Sitting still and staying indoors all day? That’s so last century, says these up-and-at-‘em Minnesota entrepreneurs, each with a unique way to power up a group. Beyond the countless benefits for physical activity in one’s lifestyle, the perks of working exercise into a meeting or event can’t be ignored. Participants feel more energized, focused and ultimately more productive—whether it’s taking the afternoon off for an outdoor adventure, or five minutes away from the computer to stretch. And what’s more, they might even get to know a colleague better. So lace up your sneakers, get warmed up and read on—there are plenty of exciting escapades in store.
“Sitting is the new smoking,” says Derek Gorney, a two-time Ironman triathlete, former professional soccer player and founder/ CEO of Perfect Office Workout. He’s developed a series of guided deskside workouts to offer energy boosts throughout the day. “The human body isn’t designed to sit still for a long time,” Gorney says. “If you get up and moving, the blood starts flowing, the body is re-engaged, and thinking is much clearer.” He urges meeting and event planners to consider incorporating movement into their schedules. “If you want people to get something out of the content you’re presenting, it’s more likely to happen if they have a chance to be active,” he says. At one recent meeting, Gorney’s speech included periodic breaks to lead attendees through some strength and flexibility exercises using fitness bands he’d brought. “Working out like this can help you maintain a higher baseline level of fitness,” he says.
There are almost as many different styles of yoga as there are varieties of wine. For Leslee D. Miller, certified sommelier and owner of wine consulting and event planning firm Amusée, those two facts are the foundation for deliciously themed group events. Miller, a practicing yogi, pairs her wine expertise with local yoga teachers including Omaur Bliss, Baron Carr and Jennifer Fahler. The yoga classes can be in any style the client prefers, with post- class wine tasting themed to the yoga experience. A recent event for a group of female lawyers included poses focused on women and energy, with after-session wines from female winemak- ers. “It’s a more active and casual way to get to know people, instead of just taking them out to dinner,” Miller says.
Whether you want to start a conference off with an inspirational session of movement and breath, or learn some “chair yoga” techniques to help you get through another day at the cube farm, Jessica Rosenberg is the person to call. “Even taking five minutes at your desk for mindfulness and movement can create receptivity to help improve your thinking,” she says. “The work I do with people at conventions, meetings and workplaces is like giving them an ‘oxygen cocktail’ to reboot and re-center.” Rosenberg recently conducted early-morning yoga sessions before the start of the 2014 Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress in Minneapolis. “I led the group in movement and breathing, then ended with a visualization to set them on the path for their day.”
Describing his zip-line tour course as “light adventure,” Lee Kerfoot, who has installed more than a mile of zip-line cable about 45 minutes from the Twin Cities airport, says he started the business to share his passion for outdoor recreation. The three-hour experience takes participants on lines as high as 175 feet, with runs as long as 1,200 feet. The fastest part of the course is a descent into the Minnesota River Valley. The location is well-suited for group events, with an open field space to accommodate registration, award ceremonies, catering and tents. “It’s a great team-bonding experience for corporate groups,” Kerfoot says. Minnesotans seem to agree: Kerfoot Canopy Tour was voted Best Zip Line Tour in Minnesota in 2014 by WCCO-TV viewers.
“There’s nothing more enjoyable than having a chance to sweat and sightsee at the same time,” says Jenna Duesterhoeft of City Running Tours, which operates out of 16 cities nationally. She points with pride to Minneapolis’ many miles of running trails that take groups around lakes, along the Mississippi River, through great neighborhoods and into the heart of downtown. “We offer guided runs that can be customizable by pickup/drop-off points, route, distance and pace,” Duesterhoeft says. “Every run includes stops to enjoy scenic views and allow time for photographs. “Exercise definitely brings out the endorphins, and it’s fun to see people get excited and have a great time, even if they aren’t experienced runners.”
From spring through fall, Alyssa Kohn, founder of Minneapolis by Bike, takes small groups through city farmers markets, breweries and other historic spots. She prides herself on a think-of-everything approach, starting with the helmets she provides. “They have speakers built into them, so riders can hear commentary as we pedal past local highlights,” she says. Another attention-to-detail example is the service she provides on the Local Brewery Tour. “I’ve arranged for us to have samples along the route,” she says, “but at the last stop, if riders want to stay, they can leave their bikes to be picked up later.” Kohn, who has lived abroad and taken many tours herself, says, “You can start some really interesting conversations on a bike tour.”
“History and fitness are a great combination,” says The Fit Tourist’s Stephanie Croteau, whose business motto is: Get out, get active and enjoy the outdoors! The retired nurse started her Minneapolis-based biking and walking tour company to offer new ways to experience the charms of the city. “When you’re traveling by foot or on a bike, you see so much more than you would on a tour bus,” she says. “And people really appreciate the break from being sedentary. Sitting in meetings all day can turn your mind to mush,” she laughs. Croteau, a history buff, includes plenty of I-never-knew-that material in her tours. The mix of learning and moving is increasingly popular, and Croteau says, “People often tell me they’re amazed by what they saw in such a sort amount of time.”
Fun is the name of the game at for Kerri Kolstad, owner of Wahoo! Adventures. Her goal is to encourage everyone to get outside and play, no matter what their fitness level is. “We provide a guided, almost pampered experience that allows people to relax and get into the groove of kayaking, biking or walking,” she says. Kolstad extols the fresh thinking that comes from being outdoors. “Sometimes the person who never says anything in office meetings will suddenly have great things to say when the work group is out in the water,” she says. Encouraging organizations to consider what she calls “mobile meetings,” she creates experiences in which participants sit in a presentation, then bike or hike together to a new location for the next indoor activity begins. “Everyone thinks more clearly when they have a chance to be active in the outdoors,” she says.