Senior challenge at Highlands Ranch community leads to 4,156 miles walked

VI Highlands Ranch gets creative in encouraging fitness and health

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With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to wreak havoc on everyday lives, being a fitness coordinator at an active living facility for senior citizens can be challenging. For Donna Way, the fitness coordinator at VI Highlands Ranch, the challenge has forced her to get more creative.

Over the summer, Way said, she decided to create the Colorado Trails challenge, pushing residents to take steps whether virtually for health reasons, or live and in person through walking, hiking, biking or swimming.

Way aimed to get 40 participants in the challenge, but got 36 signed up and separated into four teams. All four teams combined for 4,156 miles of hiking in the 30-day challenge.

While all teams did great, Way said, CT Trekkers and the Colorado Trailblazers stepped up and got competitive.

“They got so into this challenge that I had to tell them a couple of times not to hurt themselves or overdo it,” Way said.

Heading into the final week of competition, the Trailblazers were leading with a healthy lead over the Trackers.

Way allowed some extra credit opportunities in the final days, telling teams they could attend the regular VI fitness classes and steps would count towards the team totals. By the end of the final week, the Trackers took advantage of the extra credit, winning 1,234 to 1,212 miles.

Nine-year VI residents Mary and Stan Daton were part of the Trekkers. The couple said this was a great challenge that got them moving and meeting people and was entertaining.

“We learned a lot about people here, especially how competitive they can be,” Mary said. “The exercise was great, and since I will never be able to walk on the actual Colorado trails, having these videos was great.”

Way said a lot of the competition was virtual, as she utilized YouTube to help participants feel like they were on Colorado's trails.

Stan said the videos were engaging, helping the couple not only get motivated to move, but also see parts of Colorado that were beautiful.

On the second-place team were Alice and Tom Atkins. Still taking some shots at the competition, Tom said the Trailblazers definitely had the contest in the bag until Way decided to offer the extra-credit options.

“(Way) gave those extra bonus miles in that last week and that worked for them, helping them beat us,” Tom said. “But it was all in good fun.”

Residents at VI for just over two years, Alice and Tom agreed the challenge was an opportunity to be creative in getting more exercise. Alice enjoys walking and Tom enjoys biking. Since Way found a way to calculate bike riding into steps, they both participated through the fitness programs they enjoy.

“A challenge like this is really a good way to encourage residents to maintain their health,” Alice said. “It was a good physical and mental challenge that we all really had fun doing.”

Still, the winners got the reward. The Trekkers were treated to a pizza party that featured beer and wine.

After seeing the engagement, enthusiasm and level of fitness achieved during the Colorado Trails challenge, Way said she will look at other ways to do more in the future.

Tom said he is looking forward to the possible challenge of taking on the 14,000-foot climbs through a virtual experience in the future.

For all the negatives from the pandemic, Way said, getting more creative with encouraging active health and fitness has been a positive in using video technology and social platforms that allow residents to see the world from the comfort of home.

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