Cortez city employees finish annual fitness challenge

Cortez employee wellness program crowns winners

Margaret O’Brien, who has worked at the Cortez Public Library for 35 years, won her first award for “most successful” woman in last year’s wellness program. Enlargephoto

Margaret O’Brien/For The Journal

Margaret O’Brien, who has worked at the Cortez Public Library for 35 years, won her first award for “most successful” woman in last year’s wellness program.

While many people are resolutions for a healthier lifestyle in 2017, several city employees have just achieved their goals for 2016.

Since 1992, the city of Cortez has held an annual eight-week wellness program in which all employees may earn points by completing exercise and dietary challenges. This year, the city added team competitions to encourage healthy relationships, said city clerk Linda Smith.

“It brings employees from all our departments together,” she said. “We don’t even see people at the library, and we don’t see people at the service center or the kennel. ... They get to know people they haven’t normally even met.”

The program ran Sept. 28 through Nov. 22. Participants completed exercise and nutrition challenges, met for luncheons to discuss their progress, teamed up for a treasure hunt in city parks, and established benchmarks to measure their physical exercise. Points were awarded for each completed challenge, and winners received cash prizes and time off work.

The winning team included animal control officer Lari Ann Pope and mechanics Randy Curtis and Nick Randall. Randall won the award for “most successful” man – repeating his win from 2015 – and library employee Margaret O’Brien was named “most successful” woman for the first time.

For O’Brien, 2016 represented a high point in her wellness program. Although she has participated in the program almost every year since it started, last year was the first time she completed every challenge. The exercise and nutrition part was nothing new, she said. Her regular routine includes two hours of exercise classes at the Cortez Recreation Center before she walks to work for a 10-hour shift. But she said the wellness program helped her connect with people in different departments.

“It’s been a very positive experience,” she said. “I’m thrilled to get the top spot for the women, although I did work pretty hard for it too.”

O’Brien also credited the city has always played a role in her fitness journey. She started working out at the recreation center nine years ago, when she was 40 pounds overweight and had several health problems. But with the help of fitness instructor Rayna Hale and the encouragement of city employees like Smith, O’Brien said she has improved greatly, and the benchmarks in particular helped her to see how much has changed.

“I can do 26 pushups without stopping, I can do a plank for five minutes,” she said. “I’ve turned into someone who is physically capable of a lot more than I would have thought possible, and the city challenge has played a great part in that.”