Share this article

print logo

A healthier workplace is a happier one

Could there come a day when most Western New York companies provide a fitness center onsite for their employees? Desks that allow workers to either sit or stand at work stations? Office meetings that take place on treadmills?

The future already is here for Walsh Duffield Cos., an insurance business featured earlier this year in WNY Refresh which also encourages its corporate customers to join them on a similar path to workplace wellness.

And that’s just a start, said Anthony Ruffolo, the regional commercial account manager for G&G Fitness who helped Walsh Duffield revamp its downtown office building. Companies, schools and individuals have a growing number of options. Among them:

• Fitness rooms that include “virtual trainers” who can lead a variety of group exercise classes from a dropdown screen.

• Stationary bikes that can accommodate someone reading a book or working on a computer. (Several school districts in the region have started to think about this idea.)

• Functional training equipment that allows users to perform dozens of exercises – and set their own routines using swipe screen technology and a smartphone app.

“There’s all kinds of cool things out there right now,” said Ruffolo, 36, a Niagara Falls native and former teacher-coach in the North Tonawanda school district. He switched careers about two years ago – in the midst of expanding his family.

“It’s been a great journey for us so far,” he said.

Ruffolo, who lives on Grand Island, played baseball and was on the swim team during the late 1990s at Niagara University. He has led a busy life since he started selling fitness equipment. He and his wife, Christine, have adopted two children from South Korea, Trenton, 5, and Chad, 3, during the last few years. Trenton already plays soccer and Chad, who likes water, seems destined to join a Niagara Falls swim club run by Ruffolo’s cousin, Ed Maynard.

Talk about G&G Fitness.

It’s been in business since 1991, owned by Gordon Gronkowski. Gordy played college football at Syracuse and when he graduated, he started working sales for Superior Lubricants. He wanted to get into working out again himself and there was nowhere around the area where he could find commercial equipment like you could find at Syracuse University. So he and his brother decided, ‘Why don’t we open up a small shop?’ It was slow process, but over time, it grew into 15 retail stores throughout New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Right now, there’s 11 commercial reps that do what I do. Gordy Gronkowski has five boys and all five are phenomenal athletes. They stand anywhere from 6-3 to 6-7. Three of them played in the NFL: Dan Gronkowski. Chris Gronkowski. Obviously, Rob Gronkowski. Buffalo knows him all too well. Gordy Jr. runs the Ohio division; he played professional baseball. The youngest is Glenn, who’s at Kansas State. He’s their starting fullback. They eat, live and breathe their sports and so does Gordy. He’s traveling every weekend to see them.

What are the benefits of having a corporate fitness program?

The biggest one to me is recruiting top talent. It’s a big recruiting tool when you walk into a facility and say, ‘Hey, not only are we A through Z, but we have this to offer you during your lunch or after work so you don’t have to go to a gym and pay for a membership. Employees can come in and work out. Their absenteeism is less because they’re healthier. Studies have shown that you increase your energy level when you’re working out, so you’re more attentive to what you’re doing, you’re happier coming to work every day.

What are the trends you’re seeing on the commercial and home levels?

The days of sitting in a machine and doing stationary chest presses or bicep curls are slowly starting to fade away. Now it’s all about functional training, moving while your working out, lifting weights. It’s the anaerobic-aerobic combination. A lot of it is body weight training, TRX training. The CrossFit accessories are huge right now. People are coming in and buying battle ropes, kettlebells, resistance bands. They’re buying stretch bands. What’s happening, especially for individual users, they’re going to CrossFit gyms and at night they want to work on those things at home on their own. Even the days of running 3, 4 miles on a treadmill are becoming obsolete. Now it’s more about interval running: You sprint for 45 seconds and then you walk or jog for a minute.

In terms of individual pieces, what has been hot this year and what do you expect to be hot next year?

The new line of treadmills Life Fitness came out with is expensive (about $9,000) but pretty awesome. These treadmills have everything, the Discover technology. They’re live to the Internet, TV built into them, a swipe screen. They have apps. You can stream Netflix or HBO Go if you have them on your phone. They have these live feed courses that are interactive, so you can walk through the Appalachian Mountains. As you go up and down, the treadmill inclines and declines. Any new update gets pushed online from Life Fitness headquarters. They have Bluetooth capabilities, so you can watch your TV without plugging in. The Adam’s Mark hotel has these, and I set up part of their treadmill program while I was on an airplane headed to Florida.

What are companies looking for in a fitness site?

Everyone’s gym is different. Some want the cardiovascular and all the machines and some just want to have some mats and offer group classes. There was a company I worked with, with Marie Story (of Walsh Duffield). She said, ‘We need 300 resistance bands. I’m going to implement a program for all 300 employees to take home at night and work with them. We didn’t do anything elaborate and they didn’t spend thousands of dollars on treadmills. They bought 300 resistance bands. We always recommend you start small. If your getting good turnout during lunch breaks and you’re getting good feedback, then we can add more.