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  The RunReady initiative (RRI): January- July 2020 report

The Initiative

The RRI was conceptualized and planned across November and December 2019 for a launch date at the beginning of 2020. The timings were chosen to maximise the audience of people with good New Year intentions and resolutions and to turn them into positive, structured actions.

The basic premise of the RRI was to get participants engaged in a structured running programme over 4 months concluding with an actual official ‘event’ where all participants would run together over a measured course with timing chips and markers. Each participant chose either a 5km or 10km race event at the beginning of the RRI in the initial consultation.

‘Running’ was chosen as the activity as many studies [we can list] have shown the benefits of running on weight, body fat %, bone density, musculo-skeletal pain, cardiovascular Health, mood, mental health amongst others. There have been some negative reports regarding the effects of running on the body but this is usually over much longer training distances, with higher training volumes and intensities. [The RRI training plans were designed with some caution on volume and frequency and thus built in extra rest days.] Running or Jogging also has a relatively low barrier to entry: The kit required is relatively straight forward and the accessibility of running is very good compared with other activities and the skill level to get started is also relatively low (ie. No special training is required). The progressive nature of running was also very important for the RRI, participants need to see real, tangible improvements to stay motivated; with modern technology it is easy to measure distance, speed and HR as well as perceived effort so participants had a number metrics to see improvements as well as pure subjective ‘feel’.

The RRI had one senior WPP employee as the ‘internal champion’ for the initiative and a Corporate Wellbeing company was also engaged to deliver certain aspects of the programme.

It is important to note also at this stage that due to the Covid-19 Pandemic the format for the RRI had to dramatically change with no physical measurements or 1-1 sessions taking place after 21st March 2020. This will be discussed in more detail

Format and Timings
The Launch

The RRI was launched with a group PowerPoint and Zoom presentation on the 16th January 2020. All employees of WPP located in the AlphaBeta building and the WPP Oxford Office were invited to attend. The presentation lasted 45 mins with an overview of physical wellbeing, the various components and how the RRI would factor into an individuals daily and weekly regime.


A visible and physical A0 ‘sign-up board’ was then placed at reception for 3 weeks with 30 min timeslots from 8am- 6pm on 2 dates in February. During this period internal communication and support for the initiative was put into place. This involved speaking to management to encourage participation from specific teams, group emails to the office and passing conversations with colleagues to raise awareness. At the End of the 3 week sign-up period a total of 50 employees had committed to the RRI.

The initial consultation

An external company was commissioned to implement certain aspects of the RRI. 2 x strength and conditioning coaches (SSC’s) carried out 1-1 consultations with all of the enrolled participants, this took place on the 13th and 20th of February. Each participant filled out a run specific Pre- Exercise Readiness Questionnaire (PARQ) in order to ascertain any ailments or contraindications. A general discussion between the coach and participant was then conducted to look at life circumstances, time availability, work situation and personal motivation to understand and create an individual programme based on participant input. Post discussion then each participant was evaluated for Weight and Body Fat using the Omron handheld device (Methodology: Bio-Electrical Impedance analysis). This device is upper body specific thus has a greater margin for error, but in time- constrained circumstances it was a reliable indicator for change and repeatability measures are generally reported as +/- 3% for this device (need a reference). Lastly each participant was emailed an individualized running plan based on the distance they had chosen for their target event date (5km or 10km) plus their initial level of ability, in consultation with the S&C coach (either beginner, intermediate or advanced). A general goal setting framework, using the SMART approach (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based) covering the coming 3 months was also discussed, this was participant lead and important for future interventions and understanding of individual motivations.

The Interventions

  • 1-1 Check-INs: Each month post ‘initial consultation’ each participant was invited to book a specific time slot for a Check-IN. This was facilitated via an live online spreadsheet with 30 min slots throughout the day. Each Check-IN had a set structure with 5-8 questions using the Likert Scale. There was also a participant lead conversation regarding state of Wellbeing, specific training, nutrition, or injury questions plus any other relevant issues that would impact individual progression. Check-INs took place in March, April and May. Due to the pandemic all recorded data was subjective and none of the planned physiological measurements could take place.
  • WhatsAPP group communication: Two specific WhatsAPP groups were created, one for the Oxford office and the other for the London office. These groups were used as a quick and effective means of group communications regarding updates, training and nutrition advice plus Adhoc questions that would arise on a daily basis. Participant posts included photos, videos and running specific data that was shared amongst the groups. This will be discussed in greater detail.
  • Adhoc Coaching Sessions: WhatsAPP and Zoom were used to facilitate individual coaching sessions that would arise due to a specific need usually relating to an injury or ‘niggle’. Advice was based on coach experience and was not medical in nature but would aim to address the issue and advise the participant and refer out to necessary medical consultants/experts if required.
  • Zoom Group Coaching: As an trial intervention, a group zoom training session was organized whereby participants would log in to a zoom call via their mobile phone and after a brief session introduction by the S&C coach, would switch to ‘audio only’ and follow the session via their headphones. Sessions typically involved a 10 min warm-up , followed by a structured interval session, and culminating in a warm-down and stretch.
  • The ‘Event’: The final event was originally planned to take place in Richmond Park on the 13th May 2020. But due to Lockdown restrictions this had to be cancelled. In its place a virtual event was organized for the 21st June (The Summer Solstice). The format for this was relatively simple:
    • Each participant had to pre-plan their route whether 5km or 10km.
    • The distance had to be completed between 6am and 8pm on the 21st June.
    • Post completion: A ‘selfie’ photo, a short 30 sec video detailing individual experience and an APP upload of the route had to be posted on the WhatsAPP group.
  • Information Management: All information across the CheckIns, WhatsAPP group, Event day and post-RRI survey was integrated into a spreadsheet for analysis. The majority of the results, as previously mentioned, were subjective in nature but still provided valuable insights into what is essentially a study of human motivations and behavior.

Participant Outcomes:

  • CheckINs: Out of the 50 initial participants, 17 completed CheckIN1, 20 completed CheckIN2 and 21 completed CheckIN3.
  • Likert Scale: CheckIN1 used the Likert scale and 6 specific questions to assess positive habits, feelings and changes as a result of participating in the RRI. An average score of 3.813 across all CheckINs and questions was achieved, (0= strongly disagree/ 5=Strongly agree) showing a positive subjective result to feeling of motivation, mood and physical wellbeing as a result of RRI.
  • The virtual event: On the 21st June, 20 of the 50 participants completed the virtual 5km or 10km. Of those 20 participants, 17 achieved a Personal Best for their chosen distance.
  • Post RRI Survey results: [DDF completed already] Can also add in average from the Likert scale Qs to show positive changes on physical and mental wellbeing, productivity at work and stress levels. Score >3/5 across the board. Also most respondents reporting a positive impact on weight and body shape.
  • RRI Recommendation: 100% of survey respondents said they would recommend and refer the RRI to friends and family.

Key Learnings:

  • The general format for the RRI was good and analysis shows that most participants were very happy with this and would not change anything.
  • The CheckINs were positive although it is clear that they sometimes lacked a clear direction. This is partially due to the virtual nature, thus no physical measurements could place, but also a clear individual agenda for each participant would have helped personalize the session and give it more value. A pre-checkIN questionnaire would be a viable option going forward.
  • The WhatsAPP group communication was a real fundamental backbone of this initiative. Post analysis comments showed how much the group dynamic helped to keep people motivated and give them a much needed ‘daily boost’. This social dynamic was under-estimated at the start of RRI, but the pandemic maybe magnified the importance of some form of group interaction.
  • Improving the group communications with regular training and diet tips and mini- weekly challenges (Plank/push-ups/cross training systems) to help motivation throughout the week as well as an open forum to ask any questions or share any thoughts.
  • A more systemized approach to both group running and tracking APPs would further enhance the ‘social glue’ of the group as participants would easily be able to follow each other and view and comment on daily training activities.
  • As above but with regard the wearable technology that participants are using. This is a particularly interesting area with regard the data and information that can be captured and will be explored later.
  • The importance of internal company champions was highlighted during the RRI. During this initiative it is the Researchers hope that this has increased from 1 to 20. The litmus test will be when ‘RunReady 2’ is launched and each of the 20 participants that completed the RRI are asked to refer 1-3 of their colleagues or friends, who they think would most benefit from an increase in physical movement, to participate in the initiative.
  • It is clear that the RRI was an overall success with a 14.3% penetration rate on the company as a whole and a 40% completion rate for the RRI. What is of interest is the 85% of employees that did not sign up and the 60% of participants who did not complete the full initiative. It is impossible to involve 100% of people into a physical wellbeing initiative but it is also clear that by using jogging/running as the means of intervention, a large proportion of individuals are being alienated. Thus it is important to explore a means of involving the true sedentary population in a completely ‘non-threatening’ manner. This will be explored in more detail in the next section.
  • The potential for 2 distinct groups can be explored for the next initiative: ‘Exercisers’ and ‘Non-exercisers’. This would at least separate those who do structured exercise on a weekly basis to those that do not. It still does not categorize peoples over activity levels so there could in fact be 4 distinct groups:
    • Active- exercisers (do lots of daily movement plus structured exercise sessions)
    • Nonactive- exercisers (sedentary most of the day but do structured exercise sessions)
    • Active- non-exercisers (lot if daily movement but no structured exercise)
    • Nonactive- nonexercisers (sedentary during the day and no structured exercise).

Next Steps:

  • Start the planning process for RunReady2 (RR2) to accommodate the sedentary population of the workforce and also increase the engagement of the active employees to >60%.
  • Understand and research the use of Heart Rate Variability (HRV) within an organization and how the data can give feedback that can result in real world changes to sleep, exercise and lifestyle habits.
  • Engage FirstBeat as the biomarker technology partner for RR2 with the aim of all registered participants utilizing these monitors on a 24/7 basis across the duration of the test. This will give the 1-1 CheckINs more direction and purpose as an interim analysis on the effects of the initiative as well as a ‘start- finish’ overview on completion of RR2.
  • Provide a variety of virtual coaching sessions at different times to accommodate the complete beginners/sedentary participants as well as the active- exercisers.
  • Investigate an ‘All-In-One’ tech bundle that includes an APP plus a wearable device, that gives:
    • Daily Calories expended
    • Daily steps
    • Daily minutes of exercise
    • Running distance/speed/route on any particular day
    • Active calories expended
    • All relevant Biomarkers in conjunction with Firstbeat
  • The research team also believe there is a need for a new APP that will record and assimilate information but can also motivate participants by creating distinct goals and challenges that can then be done on an individual, small group, team or company wide basis.

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