Written by Linley Shaw (@linleyshaw_), Director of Community
What would it be like to work at a place where the leadership team prioritized their employee’s health as much as their work? That was the thought bubble that floated over my head while I scribbled away emails to customers at my first corporate job out of college.
It had probably been four and a half weeks since I had sweat from something other than the NYC summer commute. As a fresh college graduate, the startling realization that the working world was a sedentary one had finally sunk in. The successful people around me preached long hours at work and little time for anything else. So that was what I did.
And I was doing well – relative for a fresh college graduate. My company had selected me for a special project, and I was offered a promotion. In theory, I was the most efficient version of myself, but I knew I wasn’t. Pretending not to notice that I was out of breath walking up the stairs or scoring personal bests on my caffeine consumption week after week, all I could think about was how unhealthy I felt – and the number of hours I was spending at work was only stoking the fire.
So when I started to look for a new job, I knew work/life balance would be a priority. I wanted to work for a company that innately understood the importance of a healthy lifestyle. If such a place even existed, I had no idea.
But as luck and timing would have it, that place did exist. On the third page of my job search on AngelList.com, a marketing coordinator opportunity was available at an activewear company called Way of Life Athletic Co. (WOLACO). I went in to meet with the team, and I loved them. Fortunately, they loved me back.
To be clear, I was incredibly intimidated. If you’re a follower or customer of WOLACO, you know that Terry, Erin and Nick are three incredibly attractive and incredibly in-shape humans. I was certainly worried that I was not going to be able to keep up at WOLACO Wednesday or that my meals wouldn’t be as well-balanced as theirs.
At first, this was true. Our leadership team does an incredible job of prioritizing healthy choices in a career path that is constantly testing you. In the beginning, it seemed impossible that I might be able to keep up with them on a run or have the willpower to eat oatmeal every morning for breakfast. When Nick would pass up a glass of wine at a team dinner, or Erin would take a moment to get in a quick workout in between meetings, I was in awe of their commitment. I questioned if I could ever get myself out of my rut and back into an active state.
Flash-forward a year into my role at WOLACO, I started to realize that what the three of them were building was not just a clothing brand, but a movement. A movement to grow a full and flourishing ecosystem for anyone who believed in making healthy and active life choices. An ecosystem that didn’t exist for me before was now a way of life.
What I wrongly believed at the time was that there was a difference in my ultimate potential versus theirs. They may have had years and years of practice, but we were all on the same playing field. What made it possible for them to live an active way of life – was each other. Instead of a lone wolf trying to head out a little early to catch a workout class, there was an entire wolf pack waking up at 6 AM to find time in the day for a sweat. Each of them not only bought into the philosophy, they were actively encouraging me to find my place within it.
The feedback I would get on a project wasn’t, “Go back and try again.” It was, “Do you want to take a break with me and go on a walk before we dive back into this?” If I was exhausted after a week full of events by Wednesday, the response was, “Come in later tomorrow, and make sure you get the rest you need.” When we took a trip to California, and everyone was getting ready for a sunset run (the first time I had run in a year), the encouragement was, “That’s totally fine. We can walk whenever you need to.”
One of my proudest moments of work came when I decided to train for my first half-marathon. Having never run more than five miles in my life, I set out at 5 PM on a Tuesday to try for 10 miles. Halfway through – I sent a text to Erin that said, “Omg. I think I’m going to run the most I’ve ever run in my life … should put it on the Instagram story?” She encouraged me to go for it, and we received the most social story engagement on the women’s channel to date. Ten miles later, I was greeted back at the office with coconut water, a spot on the couch to elevate my legs and a team that was so excited for me.
I ran the half-marathon two weeks later, and as promised from the previous Instagram story, I continued documenting the journey for anyone else out there thinking about running their first marathon. Right before I hit the start line, I received this message from Erin.
Good luck today! Love the story so far but more than anything love how much you have been pushing yourself these days. Physically and mentally. It’s really beautiful to see. Grateful for you and everything you do! Can’t wait to hear how you crush it today!
I came back the next week more confident than ever. A few days later, I managed the opening of our showroom for a pop-up shop, and we beat our sales goal by 50%.
I’m sharing all of this because although the physical transformation that came with my life changes might be the most notable difference, the most significant change I felt was the freedom and excitement to explore what I could achieve in my work because of what I had achieved for my health. Because I was empowered to take ownership of my well being by my workplace, I show up to work now with purer intentions and a sharper mind. It has allowed me to become the most effective version of myself.
It might have been intimidating at first, but once I had three new allies aimed in the same direction, it was three times easier to make the time for my health. It stopped feeling impossible, I stopped feeling guilty, and it started to feel like a way of life. With people by my side, leading by example and carving out the opportunities for me to easily join in, my glass full of self-doubts started to spill away. Because of the people surrounding me, I felt capable of doing more than I thought I could. To me, this was the power of community.