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Planet Fitness of Hampton employees get in their steps for challenge

Union Leader Correspondent

March 13. 2018 11:53PM
Planet Fitness Director of Vendor Technology Randy Ribeck was working on his laptop and cell phone while stepping at the Planet Fitness corporate headquarters gym last week. (KIMBERLY HAAS/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

Planet Fitness employee Steve Venezia proudly points out his name on top of the step challenge leaderboard. The lawyer enjoys the comraderie and friendly competition. (KIMBERLY HAAS/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

HAMPTON — Planet Fitness employee Greg Bouchard says he is averaging between 150,000 and 180,000 steps per week since the company launched a Fitbit challenge at the beginning of the year.

“I’ll watch a basketball game and step,” Bouchard said about how he fits in so many steps in at home.

During the day, the financial analyst gets over the afternoon slump by working out around 3 p.m. at the 4,000-square-foot private fitness center at Planet Fitness headquarters in Hampton.

Of 205 corporate employees located at the 70,000-square-foot facility on Liberty Lane West, 111 are participating in the challenge. They are averaging more than 8 million steps each week.

Employees say working out is an accepted part of the culture at Planet Fitness and that they can exercise and be productive at the same time. Meetings are held at the gym. Brainstorming sessions are conducted during a walk around the building.

Meredith Mitchell, a business systems analyst, checks her email on the treadmill. She said if she has heels on she kicks them off to get some steps in.

Some of the employees, including attorney Steve Venezia, love the friendly competition. He was thrilled last week when he saw his name on top of the step leader board with 148,659 steps.

But Venezia said it is the camaraderie-building that really motivates him.

“Being there for my team is more important to me,” Venezia said.

Camaraderie-building was a major motivator for CEO Chris Rondeau when he decided to launch the “PFHQ Challenge” in January. Teams were designed with employees from various departments so workers could meet new people.

“I see people walking outside together as team members. It’s really great to see,” Rondeau said.

Step challenges using Fitbits are not a new trend. BP rolled out the “Million Step Challenge” for U.S. employees in 2013.

BP spokesman Michael Abendhoff said the energy company does not have a large eligible employee base in New England, but there are currently five people participating.

Abendhoff said with the increase in average daily step count, employees have reported health risk reductions.

In 2013, Bank of America launched a voluntary program to respond to employee feedback about not getting enough physical activity. More than 93,000 employees participated in the company’s “Get Active! Get Connected” challenge in 2016, according to Bank of America’s website.

According to Fitbit’s website, employees involved in corporate wellness programs that use the step tracker have average step counts 60 to 80 percent above the typical person.

Rondeau said he can see how their step challenge could expand into Planet Fitness franchises. He is exploring partnerships with other companies, encouraging employees to exercise more.

“We’re learning a lot from this in real time,” Rondeau said of the data they are collecting about the step challenge.

The first Planet Fitness opened in Dover in 1992. Today, there are more than 10 million gym members.

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