Spin Room, Monteyne said, are used individually and in a class setting.

“They’re basic bikes, but an instructor goes to the music and goes to the beat and gets people motivated to reach higher gears.”

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