When LaToscia James was recruited to work for Trek Bicycles in 2009, she saw it as just that–work. Unlike most employees at Trek, who saw the job at the Wisconsin-based cycling company as a way to combine their career with their passion for bikes, James wasn’t much of a rider.
“Trek’s CFO was developing the finance department and recruited me to work as a senior financial analyst,” says James, 44. “He said there was nothing like working at Trek.” James quickly learned her CFO was right. The bike brand has built a vibe that parallels the feeling of a weekly group ride. “Every day, you’ll see the masses going out for bike rides during lunch or going for a run on the roads and trails,” James says. “The culture at Trek is very active, and everyone pushes each other be their best.”
When James showed a burgeoning interest in triathlon, her colleagues instantly joined Team LaToscia. “I had to re-learn how to ride a bike, because I hadn’t ridden since I was a kid,” James says. “I didn’t know how to swim. I remember being terrified a month out from my first race because I couldn’t swim the half-mile within the time limit.”
But with the help of her co-workers, James has since raced several sprint triathlons, a 70.3, and a full Ironman. “I do lots of lunchtime rides with folks from the finance department. Trek’s head chef, Matthew Lovely, taught me how to manage Madison’s hilly Ironman course. And my manager, Anne Marie Peterson, was most supportive of all. I lost track of the number of rides, runs, and lake swims she did with me.”
The most important lesson James learned about triathlon had little to do with swim, bike, or run–rather, it was the power of people. Today, James returns the support she received–not just to new employees at Trek, but to the triathlon community at large. When she isn’t at work, she can be found on rides with the Milwaukee chapter of Black Girls Do Bike—a nationwide network of women who volunteer to lead group rides and introduce the joy of cycling to women of color. “The leaders of that chapter, and the national organization, are so inspiring,” James says. “The amount of time, effort, passion, and care they put into the cause of getting African-American women out on their bikes is incredible. That is a group that I want to be an example for and advocate.”
The Business of Training
Want to create a culture of fitness at work? Take a page out of James’ playbook.
- Pick an Event
- “When I trained for the Racine Half and Ironman Wisconsin, I had a ton of support. There was a group from Trek that had signed up for the event, so we trained together,” James says.
- Keep It Fun
- “We all have the gadgets that can kick out enough data to make your head spin,” laughs James. “But when we ride together, the focus is on enjoying what we are doing.”
- Think Outside the Box
- “Last winter, someone had the idea to build an ice rink at the trailhead across the street,” James says. “Within two weeks, the rink was built and Trek had an impromptu hockey league during lunch.”
- Be Flexible and Supportive
- “There are times when I fall off the training wagon,” James says. “But when it’s time, my coworkers push me back on the wagon, and I get back at it.”