Meet Embedded Health Coach Dr. Bud Harris – Engaging Truckers’ Heads, Hearts and Hamstrings in Triathlons

Friday, October 12th, 2012
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

This month’s inside look at a health coach, the choices he made on the road to success, and the challenges ahead.

Dr. Bud Harris, cWC, cPT, Senior Wellness Coach, Wellness Coaches USA

HIN: Can you tell us a little about your background after high school and how you got into health coaching?

After high school I joined the United States Air Force (USAF) as an electronic technician. I lived and worked in Turkey, Sicily, Morocco, Greece and Germany. After 10 years of USAF service I became a licensed electrician; I’d developed an interest in safety and health and began running shop safety committees. I remained in the safety and health field while pursuing my master’s degree and eventually completed a doctorate in safety engineering with an emphasis on health and wellness promotion in the safety role. It was my doctoral research that led me to wellness coaching and to the WellCoaches organization. I have now been preventing injuries for the past four years instead of investigating them.

Have you received any health coaching certifications? If so, please list these certifications.

I am a certified WellCoach (cWC), and I recently became WELCOA faculty, having completed five of their workplace university certifications.

Has there been a defining moment in your career? Perhaps when you knew you were on the right road?

You bet! When I was managing the Health and Safety program at Tyco Electronics PI, I volunteered to take over the wellness role from a short-staffed human resources department, believing that a fit workforce was a safer workforce. I developed stretch breaks, started an indoor walking program, organized plant sports leagues and increased membership in the on-site gym from 200 to 500. My “Self Matters” initiative was nominated for the Tyco International Safety and Health Excellence Award.

In brief, describe your organization.

I work for Wellness Coaches USA (WCUSA), an on-site face-to-face wellness coaching company in the United States. I am embedded in the workplace and have an office in a trucking terminal in Portland, Ore. WCUSA can be found in all industries. For example, They have five coaches in the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas and 45 coaches in trucking terminals across the United States for my client alone.

What are two or three important concepts or rules that you follow in health coaching?

  • My belief is that nobody is broken and that we are all on a path, and that some need more guidance than others to stay on a healthier path.
  • While being a good listener is paramount, my goal and role is to inspire my clients to develop their own wellness vision by taking baby steps towards their best self. My motto is: Engage the head, then the heart and finally the hamstrings.
  • Unless there is a strong reason against it, procrastination, mediocrity and complacency have a tendency to creep back into one’s life.

What is the single most successful thing that your company is doing now?

The Certified Stretch Leader program is a peer based stretch program I developed in 2010, and modeled after the one I was involved with at Intel Corporation. In the freight industry, many truckers experience lower back issues and soft tissue injuries. Besides teaching proper lifting techniques, I instruct all of my trucker clients to engage their core and increase their range of motion in order to decrease the risk of injury. We do a series of eight stretches that target and prevent the top three injuries, which are lower back, shoulders and hands and wrists. I have certified 21 peer stretch leaders (including truckers, mechanics, and supervisors) who lead stretching at all of the shift safety start-up meetings. I have documented this program and it has spread across our clients’ trucking network and many of my peer wellness coaches for this client are using it to prevent injuries.

What is the single most effective workflow, process, tool or form that you are using in coaching today?

Each month, a health promotion topic is hand delivered to all clients, at which time clients can ask questions about the topic or anything else they are interested in: gym membership, diets or some muscle pain they may be having. Oftentimes, it is during these brief meetings that formal consultations and eventual coaching conversations are initiated.

Do you see a trend or path that you have to lock onto for 2012/2013?

Oh yes! Out of pocket healthcare costs are a big concern for many of my clients. So digging deeper into the Affordable Healthcare Act is on my short list. In addition, gaining the coaching skills to lead people to the obvious conclusion that taking preventive care of themselves is wiser than focusing on the current sick care industry is another priority.

What is the most satisfying thing about being a health coach?

When my clients move from the contemplation phase to the action phase. I have inspired many clients to complete either a full sprint triathlon or part of one on co-worker teams. We are in our fourth year of Truckers to Triathletes (T2T), a program I developed in 2009. It started with one trucker and on July 29, 2012, we entered seven T2T teams at the Amica Mid Summer Triathlon and took home five team medals.

In fact, the T2T program received national and company exposure. On October 15, 2012 I flew to our WCUSA headquarters in Pennsylvania and received the first annual WCUSA Coaches Excellence Award for Innovation and Creativity. Pilot Flying J, the largest truck fueling stop in the United States, sponsored me and four of my T2T trucker athletes to fly to Anderson, S.C. to race in the S.C. Rev3 Triathlon, competing against the best triathletes in the world. It really has taken me by surprise. It all started with coaching one trucker to do a triathlon. Trucker John lost 50 pounds, and (the better story) his son also lost 50 pounds as they trained together for triathlons.

What is the greatest challenge of health coaching, and how are you working to overcome this challenge?

The time constraints for sure. Most of my coaching sessions last two to five minutes as trucking is a fast-paced business. Our company has an internal coach training program and all of the coaches are enrolled in the CoachWell program. We get detailed training on what they call Laser Coaching which oftentimes leads to longer consults off the clock.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Hemet, Calif. but grew up in a small town in the Sierra Nevada high desert on Lake Isabella, Calif. in Kern County.

What college(s) did you attend?

I spent 20 years in night college and university while working full-time with a family. After I dropped out of Bakersfield Junior College in 1979 I joined the USAF. After five years I started night school and received my AAS in electronics systems technology through the community college of the Air Force. My BAS in managerial leadership is from Northwest Christian College and my master’s degree in organizational management is from the University of Phoenix online campus. My Ph.D. in safety engineering is from Kennedy-Western University.

Is there a moment from that time that stands out?

Yes, when I made the decision to focus my doctoral dissertation on workplace wellness and its affect on worker safety. That decision alone is what shaped my destiny and led me to WellCoaches and WCUSA. I love what I do now.

Are you married? Do you have children?

Yes, I married a beautiful Danish girl, then Marie Christine Hansen. I met Marie while I was stationed on the Isle of Crete, Greece. I was in the USAF and she was on vacation. We met at a disco and were married 18 months later on the USAF base in Crete and later with both families and friends attending in Copenhagen, Denmark. I have two daughters, Erika (24), who was born in Denmark, and Elisia (21). Erika is a dental hygienist and Elisia is mom to my granddaughter Payton (18 months) and will give birth to twin boys shortly.

What is your favorite hobby and how did it develop in your life?

Biking! When I was very young, about five years old, I would visit my grandfather over the summer. He would go to the wrecking yard and bring home piles of old bikes. He would then take my little brother Donie and me to the Thrifty Drugstore to buy tubes and tires and we would fix the bikes up and put them out on the street to sell for $5. Then when I was 13, a local bike shop went bankrupt and my brother and I bought out their spare parts for $300 and started B&D Bike Shop. We then followed what my gramps had taught us. My dad took us to the junkyard and we bought a pile of used bikes and refurbished them and sold them out of our garage. That was fun and kept us busy on weekends while earning spending money.

Today I have a small fleet of bikes in my garage, do triathlons and enjoy biking with my wife and daughters often. I started the City of Hillsboro Parks and Recreation Bike Program in 2005 and in 2008 REI granted me 10 very nice mountain bikes that I haul around in a city trailer and use to teach a youth program I developed called “Ready Riders Rock (R3).” As an Eagle boy scout, I added components of trail stewardship and responsibility, teach proper stretching, hydration and nutrition and bike maintenance. All grads receive a diploma and are expected to mentor these skills within their peer circles. I am also the part-time biking program director for Parks and Recreation and for the third year took the 10 mountain bikes up to our local state park for the international “Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day” (IMBA) and teach kids the art of trail riding in both a positive and safe way.

Is there a book you recently read or movie you saw that you would recommend?

Yes, both. The 2003 documentary “The Secret” does a great job of simplifying the universal Law of Attraction which says: what we think about we will bring about. So, if we are always thinking about how bad things are, we will attract more of that into our lives. This law or concept is really hard to teach as most people believe their thoughts are on autopilot and that they have no control over them, when in reality we can choose to focus on our goals or upcoming family events. But most people don’t.

The book, “Why our Health Matters” by Dr. Andrew Weil, is my other recommendation. The book details the current sickcare system of medicine practiced in the United States and paints a picture of how integrative medicine is a better way, using low tech strategies like wellness coaching and yoga for those with depression, diabetes, obesity and hypertension instead of costly high tech surgeries and medicine. It is a must read for those that want to hear an MD discuss a better future and show us what that system would look like.

Any additional comments?

I invite you to visit my coaching Web site.

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