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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Innovation

My Journey From EE to IoT at Walmart’s DFW Tech Hub

Before I joined the team here, I had no idea how innovative a 50-year-old retail company could be.

Like most people, I had interacted with Walmart as a customer in stores and online but had never really thought about the systems and technology functioning behind the scenes to make the whole thing work.

As we officially open our new Walmart Technology satellite HQ in Plano, Texas, this week, I’m reflecting on my evolving, 20-year journey in tech — from building circuit boards to developing software to, now, exploring ways to apply advances in the internet of things (IoT), machine learning, object detection and other emerging technologies in the increasingly blended world of physical-digital retail.

Here’s a great example:

It might seem like a small thing, but spills are a big deal on the sales floor. So we developed a concept to help stores quickly detect spills, building a quick alert system that linked a camera with a Raspberry Pi and sensors that sent photos and data from the sales floor to the cloud. There, we deployed learning algorithms to analyze and build models that helped identify spills.

It wasn’t perfect – but it worked! And even though we won’t bring our prototype to life in stores at scale, we’re able to learn fast and apply those learnings to other projects — like using machine learning and IoT similar to our Raspberry Pi-based sensory concept to cut energy use and cost, all while keeping the temperature comfortable for associates and customers in our stores.

I’ve only been at Walmart four months, but it’s been a blast. I’m still blown away by the many different applications of emerging technology in something as simple as a retail store. But really, retail isn’t simple. It’s complex, the scale is insane and the industry is rapidly transforming. What an awesome time and place to experiment, innovate, fail fast and learn quickly.

It makes my brain happy, and I’m glad it’s happening here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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Health & Wellness

New Digital Health Tools Transforming Diabetes Self-Care

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are more than 30 million in the U.S. living with diabetes. That’s 1 in 11 Americans.

Perhaps even more alarming: Out of the 84 million who have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, 90% don’t know they have it. It’s a growing epidemic with a devastating physical, emotional and financial toll on our communities. And it’s because of this, there’s an ever increasing focus on diabetes prevention, treatment and education.

At one of our nationwide Wellness Day Clinics last month an individual discovered his blood glucose level was a life-threatening 530. An onsite nurse explained the consequences of the test result and he immediately went to a nearby urgent care clinic to initiate care. It is rewarding to think the work we do at Walmart can help people live healthier and even save lives in some cases.

Perhaps most critical for diabetic patients, however, is access to affordable supplies. That’s why I’m excited about our exclusive line of important, everyday essentials. From meters to test strips and insulin, patients are able to save considerably on the items they need most. Because they can afford to test more regularly, this means our patients can better manage their care, and ultimately, lead healthier lives.

Recently, we expanded our line of ReliOn diabetic supplies to include the $18.98 ReliOn Premier BLU blood glucose monitoring system. It features Bluetooth technology that connects the meter to an app on your iOS/Android smartphone, eliminating the need for paper logbooks. With a couple of taps, you can also share your results with your care provider. $14.98 ReliOn Premier Voice is a bilingual (English and Spanish) blood glucose monitoring system that provides audible testing results and is excellent for the blind and low vision diabetic patient. Both of these tools capture clinical data and offer analytics, providing patients with actionable feedback. Most importantly, you don’t have to sacrifice quality for price. All ReliOn blood glucose monitoring systems meet the same strict FDA accuracy standards as the more expensive brands.

The health and safety of our patients is a critical priority, and I love sharing how our team is helping to make a difference in the communities we serve by actively helping them identify and manage their diabetes. Whether it’s through advanced technology, affordable everyday necessities, healthy food, even fitness gear, Walmart is a one-stop-shop for diabetes management. I’m proud of that.

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Innovation

Hundreds More High-Tech Pickup Towers are Headed Your Way

You know how handy vending machines can be when you’re craving a snack or a drink. But have you ever imagined a giant vending machine that could help you get your online orders faster and save you money on shipping?

It may sound like a high-tech dream, but these machines, known as Pickup Towers, became a reality in nearly 200 of our stores over the last year. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, more than half a million orders have been retrieved through the towers since we first introduced them.

Because of this success, we’re rapidly expanding this pickup program by adding more than 500 additional Pickup Towers to stores across the country, bringing the total to more than 700 by the end of the year. With this expansion, Pickup Towers will be available to nearly 40% of the U.S. population.

Our customers have been clear: They love the Pickup Tower. But, they also told us they wanted the ability to retrieve larger items the same way. That’s why every new Pickup Tower will come with Pickup Lockers, making it just as easy to pick up that new TV as it is to pick up a new baseball glove.

But why stop there? We’ve launched all kinds of innovative services for busy families, including Online Grocery Pickup, Pickup Discount, Mobile Express Scan & Go, our growing grocery delivery service and a new partnership with Google Express. We’re even testing additional concepts, similar to the Pickup Tower, that could make picking up your online order even better in the future.

As we continue to innovate, we’ll keep listening to our associates and customers to improve the Walmart experience – and who knows? – maybe next time you’re in a Walmart store you’ll be greeted by the newest way to save time and money.

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Community

This School-Run Garden is Helping Nourish an Arizona Community

Moencopi Day School in Tuba City, Arizona, has offered a garden learning program for over 10 years. But it was just last spring that student-grown produce first appeared on this elementary school’s cafeteria lunch line—a Hopi Nation first.

That special lunch was important for Moencopi Day School. For the fifth graders who made it happen, the impact came over months of learning and preparation. Guided by Steven Lomadafkie, a science and environmental educator at the school, and two AmeriCorps service members recruited and trained by FoodCorps, an organization connecting kids to healthier foods and the natural world, the students planted and tended lettuce, gaining skills and pride in the resulting harvest.

Through washing the greens and planning a school-wide party, the students built a connection with cafeteria staff—who saw the infectious enthusiasm kids could have for a vegetable. By modeling positive eating behaviors, these fifth graders became healthy food champions, spreading the joy of good nutrition to their peers. It’s the sum of these ongoing, school-wide experiences that shapes children’s eating habits and their lifelong benefits.

A belief in hands-on learning is something that Moencopi Day School is embracing in its second year of partnership with FoodCorps and local nonprofit Moenkopi Developers Corporation. This year’s FoodCorps service member, Curt Cebula, is building on last year’s progress, expanding greenhouse lessons to all grades and increasing the frequency of taste tests. “The kids love him,” Steven says of Curt. “Sometimes he’ll get 10 hugs before a class starts.”

Curt says he sees once-reluctant students now open to trying new foods—especially when they’ve had a hand in making them. Some parents have even told Steven their kids have asked to start a garden at home.

Moencopi’s parent liaison, Trinity Honahnie, says Curt has been instrumental in engaging the community, another critical ingredient in the FoodCorps recipe. His support of a new school-wide take-home meal kit program, featuring traditional Hopi foods and recipes, has helped parents connect with what’s happening at school while reinforcing healthy habits at home. A taste test he led at a parent-teacher conference sparked a new energy.

“It was just a turnaround overnight,” Trinity says. “Curt has really brought some light to our greenhouse program.”

Principals, teachers, and parents understand that this type of positive change is important. FoodCorps strives to make its program effective, accessible and relevant to all schools. This year it introduced a new series of elementary school hands-on food lessons, each tied to national academic standards, which teachers can adapt and weave into classroom lessons. Thanks to support from funders like the Walmart Foundation, this year FoodCorps will reach 160,000 kids around the country.

At the end of the day, FoodCorps serves to make it easier for schools to do what they do best: give students the nourishment they need, in body and mind, to thrive. It’s the passion of local leaders, like Steven, that makes the impact we seek truly possible.

“This is probably the best job I’ve ever had,” he said.

Erica Curry, director of program resources and practices at FoodCorps, oversees the development of resources for FoodCorps’ service program, including a new series of nutrition education lessons that makes it easier for schools to integrate hands-on nutrition education into standard curricula. FoodCorps is proud to be supported nationally by the Walmart Foundation as together we seek to reach children with high quality, impactful nutrition education that sets kids up for healthy futures.

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