In the spirit of good health and friendly competition, Healthy Central Florida (HCF) created the Walk90 Challenge, a 90-day friendly walking competition using an online platform to count steps. It began on November 1 and concluded on January 29 and collectively, the 104 participants walked 36,633,879 total steps. That’s equivalent to 6.2 trips across North America! All totaled they burned 1,648,525 calories and lost 471 pounds.
The winner, a woman from Winter Springs, lost 28 pounds while walking the most steps, 2,826,757, or over 1,184 miles! That’s like walking from Key West to New York City! For this heroic effort, Keri Caffrey wins a free one-year membership to RDV Sportsplex generously offered by RDV Sportsplex. Below is a Q&A with our winner, Ms. Caffrey. (HCF is a community-based initiative founded by Florida Hospital and the Winter Park Health Foundation to help create the healthiest community in the nation.)
What did it take to win this challenge?
To be at the top of the leader board required 90 days of walking with no rest days — it was good discipline. I think I only had one day under 20,000 steps. Over the course of 90 days I have walked out plantar spasms, sore calf muscles, pain in both knees (wore a knee brace on one or the other at least a half dozen days). I’ve nursed some painful calluses, but thank goodness I never got blisters! The reward for 90 solid days of walking 8+ miles is that I built speed and stamina… and lost a lot of weight.
Were you watching the other walkers in the competition? How did their step totals affect your strategy?
In November I couldn’t get close to Fred’s (last year’s winner and this year’s leader at the outset) step counts and had resigned to waive bye-bye to him. But I caught up to him over the holidays and by January I was able to put in a long streak of incredible days. By then managing my time was more of a concern than the physical ability to walk it. After doing 30,000 – 40,000 steps a day for a whole month, 20,000 steps a day is a completely realistic base goal—it’s easy to achieve and gives me the daily calorie burn I need to maintain my fitness and weight without sacrifice.
Besides winning a free membership to RDV Sportsplex and enjoying bragging rights as the winner, what else have you gained from this effort?
There are definitely more benefits I’ve received from this. In order to carve out the four to five hours I needed to walk, I got up before dawn and I dumped some bad, time-sucking habits. The early start energized me and my mornings became more productive. By the time I went out for a midday walk, I’d gotten more done than I used to get done by 3 p.m. I’ve never been a TV watcher. Instead, I traded evenings on Facebook for evenings of walking. I will keep those time management habits, especially the morning walk (maybe not so early, though) and the after dinner walk, as they have become a welcome routine.
The other Dog Moms (friends from the neighborhood with whom I walk my dog) also got a life-changing experience from this. They pushed themselves and have experienced the benefits.
I know you were active in recruiting neighbors and creating a team. How did walking with a team affect your journey?
A great feature of the Walk90 is the ability to create teams. My friend Lisa and I jumped on this right away as a way to encourage other neighbors to join the challenge. Being part of a team was a major motivator for Colleen to keep increasing her steps —she made incredible progress, starting with a goal of 7,000 steps a day in the beginning and having a goal of 30,000 steps in the final weeks. Those first few weeks her calves were seizing and her toes would bleed, but she was out there for the team! Our team— Dog Moms— walked over 8.1 million steps. Almost half of the total steps walked by Central Florida walkers were walked by four women. Having them to walk with helped me get many more steps than I would have if I had to walk alone all the time. There were many days I was ready to quit, or I had made my goal, and a Dog Mom would show up on my last lap and need a few thousand steps, so I’d just keep walking.
What did you think of the weight loss aspect (which wasn’t our primary objective)?
I had begun my weight loss journey in mid-September. This challenge came at a perfect time, giving me a lot of momentum and making it so much more fun! Thank you for that! The 90 day timeframe was perfect for establishing healthy patterns. Holding it over the holidays was brilliant! My streak of high-step days over the holidays was totally about being able to enjoy all the rich food — I wasn’t even thinking about the competition. From a weight loss perspective, the Dog Moms found that 20,000 steps was the threshold to begin seeing results (along with food management, but not deprivation).
Do you have any suggestions to make it better or more fun next year?
We could do a group SunRail walk in the evening or during the holidays when people are off work on a weekday (or who knows, maybe those trains will run on weekends some day). That’s something that could work for different levels of walkers, too. Start at Maitland and go downtown – people who don’t want to walk as far could stop and catch a train back at any intermediate station. I’m happy to offer route planning!
HCF loves this idea, said Jill Hamilton Buss, HCF Executive Director, and it is already planning to incorporate this next year. “By the way, Keri and Lisa took SunRail from her Longwood Station to Church Street and then walked to Maitland Station, just to get steps in one day. Bravo for her creativity and tenacity. She wanted to win and did what it took.”
Healthy Central Florida will be looking at additional ways to use the online “Walker Tracker” technology to encourage more people to walk and build a walking community. Stay tuned!