by Karen Brune Mathis
For much of the year, Mike Ryan deals with some pretty tough customers.
Ryan, 47, is the head athletic trainer and physical therapist for the Jacksonville Jaguars, a job he’s held since 1994 before the team took the field for the first time in 1995.
His job is to help keep the professional athletes in good health to stay on the field through what Ryan calls the proper means, “not through medication.”
That means “getting them stronger, getting them healthier, to prevent small problems from becoming big problems,” said Ryan.
Now he’s planning to take his message and skills to the corporate sector this spring and summer.
“Think of the ripple effect of that, if people get healthier and health costs go down. The system is better, the morale is better,” he said. “That ripple effect goes as far as it wants to go.”
Ryan said that healthy employees save money. He said at least $45 billion is lost each year in health care costs, lost time and “presenteeism,” which is the cost of lower productivity on the job by employees who are not healthy.
“If people are at work and are not happy and healthy, they are creating more of a bog in the system than if they were not there,” said Ryan.
Ryan is the keynote speaker for the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce Health Council meeting at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Brighton Bay along Sweetwater Parkway.
His presentation, “How to motivate your office to get healthy,” will include some of the factors he will incorporate into his corporate consulting.
“They wanted me to focus on the motivational factors and success that I’ve had with professional athletes” and how those translate into the work force, said Ryan.
“The health council knows that fitness and good health in society and the workplace is a high priority,” he said.
Ryan also said it’s important to walk the walk or, in his case, run it, bike it and swim it.
Ryan has finished six Ironman Triathlon competitions from 1994 to 2009.
The Ironman Triathlon began 33 years ago, in February 1978, with the first swim/bike/run endurance race of a 2.4-mile rough-water swim, a 112-mile bike course and a 26.2-mile marathon.
In 2009, Ryan, at the age of 46, said he finished with a personal best of 10 hours and 36 minutes at the event in Austria.
He’s completed other marathons and triathlons, as well as the “Empire State Building Run-Up” four times (86 flights of stairs, 1,576 steps) and two times with the “Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona, Spain.
With more free time in the spring, Ryan wants to work with companies and their employees. “Helping others stay healthy is part of my mission statement,” he said.
Ryan said there’s a clear common denominator.
“Everyone wants to be healthier,” he said. But, “there is a lot of confusion out there in how to do it. It is not an exact science.”
His goal is to simplify it.
“Nutrition is a big part. Eating healthy is not easy, and I think making things simple and getting people the answers they need is important, he said.
“The trick is with anyone, helping them to find their motivation,” he said.
“It is easy for someone to stand up and say, ‘we want to do this.’ The successful people are the ones who can figure out each person’s motivation,” he said.
It’s likely that every employee in a company has a different motivation, whether it’s losing weight, dealing with chronic pain, desiring more energy or “revitalizing their youthful spirit to pick up a sport they played in high school or in college.”
Ryan said professional athletes are highly motivated, but they, too, need help at times to find their motivation.
As an athlete, Ryan asks whether the motivation is pleasure or pain. “Are you going to hang a carrot to go after or hit yourself with a stick?”
Ryan, who is married with a 2-year-old son, grew up in Massachusetts, earned a bachelor’s degree in athletic training at Central Connecticut State University and a physical therapy degree at the University of Connecticut.
Ryan was the assistant athletic trainer and physical therapist with the New York Giants from 1988-94 before joining the Jaguars.
He has been a physical therapist consultant since 1988, including as a private rehabilitation clinic therapist, lecturer, author and speaker.
Ryan intends to launch a new website this month.
“I am just finding ways to help companies with their efforts in promoting wellness,” said Ryan.