NFC Participant Feature: Adams is Rising

By: Ryan Lucas, USABA Contributor

Like gravitational pull, the urge to give up brings a person down.

Pipi Adams now defies the nagging tug of that force, using fitness ownership and self-will to keep rising, relying on outside energy—WE Fit Wellness staff and the Anthem/USABA National Fitness Challenge, in particular—to boost her upward trajectory.

The lesson came with a little sweat and a bit of lung pain. On March 18, at the Lucky Laces 5K/10K in Denver, she removed the added weight of rank and standings and just kept ascending—all the way to the finish line.

“That race, I learned that it was my race,” Adams, a 36-year-old Denver resident with a visual impairment, said. “Whether we were walking or jogging, we were talking, and I kept saying I wanted to see how everyone else was doing, if they’d finished yet. I had this idea in my head that I was going to come in last, and I was really worried about that.

“She (guide runner Jennifer Johnson) was like, ‘This is YOUR race. You’re not here to race against these people. You’re here for YOU.’ That was something I really took to heart.”

In the past, including with the first two iterations of the National Fitness Challenge—a program that allows USABA to partner with agencies across the nation, empowering youth and adults with visual impairments to improve their fitness levels—Adams said she might have stopped, finding contentment without finishing the race. But with that reinforcement from her guide runner, she kept moving.

“She really encouraged me to keep going,” Adams said of Johnson. “I was almost overheated because I didn’t know what to wear; I was in pants and a long-sleeved shirt because it was cold that morning. But she said, ‘Even if you walk it, we’re going to finish it,’ and that was really encouraging.

“When I did finish, I felt amazing. I was like, ‘I just did my first 10K!’

Adams added a 5K finish on April 23 at the Cherry Creek Sneak in Denver. While a cold dampened her drive to complete the 10K, she continued the approach of individual-centered progress she had set in March.

Rather than dwell on her position among the other competitors with visual impairments that day, she focused within, pushing herself with the thought that she belonged to a team. That motivational tactic helped Adams cut 30 seconds of her per-mile pace.

“It wasn’t a comparison; it was more like, ‘I hope the others are enjoying their race and doing well,’ that kind of thing,” she said of wondering about the other WE Fit Wellness runners. “It was more camaraderie.”

That solidarity also stems from the Fitbit Flex 2, which the National Fitness Challenge provides to every participant and its many interactive functions. Adams synchs her Fitbit with other WE Fit Wellness members’ to gauge her progress. Jessica Beecham—the program director at WE Fit Wellness, a Denver nonprofit organization that seeks to provide wellness solutions for all members—is Adams’ biggest source of encouragement.

“I do really well with that,” Adams said. “Having the access helps keep you motivated. Jessica’s my friend on there, so I can see how she’s been doing for the week.

“It just helps to keep me motivated because she runs, I don’t know, four million miles a week.”

Adams, who owns her own nanny business and serves as secretary of the National Federation of the Blind’s Mile High chapter, receives inspiration from another important source. Her 8-year-old daughter, Savannah, is a guide-runner-in-training, having completed the Lucky Laces and Cherry Creek Sneak with her mother.

“You might say my fitness is for me first, but a lot of it is because I want to be around in the future for her,” Adams said. “I want to be in my daughter’s life for a very long time. Before I really started working out, I knew that if I didn’t change my ways, I wouldn’t be here in the future.”

By the year’s end, Adams would like to have Savannah at her side as her sole guide runner—although her daughter may need some training, too.

“She really enjoys it until about the last mile, and then she complains,” Adams said, laughing. “She also goes out there in shoes not appropriate for running, so it’s funny.

“She’s been really good, though, until about the last mile. She’s enjoyed herself and enjoyed being there with me; she’s just gotten tired.”

In-race fatigue aside, Adams strives to teach Savannah the magnitude of fitness as a lifelong benefit.

“Obesity runs in my family, and I want it to be her lifestyle as a child, to be active and healthy,” Adams said. “I don’t want her to struggle the way I did because I didn’t have that as a child. I always ate processed, crappy food, and exercise was never a priority. I really want to instill that in her at a young age, the idea that taking care of your body is really important because it’s really hard at 36 to do it now.”

To accentuate that point, Adams is also preparing to take on another major life challenge. This summer, in addition to the work for her business and the once-a-week class she teaches at the Colorado Center for the Blind, she will return to school, pursuing a holistic nutrition degree and chef certification at the National Therapy Institute in Denver.

As she seeks to achieve other goals for 2017—completing a full 5K without walking, working out in 45-minute increments six days per week—Adams hopes to help kindle the blazing light of inspiration in others.

“The first step is to just move—get out there and move,” she said. “When you’re just beginning, you don’t have to go out there and run a 5K; you can go walk five minutes as a start. You can work at your level and just move, just get going.”

And no matter what, Adams will continue to believe in the driving power of self-ownership in fitness.

“There are people out there who are much better than I am, so it’s a work in progress,” Adams, who also does yoga and is taking a taekwondo class, said. “But I just keep reminding myself that this is MY yoga practice or MY yoga class, this is MY taekwondo practice.”

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired partners with United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) on National Fitness Challenge: Kick-off Event

By: Kristine Seljenes, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired - Austin, TX

On March 1st, 2017 in Austin, Texas, the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) joined forces with the Girls School of Austin for the third annual 1K Dynamic Duo Dash event. This 1K paired students that are blind or visually impaired with a guide from The Girls’ School of Austin to complete the run/walk. This all-inclusive race was for athletes of all fitness levels and included over 200 participants.

The event took place on the TSBVI campus, starting at the main gym and encompassing the entire campus. Teachers and volunteers coordinated the event as family members cheered on runners, joggers, and walkers from the sidelines. TSBVI Superintendent Bill Daugherty, TSBVI Principal Miles Fain, and GSA Principal Lisa Schmitt were in attendance to start the race heats. Sponsors provided funds for each participating student to receive a Dynamic Duo Dash t-shirt and a race medal.

The event was also the kick-off event for the official national partnership with United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and Amerigroup Foundation on the 2017 National Fitness Challenge. In this partnership, 25 TSBVI students were given Fitbit Flex 2 wearables to be able to track their daily steps. This partnership is designed to encourage and increase physical activity levels of participants and the 1K event was the perfect setting for the kickoff event. This is TSBVI’s 2nd year to participate in the USABA National Fitness Challenge.

Students wearing the Fitbits were excited to be able to track their steps in the Duo Dash and amazed at the steps they were able to accrue collectively (over 33,000 steps in just that race alone!). Local members of the Amerigroup Foundation volunteered at the event, handing out waters mid-race and at the finish line for thirsty participants. Everyone involved enjoyed a day of high fitness levels, gorgeous weather, and beautiful partnerships designed to have a lasting impact on everyone involved. The 3rd annual guided run was a huge success.

Anthem Foundation and USABA Partner to Inspire Fitness

March 9, 2017

Anthem Foundation has once again graciously awarded the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) grant funding for the National Fitness Challenge. This will be the fifth iteration of the USABA-Anthem National Fitness Challenge.

“The Anthem Foundation continues to empower and inspire youth and adults across the nation who are blind and visually impaired by supporting the National Fitness Challenge,” said USABA’s Executive Director, Mark Lucas. “We are honored and excited to once again partner with the Anthem Foundation to cultivate a healthier community.”

Established in 2011, the National Fitness Challenge has impacted the lives of more than 3,000 people who are blind and visually impaired across the U.S. The overall goal remains the same every year, to raise the physical activity levels of each participant to the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - 30 minutes of moderate physical activity and 10,000 steps per day.

Research has consistently shown that individuals who participate in regular physical activity to improve their health have higher energy levels, a lower risk of health-related diseases, improved psychological health, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, because of the numerous barriers and misconceptions about their abilities, more than half of those who are blind and visually impaired in the United States do not participate in even a limited physical fitness routine.

As it has in previous years’ National Fitness Challenge programs, technology will play a key role in motivating and tracking success. Grant funding from Anthem Foundation will provide a Fitbit Flex 2 wearable to each participant. The wearable technology provides an accessible way for National Fitness Challenge participants to set goals and monitor their progress. It also introduces a level of social interaction with other participants as the 13 agencies will be competing with their fellow participants on active minutes and number of steps each month. Top participants at each agency will be awarded prizes to further encourage healthy habits.

USABA will partner with 13 agencies across the nation to recruit participants and provide resources and sports and physical activity opportunities to reach their daily goals. To support participants in each city, partnering agencies will offer programming in activities like walking, tandem cycling, rowing, yoga and goalball, a Paralympic team sport for blind and visually impaired athletes. Some agencies will also be leading participants through a couch to 5k program for participation in a local 5k race during the challenge. During the 9-month program, USABA will also work with agencies to coordinate a USABA Paralympic Day in which members of the local communities will be invited to participate in sport programming specifically for people who are blind and visually impaired. Throughout the program, Anthem employees from local offices will have opportunities to engage with partnering agencies and participants by volunteering at various events and or planned programs.

As the year progresses, check and social media (#NFChallenge2017) for agency highlights and individual success stories!

USABA is partnering with the following agencies on the 2017 National Fitness Challenge:

• Atlanta – Georgia Blind Sports Association
• Austin – Texas School for the Blind
• Cincinnati – Cincinnati Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired
• Cleveland –Cleveland Sight Center
• Denver – WE Fit Wellness
• Fort Wayne – Turnstone Center
• Indianapolis – USABA Indianapolis
• Knoxville – Club Vibes
• Los Angeles – Junior Blind of America
• Memphis – Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes-Memphis
• Sacramento – Sacramento Society for the Blind
• San Francisco – Lighthouse for the Blind
• St. Louis – National Federation for the Blind-Missouri