Health & Wellness

The World’s First Ironman Winner Walks Among Us

After a full day at work, and after the dinner table is cleared, most people put their feet up. Gordon Haller puts his into running shoes. Not many athletes work out at 10 p.m., but Gordon isn’t like everybody else. He’s an Ironman, and he has been since he won the first competition in Hawaii in 1978.

Not only did Gordon win; he also helped create the event. He was running the Honolulu Marathon in 1977 and realized his body hadn’t fully recovered from a recent race, so he stopped running where a friend happened to be watching. That friend knew of Gordon’s typical three-part workout routine, and he told him about plans for a new sporting event.

“He said there was a race invented for me with swimming, biking and running. Then I saw a notice in the paper about a meeting to talk about the race. I joined the planning team, and we took the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the Sea Spree Festival bike race and the Honolulu Marathon and put them together,” Gordon said. The Ironman was born.

“I’ve always lived an Ironman lifestyle,” Gordon explained. He’s kept a training log since 1969 and four decades later, he still works out an average of 1.5 hours a day.

“At first, my training log was a tool to help me be faster and healthier, but it evolved to become a journal. It’s satisfying to record each workout, and it helps me remember where I was when significant things happened in my life,” Gordon said, adding that a training log can help track what you eat, how much you sleep, your heart rate, weight, illnesses, body fat, blood pressure and more.

As a result of his lifelong focus on fitness, Gordon feels he has more energy and endurance than most people, which he says helps him at work. He balances his athletic pursuits with his full-time job as a programmer analyst at the Walmart corporate office in Bentonville, Arkansas.

“I design my workouts to maximize my performance, and I plan my tasks to do the same for my work,” Gordon said. “When I start on something, I see it to the finish.” That explains why he’s still participating in marathons and Ironman events more than 37 years after he earned the first Ironman title. In fact, he often does two Ironman competitions a year, inspiring others with his seemingly endless stamina.

“I consider marathons a time to do soul searching. I know what I’m made of and I just keep going. If you think you might not make it, you might not,” Gordon said. “It is interesting to me to see how I’ll cope with whatever comes up. We can have high winds, rain, humidity, heat, tacks on the road, hills, rough or cold water. It’s fun to meet other competitors and hear their stories. It’s just an amazing experience every time I do it.”


Recently featured in Sports Illustrated, Gordon represents athleticism at its finest. He discovered his love of running in the first grade and has been setting the pace ever since. 

“Our teacher didn’t hear the recess bell, and none of us was brave enough to tell her. She let us run around the school one lap, so we made a race of it and I was second. My friend beat me, and that got my competitive juices up,” Gordon recalled. He fully realized his abilities six years later.

“One day in seventh-grade PE, we had to run three laps for leaving towels out in the locker room. My friend ran ahead, but after a lap, I decided he wouldn’t finish first and I just edged him at the finish line. I joined the track team and discovered I could run longer than everyone else, even if I couldn’t run faster in the sprints,” Gordon said.

That competitive spirit runs in Gordon’s family, along with a shared passion for health. He met his wife, Beth, through running and they work out often together. She’s a triathlete, herself. Gordon says his son Ryan “rides his bike everywhere” and his daughter, Jessica, manages a sporting goods store and loves outdoor activities. Gordon’s older daughter, Kristen, is a yoga instructor. Clearly, Gordon has a way of positively influencing those around him – including his fellow Walmart associates.

“I encourage them to do triathlons, run races, just get out and do something,” Gordon said, adding that he shuns the elevator at work and coaxes others to do the same.

“I rode it today for the first time in about five years and only because I was with a group of people,” he said. 

Gordon’s been taking the stairs to his office at Walmart for eight years, and he says he still enjoys the challenge of learning new technology through his work. The love of a challenge appears to run in his veins, which you might expect from someone best known as the world’s first Ironman. 

The Ironman World Championship will take place in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on Oct. 10. Read more about Gordon Haller in these recent articles from Sports Illustrated and ESPN.

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Opportunity

Blue Star Families Helps Unsung Heroes: Military Spouses

When I said, “I do” under a bower of roses to my husband, resplendent in his Marine Corps dress blues, I had no idea that the years ahead would bring the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the long war, many combat deployments and many moves.

I love my husband and found extraordinary meaning in helping to serve my country. Along the way, I also found that the costs can be very high.

Like many military spouses, I moved. I moved and moved again. I’ve lost careers that I cared about – and was good at. These jobs helped support my family while resettling my children and maintaining a home for my husband as he retrained and left again. It’s a lonely place to be. But I wasn’t alone.

Many military spouses deal with additional obstacles like putting the needs of the military above their own career goals. These obstacles can make full-time employment nearly impossible. That’s one of the reasons why a group of military spouses (including myself) got together in 2009 to create Blue Star Families, a national nonprofit dedicated to empowering military families. We want our families to thrive by providing them resources, support and connections to their civilian communities.

According to Blue Star Families’ annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey, most military spouses are not working. More than 75% of military spouses surveyed say that being a military spouse has hurt their career, and more than half of those not employed are actively seeking work. Of the minority of spouses who do work consistently, most earn less than $20,000 a year.

This kind of financial instability hurts military families. We know that dual income military families are able to better participate in their local communities and thrive while they serve. But, unlike their civilian counterparts, most military families face more hardships and uncertainties, because they volunteered to serve.

This is why Blue Star Families applauds Walmart for their new initiative to tackle this challenge affecting our military and their families. Walmart is rolling out their Military Spouse Career Connection. Beginning November 12, 2018, military spouses who apply for a job with Walmart or Sam’s Club will be given preferential hiring status.

Military spouses move so frequently that delays in hiring can mean they are not able to work at all during a duty station. Walmart and Sam’s Club can be a particularly good career path for military spouses, because there’s almost certainly a Walmart store anywhere the military sends families in the United States.

Blue Star Families is also working to solve the problem of military spouse unemployment. One of our major initiatives in this area is Spouseforce, an interactive platform for career-minded military spouses. It works in some ways like a dating app--both employer and employee can identify a possibly compatible match before making any contact.

It’s my hope that our combined efforts will help military families become more financially independent, and that spouses will have greater access to fulfilling, meaningful careers they can take with them wherever the military sends them.

I invite you to learn more about Blue Star Families and join us as a Blue Star Neighbor to show you’re a supporter of military families. When you stand with us, you help us create more opportunities for military families in your neighborhood, across the country and around the world.

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Health & Wellness

Five Reasons to Revisit Walmart’s Vitamin Aisle

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is a vital part of leading an active life. But, even the most health-conscious of us need a boost from time to time.

That’s why we’re reimagining our vitamin department at Walmart to provide more options for well-balanced nutrition and the prevention of chronic disease. We’re expanding beyond multivitamins and traditional supplements like calcium and vitamin C to include many more of the vitamins, minerals, herbs and powders our customers are looking for as they work to become the best versions of themselves. We’re offering a broad assortment of trusted national brands as well as innovative new items from our own Spring Valley.

Here are five updates you won’t want to miss:

  • Something’s Fishy … And That’s a Good Thing! Do you eat 8 or more ounces of oily fish every week? If you answered no, you’re like most Americans who aren’t getting the recommended amount of omega-3 fats in their diet. We’re introducing three new Spring Valley supplements that offer physician-recommended quantities in 500mg, 1000mg and 2000mg. Our new formulation and labeling will make it easy to find the right one for your health needs.
  • Garden of Life. For the first time, customers can find Garden of Life products at Walmart stores and on Walmart.com. The brand’s clean-ingredient Vitamin Code formulas draw from 22 raw fruits and vegetables without the use of binders, artificial flavors, colors or sugars.
  • Keep It Clean! We’re also upping the ante on clean and organics. Today, we offer 26 organic Spring Valley vitamins and 52 non-GMO (not genetically modified) items.
  • Natural Selection. Herbal and botanical natural plant products have been used throughout human history, and they’re still used today to treat a number of health conditions. We’re adding turmeric, maca root and magnesium powder, as well as choline, Boswellia and even shiitake, reishi and cordyceps mushroom powders. This is in addition to the existing herbs we offer, like beet root powder, cinnamon, garlic and cranberry.
  • Choices, Choices. Vitamins in one-bottle-fits-all can be a tough pill to swallow. Now, our customers can choose the vitamin pack that’s right for them – from daily packs to powders to real-fruit gummies to tablets.

This is a healthy dose of change, and we’re just getting started. Our goal is to ensure our customers get the best assortment of high-quality vitamins and supplements – at everyday low prices.

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Opportunity

Army Principles Helped This Walmart Manager Move Up the Ranks

Elise Hackstall no longer wears an Army uniform. But to this day, the military values she learned in her years of service still inform her identity.

Take, for example, the honor code she learned as a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy: She’s been known to quote it when talking to her 10-year-old daughter about the importance of honesty.

Then there’s a skill she honed as an Army personnel officer: Be direct and constructive, even when the message you’re conveying might be tough to hear.

For Hackstall, commitment, accountability and leadership weren’t abstract principles but essential traits that propelled her through a military career at Fort Knox.

When she joined Walmart, she quickly noticed a cultural overlap. The company's four basic beliefs had plenty in common with the seven Army values she already knew, sharing an emphasis on respect and integrity.

"A lot of it aligned with who I was," Hackstall says, "so that made Walmart a great fit for me."

That was over 10 years ago. Since then, Hackstall has been promoted multiple times. She started as a shift manager in Columbus, Georgia and became store manager at the biggest Walmart Supercenter in her market. That led her to an opportunity to move into human resources management.

Putting in the (Team) Work

Most recently, she moved back to operations as a developmental market manager, training to supervise teams across multiple stores. This position will give her the skills to apply for market manager positions that open up after her training is complete.

The training, along with her previous position as a market human resources manager across stores in four states, has introduced Hackstall to Walmart employees from a variety of backgrounds.

"It's really helped me to have a bigger appreciation of what kind of people make up our business—people from all over the country who help our stores to be successful," she says.

Hackstall's longstanding interest in human resources work extends back to her Army service at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where she was stationed after graduating from West Point. Hackstall served as a personnel officer and continued in human resources positions after transitioning to the Army Reserve in 2008.

She continued to serve as a reserve officer until this past spring, when she left the military to focus on her career with Walmart.

Hiring Heroes

Walmart is committed to recruiting former military members and matching them with jobs that fit their skills. Hackstall points out three skills that veterans often carry into civilian life: communication, commitment and accountability.

Military people know how to come up with a plan, articulate that plan and carry it out. When a store manager needs someone to run point on Black Friday, the biggest retail day of the year, she says, "If there's a veteran in the store, many times that's the person."

Hackstall adds that Walmart helps to create a network for the veterans it recruits. Recently, she talked with someone who was leaving the military and considering coming to Walmart. What advice did she offer?

"Anybody who joins Walmart will quickly realize whether the company is a fit for them or not," she says. "It's fast-paced, you have to be extremely adaptable, and you can't be rigid in your thought process."

"Limitless" Job Opportunities

Hackstall notes that Walmart offers a broad range of roles that might not be obvious to candidates who think mainly of the day-to-day tasks at a store. From medical services to real estate to information systems, Walmart's size creates all kinds of job types.

"There are limitless opportunities with this company," she says. "Whatever you want to do—short of being a brain surgeon or an astronaut—you can do for Walmart."

For Hackstall, spending time in her new role as developmental market manager fits with her long-term plan to gain experience in multiple facets of Walmart's business. When asked about the future, she doesn't hesitate.

"My end goal is to be the head of HR for the company," she says. "Every single position that I've taken has been to make sure that I am putting myself in a place where I can be competitive for that role."

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Community

In the ‘Nick’ of Time, Walmart Driver Helps Hurricane Baby

The week that Hurricane Michael hit Panama City, Florida, Nick Davis, like many other Walmart drivers, chose to forgo his regular trucking route.

With a shower trailer hitched to the back of his truck, he left his home in LaGrange, Georgia, to meet associates and their families at a local motel where they took shelter from damaged homes in the wake of the storm. That’s where he met Lorrainda, her husband, Wilmer, and their newborn son, Luke – a family in search of shelter after being discharged from the hospital and without a home only three days after Luke was born.

“If that was me and my family, I would want help.” Nick said, remembering the moment he saw Luke and his parents. So that’s what he did, along with several other Walmart truck drivers helping on the ground. “I was there at the right time and I wasn’t going to let them go.”

Nick and the team at the Walmart supercenter on Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach gathered last week to give Luke’s parents the baby shower they deserve, complete with one year of free Parent’s Choice diapers. You can see more of their story in the video above.

Editor’s note: Disaster relief remains one of the top priorities for charitable giving from Walmart, the Walmart Foundation and Sam’s Club, with a combined total of over $12 million contributed to hurricane response and relief just this year.

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