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Former college strength coach helps get Fisher-Price well

Lisa Shall found herself in the middle of a tug-of-war two weeks back, before the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

She started her career as a strength and conditioning coach, first at Princeton University, then at Notre Dame.

Teams from the two schools squared off on a Thursday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

“I was torn. I had to stay neutral,” said Shall, supervisor of health promotions at Fisher-Price in East Aurora. “Before the game, I was on the phone with both my former bosses. They were both harassing me about who I wanted to win. I told them, ‘I’m going to be happy for whoever wins and sad for whoever loses.’”

Notre Dame eked out a win, 60-58, then lost two days later to West Virginia, 83-71. She attended the second-round game, which she characterized as “depressing.”

Still, Shall has lots to crow about when it comes to her career. During and after college, should helped prepare athletes for men’s and women’s sports teams at several schools, including the national champion Princeton women’s lacrosse team in 2003 and the Notre Dame champion women’s soccer team a year later.

The Warren, Pa. native – who holds a bachelor’s in exercise science from Slippery Rock University and a master’s in curriculum and teaching from Columbia University – landed in Buffalo when she decided to shift gears and enter corporate wellness.

“I was struggling with the work-life balance,” she said. “In college athletics, you’re putting in 10-hour days six, seven days a week.”

Shall, 40, joined the Fisher-Price wellness team in 2006. She began to run it 18 months ago, after longtime supervisor Sherrill Quinn retired.

Shall married Carol Klein, a district sales manager for Coca-Cola, last year. She leads a staff that includes fitness associates Rachel Thorlakson and Jeremy Delgado.

The trio provide personal training sessions and lead most of the 19 weekly group exercise classes for about 55 percent of the toy-maker’s 650-worker staff who choose to participate.

They work weekdays in the 3,500-square-foot Fisher-Price Fitness Place, which includes Hammer Strength circuit training machines, free weights and resistance bands, and this year will get new spinning bikes, rowing machines and a squat rack. Monthly membership costs $10 and is open to employees, their spouses or domestic partners and, since last year, retirees.

“We try to have a very well-rounded gym,” Shall said.

Q. Talk about your job? What is a typical week or month like?

Lisa Shall leads a High Intensity Interval Training power lunch workout at the facility in East Aurora.

Every weekday, we offer morning, lunchtime and evening classes. Because we've been around for 25 years, we're part of the culture. … Fisher-Price understood a long time ago that a healthy lifestyle doesn't just start after 5 o'clock. They've given employees the benefit of a work-life balance.

Q. How does this job differ from the jobs you've had on college campuses?

There was a little bit of an adjustment period. In a college setting, you're generally working with teams. I feel it's not much different teaching group exercise classes. You're looking to team people up and build that team environment in the college setting. It's kind of the same thing here. We're trying to build company camaraderie. The more people have a buddy to come down to the gym with, the more they seem to be consistent.

Q. What does the nutrition side, that is different, look like?

Unless you have a dietetics degree, you're not able to prescribe diets per se, so we've worked with local dietitians in the area that come in and provide presentations on a variety of things.

Q. What kinds of wellness programs are available here, and have you added any since you’ve become supervisor?

We’ll have about three stress-related presentations a year, and Rachel teaches a weekly meditation class throughout the year. One of the programs I’ve started is called Healthy U. It’s a comprehensive exercise and nutrition program. This includes an exercise program where people commit to coming in four days a week for 45 minutes to an hour, which, guideline-wise, is recommended for those who want to lose weight. Then we have dietitians come in and talk about what program participants want. It might be about making healthy breakfasts, for instance. We’ve had people lose 20 to 30 pounds with the program.

We focus on exercise, nutrition, stress reduction and health. We do a health expo every year. We’ll do biometric screenings on campus. We do the typical flu shots and blood drives. FitWorks is the newest element for 2017 and it ties in well with what we’re doing here. The financial incentives have provided a good motivation.

Q. Talk about FitWorks.

Independent Health grouped up with a company that has an online wellness tool that Independent Health uses itself. They’ve started to reach out to other companies to use this tool and it’s a way for employees to track the healthy things they’re doing for themselves. They earn points for preventative services like seeing their primary doctor, getting their blood work done, going to the dentist. We were able to tie in some of the stuff we were already doing. We do monthly exercise programs for our members, to keep them challenged. We tie in the presentations with the stress-reduction and the nutrition and wrap them all together. I mapped out what you need to do to hit different levels and earn $50, $100 or $200.

I also have a schedule that shows what you can do to earn FitWorks points. It allows us to focus in on the things we know will work well with our population.

Q. What has been the FitWorks experience so far?

Mattel has another wellness site at its headquarters in El Segundo, Calif. The company (which owns Fisher-Price) is looking at FitWorks as a pilot program. If it goes over well here … it’s something that could be easily expanded throughout the rest of Mattel.

Q. What have you seen in the first three months?

It’s been great. We had 55 people participate in our exercise program the first month and 60 the second month. Last year, we maybe had 50 total between the two months, so it’s driven participation rates, for sure.

Q. What advice would you give to a company looking to kindle a meaningful wellness program for its workers?

The first place you've got to start is with your employee base and what your company goals are. Are you trying to get a return on investment? Is it to improve your company health care costs? Is if for company morale? A lot of companies now are focused on retention. Look at your employee population. What is it that they need and want to keep motivated, getting them to want to learn to live a healthy lifestyle.

Q. What do you see as the main benefit to Fisher-Price employees.

We have a wide range of people: new employees just out of college to people who have been here 20-plus years. Fisher-Price is 650 employees, a medium-sized company but the fitness center still draws people together … who normally wouldn't get to meet each other. It shows that the company really cares about their health and wellness. We always joke that we're the happy place. It's not uncommon to find us dancing around. We're trying to provide that sanctuary around their everyday stress.


Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon

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