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On average, Americans spend more than 7.5 hours working weekdays.  Our jobs can many times feel like our home away from home. So it’s important that employers recognize our commitment to the workplace and understand the need for balance and a healthy lifestyle. If you aren’t working as hard on your health and wellness, mental and physical ability diminishes over time. Many companies are working on plans to prevent employee health problems by creating health and wellness programs in the workplace.

Recently I talked with Shannon Muller, HR Generalist, of The Conti Group about their Building a Better You employee wellness program. Launched this year, the program has met with instant success. Part of that success is due to Conti’s partnership with employees—the program is designed with employee feedback and contributions. Building a Better You encourages employees to lead a healthier lifestyle at work and home, providing the tools, resources and support to make it happen.  

Happy Feet: When did Conti start a wellness program? 

Shannon Muller: Conti initially began researching and developing plans for a wellness program in 2010. After we were sure we had a good plan in place and management support behind us, the program was launched in early 2011. We surveyed employees to gauge their interests and make sure we were developing a program to which they would respond. We even opened up for program name suggestions from employees and selected Building a Better You, from a list of great suggestions.  

Happy Feet:  Explain how your wellness program works? 

Muller: The program is designed to attract the variety of personalities and interests of our employees. The idea is to educate and motivate employees to live healthier lives and there are a variety of ways to do that. We host lunch & learns on various topics, we distribute newsletters and healthy recipes, we spark the friendly competition amongst coworkers and we offer incentives for participation. As you know we have the Conti Walking Competition, for which, we provided pedometers to participants and they submit weekly step counts competing against coworkers. I have recently incorporated bonus point values for other healthy habits including eating fruits and vegetables or taking vitamins. 

We also recently held a Health Screening event at our corporate office to allow employees the convenience of being screened without leaving the office and plan to begin a Weight Watchers at Work program in the fall.

Here’s an excerpt from the Conti Newsletter discussing the company’s committment to its employees: Conti cares about its’ employees and wants to see each one of us live healthy, balanced lives. There are so many benefits to making healthier choices in your life such as, increased energy and motivation as well as decreased stress and tension.  Healthy choices improve your overall physical, mental, and emotional well being and can enhance your outlook on life.

Happy Feet: How have employees responded overall? I know the walk program has sparked a little competitiveness on the Whitestone Bridge project. 

Muller: Employee response has been great! As mentioned before, we surveyed employees to be sure the plan would catch their attention. Nearly 50% of employees signed up for the Walking Competition and are especially competitive.  The Health Screening appointments filled within 3 days of announcement. Employees respond to my various emails and announcements with excitement and suggestions. They offer their recipes and links for helpful sites on fitness and nutrition. It is great to see how many people appreciate and enjoy the program.

Gaga has the Grammys, Firth has the Oscars, and Happy Feet has the Choice Awards. Recently selected as a Choice Awards product winner, Happy Feet shined at this year’s National Hardware Show.

A recent comment from NRHA’s vice president Scott Wright stresses the significance of this award, “New products are the lifeblood of the industry. The Retailers’ Choice Awards program recognizes the top products each year at the National Hardware Show® that demonstrate strong sales potential at retail. The award also creates a strong bond between retailers and manufacturers due to the fact that retailers choose the winners.”

Other winners at this year’s show included College Duck Tape from Duck Tape, 360 Grill from Blacktop and Ready-to-eat meals from GoPicnic. Key elements of chosen winners include products that display innovation, great sales, and business potential for retailers.

“We are very proud to have been chosen for this award. As a made in America product we are always striving to keep our work force pain-free and comfortably on their feet for as long as they need to be,” says Annette Salamone, Vice President of Marketing, Happy Feet USA, Inc. “We look forward to The Hardware Show each year.  The attendees are a group of hard-working, on their feet, individuals and it makes us happy to be able to put smiles on their faces.”

Read more about the “latest and greatest” products, like Happy Feet Insoles, in the Hardware Retailing July issue.

Funky Town

Does a dark cloud appear the minute you step out of your shoes? Can you clear a room faster than Merry Maids? When someone asks what’s that smell, is it you?

Foot odor is actually a common problem. According to ePodiatry, foot odor can be caused by stress, hyperhidrosis, and hormonal changes. With a few simple solutions, you can tone down the funk and tell that pesky, embarrassing odor—smell ya later.

  • Rotate your shoes. Don’t wear the same pair of shoes every day no matter how many compliments they bring.  
  • Wash your feet daily, especially in between toes.
  • Give feet a break and go barefoot when you can, allowing feet to breathe in a little fresh air.
  • Wash insoles (including your Happy Feet Insoles & then air dry) on a regular basis.
  • Try deodorant. Yep, it’s not just for your pits anymore.

Agony of de Feet

Let’s face it, when we slather on the sunscreen we’re talking backs, arms, legs—ignoring our feet altogether, a thoughtless act that results in days and nights with agony of de feet. On a recent Saturday morning, I stretched out on my rooftop with a favorite book and an ice cold drink. The sun darted in and out of the clouds for hours, and I welcomed the cool breeze.

Later in the evening as I was showering and readying for dinner out on the town, I noticed an unusual pain in both of my feet, just on the tops. Bright red, burning like fire, my feet stung—a slow but evolving sunburn yielding its angry face. Within an hour the swelling started and before bed, I downed ibuprofen, seeking some sort of a reprieve.

Our feet are tender on top and if exposed to the sun for lengthy periods of time, prone to serious sunburn. According to the CDC, you should apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure and take breaks in the shade throughout the day. And don’t let the clouds fool you. Even on a cloudy day, you can develop severe sunburn.

Even with the intense pain, my feet didn’t blister. If you do find yourself with blisters in the sun, you should not break them but cover with gauze. CDC encourages everyone to seek medical attention if severe pain lasts for more than 48 hours.

New York City is the land of walking. It is pretty impossible to get around the city without walking daily. If you’re a New Yorker, you probably don’t even think about it until you have visitors come to town and they’re complaining after walking only a fraction of the distance that you don’t even think twice about.

I have been a New Yorker for almost 25 years now, and I am still amazed at how many people I see walking the city streets in high heels! It is because we’re talking about NYC that I say people” instead of “women” :-).

As a fitness trainer and body worker, I cringe when I see these high-heeled lovelies walking block after block in their stilettos.  I get sympathy pains all the way up to my neck. People do not realize just how connected their feet are to the rest of their bodies.

Of course, nothing makes your legs look more gorgeous than a pair of fabulous heels, so it’s not surprising that people make the sacrifice. Fortunately, there is a way to counteract the stiletto damage.  Stimulating specific points on the feet with direct pressure, you can mobilize the joints and rejuvenate them with essential fluid. And not only can you increase the ease of mobility in your feet, you can improve the neural connection between your feet and the other systems of your body.

Ok, you’re thinking . . . can you please give me some more details about how to make this happen. What I’m describing is the MELT foot treatment, specifically, position point pressing with the MELT balls on your feet. I have been a MELT instructor for quite a while now, and I continue to experience amazing changes with my clients after only 20 minutes of MELTing their feet.

Everyone needs to stimulate the tissue in their feet, not just stiletto wearing New Yorkers! Some of the specific changes that MELTing your feet can solicit are:

- reduced foot pain

 -balanced arches

 -reduced low back pain

 -reduced leg tension

 -reduced pressure in the head

 -over time, breathing capacity, jaw pain, migraines, gut issues and common foot dysfunctions improve

Go to meltmethod.com to learn more about the method, and where to find an instructor near you. You will be so happy when you learn how to MELT your feet! And then you will learn to MELT the rest of your body, and hydrate your connective tissue! But be warned – you will very likely become addicted to feeling fabulous and pain-free – with or without your stilettos :-).

Denise Raimi has been working in the health and wellness industry as a fitness trainer and body worker for over twenty-five years. She is a Pilates teacher, a Body Rolling and Body Logic practitioner, and a MELT instructor. As a nutritional cleansing coach, Denise has been able to help her clients reach their optimal performance levels by working on their health from the inside out. She has helped many people make dramatic, positive changes in their lives.

You can follow Denise on Facebook and Twitter. Visit her website at DR-Cleanse.com for invaluable resources and information on cleansing and optimal health and wellness.

Burn Notice

The sun never kisses me—it slaps me, holds me hostage for days.  

It forces me to endure excruciating burns with high fever and low energy. It gives me the chills. It poisons me, literally. The hardest lesson of all—courtesy of the Florida fun and sun. After years of debilitating sunburns and futile tanning attempts, I’ve finally accepted my role as a fair lady of the universe. No longer striving to be a sun goddess.  Along this fiery path I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge on sun exposure dos and don’ts. And most importantly, I abide by and share the wise words of Buz Luhrmann . . . “If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. “

  1.  Even when it’s cloudy, you can burn. Use the sunscreen and reapply regularly
  2. Your scalp will burn just as easily as your body. And the peeling and flaking is beyond unattractive. If you know you’ll be spending a day at the beach or a long stretch of time in the sun, wear a hat. If you worry about hat hair, you can try powdered sunscreen, like Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF 45.
  3. Avoid direct sun during peak hours – 10am and 4pm. After the crowds have hit the local oyster bar, the beach becomes yours and the sun’s fierceness diminishes.
  4. Certain medications can intensify the sun’s rays. If you are on prescription medication, make sure to ask the pharmacist about sun exposure and any possible known reactions. 
  5. Protect your lips. Wear sunscreen lip balm and reapply throughout the day.

If you’ve had to learn the hard way, like me, you can find helpful information regarding sunburn treatment at the Mayo Clinic and tips for dealing with a sunburned scalp from Livestrong.com.

But trust me on the sunscreen . . .

Your wedding day should be remembered as one of the most treasured moments of your life. But all too many brides-to-be ignore the impact of wearing uncomfortable attire, more specifically shoes, while tying the knot and then toasting the night away.  But you can make a vow to enjoy your reception from head to toe. As one new bride suggests, “it makes way more sense (and is way more fun) to change shoes between ceremony and reception than to change dresses.”

Catherine Fletcher married Adam, the love of her life, this past April. From start to finish, Cat donned the wedding planner hat, or veil in this case, and planned out every tiny detail, right down to the homemade cookies—a beloved Italian family recipe handed down for generations—placed on all the reception tables.  A marriage of romance and practicality, The Fletcher wedding day event appeared effortless, a flawless, lovely, and comfortable celebration for everyone, including the bride, who fluttered around the reception like the belle of the ball.

For the actual wedding, Cat wore a stunning pair of hot pink heels. “I originally bought the pink ruffled heels when I thought I was going to be wearing a much simpler dress,” Cat says. “I felt like I needed something to dress it up with. Then, even after my dress choice changed, i couldn’t walk away from them because they were just too spectacular, and how often is it that you get to wear the loudest shoes that you want without anyone saying anything to you about it? I wanted something that was bright, fun, and sexy all at the same time.” She stole the show in those shoes.

After walking down the aisle, hand in hand, with her new husband, Cat changed into her second set of wedding shoes—her reception flats, you know, just a simple pair of Vera Wang slippers. “For the reception, I knew that I was going to be doing a lot of walking (to greet all of the guests) and dancing,” Cat says, “so I wanted to be comfortable. My dress also made me feel like a Cinderella princess, and the Vera Wang shoes with the crystal encrusted peep toe were the perfect blend of modernity with the classic image of a glass slipper.”

“As far as foot care, Aubrey and I went to have drinks and pedicures the day before the wedding as a special Matron of Honor and Bride date. It was very relaxing–a great way to de-stress and take the time to remind yourself what this whole big party is really about.”

Photos courtesy of Erin Kate Photography.

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