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Off Season Challenge 2017

For the last three months, Vision Quest members have been participating in the first annual VQ Off-Season Challenge (OSC). I am happy to report that it was a huge success on many levels.

For many endurance athletes, the off-season can be a confusing time. Some athletes need a big rest--physically, mentally or sometimes both. Others don't need much rest at all. This might stem from different physical needs like healing or needing to build strength. All of us need to focus on body composition and the off-season is a great time for this. Needs vary from athlete to athlete with some needing to build muscle, some needing to lose fat and others needing a combination of both. Then there are the athletes who have low bone density and need more weight-bearing activities. I think it is safe to say that everyone can improve something as it relates to body composition. Since this is the one thing we can all work on, we decided to do a challenge around it and thus, the Off-Season Challenge was born.

All the participants started the journey with a Dexa Scan in October. A Dexa Scan provides extremely accurate measurements of lean muscle mass, body fat and bone density. These scans provided a baseline for the challenge. Individuals were then placed on one of four teams. Each team had a team captain who motivated and educated team members and kept everyone on target. Team members earned points for completing various things like strength training, endurance workouts, good nutrition, a weekly reflection, etc. We also had challenges that varied from week to week. These included goals of better sleep, better hydration, dally push-up and squat targets and other fun and important daily habits. Finally, we had one “Give Back” challenge each month that included food and toy drives, volunteering at local food banks and completing random acts of kindness. All the challenges focused on developing better habits to help maintain greater intention through a time period that can often prove to be a bit haphazard.

To kick off the challenge, we offered a few education sessions. Our friends at Illinois Bone and Joint Institute provided great insight on the importance of strength training and how to do it effectively. We had our VQ nutritionist chat about proper nutrition and provide recipes to help support our healthier habits. Our group came together to learn and get excited about a new focus during the off-season.

I believe the real power of this challenge happened within a simple weekly reflection. This weekly reflection was interesting because some of the people within each group knew each other well, some “kind of” knew each other and others had never met. The dynamics within each group were amazing, creating and enriching very meaningful connections among group members. The true magic happened in the honesty, support and love shared in these reflections. People realized that many of their challenges, as they relate to body composition and life in general, were similar. We shared solutions that helped everyone in the group. We even had many overlapping bucket list items. The sharing of feelings, life highlights and funny stories built very strong community support.

During one of the Give Back challenges, we were asked to bring in food equal to our individual pounds of body fat. The combined total fat for our OSC members was around 3,000 pounds, so we set a goal of 3,000 pounds in food donations. It was near the holidays and some people were out of town. I was nervous that we wouldn’t be able to collect the full amount. I was totally wrong! Other team members offered to purchase food for their teammates and drop off donations on their behalf. It was true teamwork in action. Once again, I was blown away by our incredible VQ members: they ended up donating over 9,333 pounds of food to the Greater Chicago Food Depository--more than tripling the donation goal!

Our data is in from the challenge and it is impressive. Collectively we lost 250 pounds of fat, gained 89.6 pounds of muscle and helped shaped better habits for over 100 people. We donated more than 9,300 pounds of food and helped pack 42,768 meals with the folks at Feed My Starving Children.

This has been such a great experience for so many of our OSC members. I think we all stayed focused and on track through the holidays and more importantly got to know one another even better. I believe that experiences are always better when shared and the OSC really reinforced that. I want to thank Janine Newman, Kate Amaral and Sydney Moy for creating and executing such an amazing event for our VQ community. These women are incredible, motivated and just plain awesome. I know I personally look forward to the 2018 OSC and I hope many of you do too!