It’s no secret that National Instruments is a well-run company. One of Austin’s perennial high-tech frontrunners, NI was recently honored by Forbes as among the 100 Best Companies to Work For in the nation for the 15th consecutive year. In 2014, The Active Times named NI as one of the 50 Fittest Companies, awarded to organizations that provide theiremployees with the biggest and best opportunities to embrace fitness and health. Chalk it up to robust employee wellness program, a fully equipped 24/7 on-campus fitness center, and a passion for corporate-wide participation in events such as the Statesman Cap10K.
A Starting Point
Susan Thompson, NI’s Wellness Director, was responsible along with NI employee and fellow runner Richard Yavorsky, for establishing the company’s first running team more than a decade ago. A 17-year Austinite whose resume runs the gamut of competitive road races, Susan was particularly drawn to the Cap10K.
"I was amazed by the size of the race, which eclipsed most marathons I ran," she said. "At NI, we knew about the corporate challenge and thought we could form a team. But I had no idea (our participation) would grow to such extremes."
In the beginning, you could count the number of NI Cap10K Team Challenge runners on both hands. The second year saw NI’s team double. By their third Cap10K, NI had 50 runners.
NI’s participation in the Cap10K Team Challenge has grown steadily since those early races: 90 runners in 2012; Over 100 in 2013; and 130 runners in 2014. Why such steady growth?
"It’s the excitement our employees have for running such a popular and highly visible event," said Susan. "It’s the largest 10K in Texas and it’s right here in Austin. It’s a scenic, challenging course and our team enjoys running on the city streets through some of our major landmarks. "
"It’s flat-out fun," added Bobby Garcia, Fitness Specialist at NI’s corporate fitness center, which is managed by Cooper Wellness StrategiesTM. "You’ve got a mix of professional runners and people running in crazy costumes. Plus, Cap 10K does a great job of choosing great charities to support."
NI plans for the Cap10K Team Challenge months in advance. Their 2015 Cap10K kickoff meeting takes place in early January. It’s a brown bag lunch typically attended by 50 or more employees – many of them first-time runners – that explains the ins and outs of NI’s participation in the race.
"It’s important to involve employees who want to get healthier," said Bobby. "We encourage first-timers or those who have participated in our other wellness programs such as HEED ("Healthy Eating Every Day") and our Smoking Cessation program."
In fact, participation in the Cap10K Team Challenge is so popular that NI has instituted a lottery system that places wellness program participants at the front of the running team list.
NI would like you to know that they’ve won the Cap10K Team Challenge 10 years in a row. In fact, they’ve collected so many Cap10K Team Challenge champion trophies that they’ve outgrown the trophy case that adorns the fitness center entrance.
"We have a certified running instructor at our fitness center," said Susan. "It’s grown to the point where we have two groups of 15 runners based on skill level: one for beginners and the other for intermediate skill-level runners."
While NI employees are definitely driven by the Cap10K Team Challenge competition, winning isn’t the main reason NI always has such strong and successful participation year after year.
"What’s exciting for me are the personal successes I’ve seen," said Susan. "About six years ago one of our employees gave up smoking and began running at our fitness center. He decide to join the corporate team for the Cap10K – his first race ever – and has run in it ever since. It’s helped turn his life around."
A Final Challenge
"We welcome friendly competition from other businesses in town," said Susan. "Because in the end, we all help each other. The Cap10K helps employees on their wellness journey. The race generates a lot of excitement and keeps your employees motivated and on track." She added, "But we look at it more than just a race. It’s the opportunity to turn a person toward a lifelong activity-based lifestyle. And that’s going to pay off for your company."
Bobby agreed, "What it all boils down to is this: we love the competition but it makes us feel good to see other companies doing the race for the reasons we are; essentially, healthy employees are happier and more productive."
When asked if he had any words for teams looking to break NI’s win streak, Bobby added a final challenge with a smile in his voice, "Bring it."