Headquarters employees reach great heights in fitness challenge

By Dianne Ryder

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Twenty teams and 11 individuals tested their intestinal fortitude and structural integrity of the McNamara Headquarters Complex staircases as they competed in the annual Climb Mount Everest challenge from Dec. 4, 2017, to Jan. 12, 2018.

The number of floors climbed at the McNamara HQC was analogous to various geographical heights: the Zugspitze (Germany’s highest peak), 690 floors; the Matterhorn in the Swiss-Italian Alps, 1,043 floors; and Mt. Everest at 2,061 floors.

Teams and individuals were awarded trophies based on who achieved the goal soonest.

Winning teams:

  • Everest — Agony of Da Feet (Defense Logistics Agency employees: Jody Giacoman, Bethany Sweatman, Alexandra Vanaman and David Bullock) placed first by climbing 2,105 floors by Dec. 20.
  • Matterhorn — Cool Climbers (DLA employees: Karen Turchiano, James Leinberger, Michelle Kaye and Patty Beyer) placed second by climbing 1,333 floors.
  • Zugspitze — The Step Children (Defense Threat Reduction Agency employees: Kevin Roach, Melanie Cole, Jeff Groover and Andy Rodriguez) placed third by climbing 1,416 floors.

Honorable mention went to the Legal Climbers (DLA employees: James Coyne, Nate Jones, Andreea Antonesei and Anna-Liviya Piccione-Sand) who climbed 5,566 floors during a six-week period.

Individual awards:

  • Everest — Brian Payne (DLA contractor) placed first by climbing 2,077 floors.
  • Matterhorn — George Smith (DLA employee) placed second by climbing 1,096 floors.

Giacoman, an environmental engineer with DLA’s Installation Support office convinced team members Sweatman, a management analyst, Vanaman, an environmental specialist, and Bullock, an energy resource manager, to join her in the challenge.

“My reputation preceded me from years past,” Sweatman said with a wry grin. She helped launch the Climb Everest challenge in 2010. “Jody is the mastermind — she strategically recruited her team.”

The team agreed that all members worked equally hard, including Bullock, who often teleworks.

“On the days he was here, he was pulling his weight,” Sweatman said. “He would get in 70 to 80 [floors] a day.”

The group worked both together and individually to reach the goal, and Giacoman said it was very challenging. When she was climbing floors by herself, “I had to sing my way up those stairs,” she said. She also said her clothes felt looser — a feeling she enjoyed for a full week before the holidays.

Teams received weekly progress reports, so Sweatman said she knew early on that her team was close to winning.

“We thought after the second week that we had a good shot at it,” she said. “We knew the other team was pretty close … so we were in a pretty big rush at the start of the third week to finish. We actually finished up on the same day — just hours apart.”

All team members said they’ve continued their healthy habits and are interested in participating in the challenge next year.

“It keeps you awake during the day — that’s a benefit of climbing those stairs,” Giacoman said. “I’ve reduced it to 20 floors a day, which is more manageable to avoid injury, but it’s also keeping me prepared for next year.”

“I felt it was good preparation for the winter warrior challenge,” said Vanaman, who’s leading a separate team for that event. Vanaman said all HQC-sponsored fitness events keep employees mindful of staying active throughout the workday. “You keep hearing how bad sitting is for you, so [the challenge] was a good reminder to get up and move.”

Sweatman agreed and said physical activity needn’t be confined to a workout at the fitness center.

“You can do it at any time during the day, you can squeeze a little bit of activity and the collective amount of that is going to make you better and stronger,” she said.

Employees can access further information about upcoming fitness events at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation site or by visiting the HQC fitness center.