The Weighting Is
Over for Fittest Execs/Companies




There’s almost nothing a rabid barbecue-lover wouldn’t do to have Rod Toelkes’ job. As director of operations for Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, Toelkes is responsible for quality assurance. That means he must check out the fare in the company’s four Kansas City restaurants. Every. Single. Day.

Toelkes has learned to be smart about it, blending the varied menu selection with a personal routine of walking three miles every morning before work. Overall, that’s kept him in acceptable condition. Still, something’s been missing.

“I feel like I’ve always done a pretty good job in life of balancing the spiritual part, my health, my family, my business interests,” he said. “But sometimes you stray a bit from the exercise regimen. It’s very important for my family, my team, myself to be fit.” And, he said, for business decision-makers “to be the example-setters in our company.”

For those reasons, he’s one of more than 150 Kansas City area executives and employees taking part in the Fittest Execs Challenge, which runs through Jan. 15, 2010. Roughly 30 five-member teams, plus individual competitors, will challenge not only each other, but themselves, to raise their levels of personal fitness.

Along with the Fittest Execs Challenge is the Fittest Companies Challenge, which extends some of the program’s benefits to employees of companies with competing executive teams. Both are presented in collaboration with the Metropolitan Medical Society of Greater Kansas City and is c0-sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, YMCA of Greater Kansas City, Holmes Murphy and Associates, and the Center for Health and Human Performance at the Jewish Community Center.

The concept is about much more than just being fitter: It’s about improving the corporate bottom line—a healthier work force translates into lower overall corporate health premiums and higher productivity.

Getting into shape won’t be the challenge for Danny Westhoff, sales manager for the Lenexa office of Mitel, Inc. At 38, the father of three is up every day at 4:45 a.m. for an effective regimen that blends weight-lifting, yoga, kenpo and stretching into a comprehensive fitness program. Why so early? “With the kids, there was just no way to spend time exercising after work every day,” Westhoff said. “I knew I was either not going to work out, or would have to do it in the morning.”



As an individual entrant, he’s looking for affirmation that his fitness model is paying off. Heart disease runs in his family, he said, and the pre- and post health-risk assessment included in the entry fee touched on areas he knew he needed to be paying more attention to: cholesterol levels, HDL/LDL levels and more.

Cinde Gamache, chief nursing officer at St. Joseph Medical Center, says she’ll use the Fittest Execs Challenge to get a head start on 2010. “What I found interesting about it, counter-intuitively, is that January is when we think about getting back on the fitness bandwagon,” she said. “To do it at this time of the year, actually, is a neat challenge.”

Her job and some class work last winter knocked her off the exercise treadmill, but she’s determined to get back on before having to make a New Year’s resolution. Even if it means she won’t be threatening the health metrics of her boss and Fittest Execs teammate, chief executive Scott Kashman. He runs three times a week, swims and does weightlifting.

Kashman, who sees tremendous potential in the program’s ability to influence lifestyles, is taking his participation a step further: He’s issued a challenge to other hospitals and executives at health-care organizations in the region, and is backing it up with a dinner, prepared by his hospital’s chefs, for the hospital team that posts the biggest improvement in biometrics.


Call 816.842.9994, email JSweeney@IngramsOnLine.com to reserve a team.






« OCTOBER 2009 Edition