Creating a Healthier Lifestyle Through Exercise and Technology

At 26-years-old, Starla Baird couldn’t get out of bed, suffered from daily headaches and dizziness, and was extremely overweight. Just going to work every day was a struggle for the Verizon Wireless call- center employee.  

Fed up with her unhealthy lifestyle, Starla decided enough was enough. When the new onsite fitness center was built in the Customer Service Center in Mankato, Minn., Starla saw her chance to get healthy and change her life once and for all.

With a goal “to just get healthier,” Starla surpassed all expectations and lost over 100 pounds by making exercise part of her routine, and feeding off the support of other fitness-minded employees.

Starla was recently named Mankato’s Health and Wellness Member of the Year. She worked with Verizon Wireless’ onsite personal trainers, Anika Joy Erickson and Natasha Solomon, to develop a program that got her healthy, and recently joined fellow employees to participate in the center’s first 5K Fun Run and Walk, something she never would have been able to do prior to joining the fitness center.

Technology also played a role in Starla’s new lifestyle, using  smartphone apps to track her food intake and workouts. She and the trainers recommend Calorie Count, Map My Run, Livestrong (SM) and MOTOACTV™ to help others reach their fitness goals.

Starla’s advice for others looking to make a healthy lifestyle change is simple: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable. If your workout routines are getting easier, it means you need to change it up. You want to keep your body guessing so that you don’t hit a weight loss plateau.”Anika and Natasha agree, and also suggest setting realistic goals, make a plan for how to achieve them and follow the plan. Starla is one of many Verizon Wireless employees who are members of more than 30 onsite fitness centers across the country. The company also offers employees at all locations discounts to weight-loss programs, other local fitness clubs if not available onsite, and health care screenings at no charge.Here is another inspiring story on an employee’s road to a healthy lifestyle.Bryan Ganey, senior representative in the Verizon Wireless Charleston Contact Center, got a wake-up call in June of 2010. He went to the emergency room, unable to breathe. It was discovered that he had a pulmonary embolism, which are large blood clots in both lungs. Essentially, the blood clots cut off oxygen making it nearly impossible to breathe. The doctors told Bryan that at 577 pounds, he was lucky to have survived and that he needed to make some immediate changes. While in the hospital, Bryan refused surgery and worked with a nutritionist to formulate a plan of attack to ensure he would live a happy and healthy life.   Together with his doctors and Coaches Anthony Smith and Jeffrey Sweet in the Charleston Wellness Center, Bryan has made incredible progress.Ganey started walking and eating a "common sense diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy, whole grains and a lot of water" -- about 2,500 calories per day.The weight starting dropping, and at 400 pounds in spring 2011, he walked in the local 10K Cooper River Bridge Run. It took him 2 hours and 48 minutes. He walked and ran in that same event in 2012 and made it in 1 hour and 49 minutes, almost an hour less. He has continued moving and eating healthy, losing an average of about five pounds every two weeks. To celebrate getting under 300 pounds in mid-February, Ganey got a new driver's license picture. Currently, Bryan weighs 269 pounds -  308 pounds lighter than his first weigh in. Bryan continues to inspire his co-workers in Charleston and looks for any opportunity to share his incredible story to help others at Verizon Wireless. He has his own blog which charts his journey - Tips box to get started: 1.    Start slow, and gradually build yourself up. If you were originally sedentary you may want to start out with an activity such as walking for 10 minutes and slowly increasing this in time.  2.    Set realistic goals, and monitor progress. Assess after 3 to 6 weeks. This will help to motivate either by seeing that the program is working or that an increase in workout frequency, intensity, or time is needed. 3.    Give your body time to rest and recover. Schedule workouts every other day to allow the body to heal so it’s ready for the next session.4.    Vary your workout routine. Many get bored performing the same activities every day. By having a new routine each day you will be invigorated and excited to participate and be active. 5.    Make working out part of your routine. The hardest part of working out is showing up each day. Come in on your scheduled days even if you don’t want to. By the end of your workout you will be energized.