National Fitness Challenge Update

By Michael Kinoshita

For the past five months, Society for the Blind, along with 12 other organizations from around the country, has been involved in a nationwide fitness challenge hosted by the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and the Anthem Foundation. This event has been coined the National Fitness Challenge (NFC ), and its goal is to promote fitness in the blind/low vision community. Greg DeWall (Orientation & Mobility Instructor at Society for the Blind), and I (Intern from William Jessup University) have been collaborating to organize events for the 25 National Fitness Challenge participants from Society for the Blind.

So far, events have been very popular among the participants. The NFC kicked off with a tandem bike ride at Garcia Bend Park, Sacramento, on June 3. This event involved a fully-sighted rider steering from the front seat of a two-person bike, while the blind/low vision rider pedals from the back seat. This event was popular among the participants and the volunteer pilots from the Davis Bike Club, so they scheduled another ride on July 1 at Garcia Bend Park. Judo, a form of martial arts involving grappling and throwing your opponent to the ground, then trying to pin your opponent to the ground for 20 seconds, has also been popular. The NFC participants thoroughly enjoyed working with Greg (former Paralympian) and Sensei Sophak from Capital City Judo, Sacramento, on June 24 and July 15.

Of course, there is still more to come in the National Fitness Challenge. August kicked off with an archery clinic hosted by Society for the Blind’s Board Vice President, and silver medalist at the 2007 Paralympic Archery World Championships, Janice Walth, and a third tandem riding event at Garcia Bend Park is scheduled on August 19. This is also the month where participants will begin preparing for the Urban Cow 5K. Participants in the National Fitness Challenge are required to participate in a local 5K run/walk, and Greg and I have provided them with the “Couch to 5K” program to get started.

However, there is more to the National Fitness Challenge than just trying out new sports. Greg and I have been working hard to provide the participants with many opportunities to help them get in shape, and are currently working with an organization called BlindAlive to provide workout material that will allow the participants access to instructional workout recordings that will allow them to do guiding workouts in their own homes. These instructional videos are highly detailed yet simple, and are a great resource for those who are blind/low vision and want to work out at home. Their free podcast also provides information about fitness and nutrition that will help improve/maintain a healthy lifestyle.

There has been a lot of improvement and dedication among individual participants. One of the participants who has stood out the most is Lenell H. He has been putting in a big effort to come to events and to get in 10,000 steps a day. He has shown up to almost every event and has steadily improved his step count over the course of the NFC. Two other participants who have gotten Greg’s attention are Regina B. and Andrea T. They have both been getting their steps in consistently and have made some improvements as well. They have also been making a very good effort to show up to events when they can, and really take the National Fitness Challenge seriously.

The National Fitness Challenge will end in November after all events have wrapped up, so there is still a lot of time for participants to continue getting in their steps and participate in events. Greg and I are hoping to continue to see participants working hard and showing up to events, and we hope that the National Fitness Challenge will have a lasting impact on participants, encouraging them to live an active and healthy lifestyle even after the NFC’s completion.