Special Olympics Indiana ‘Walks the Walk’, Rallies Other Special Olympics Programs to ‘Step It Up’

By Nance Larsen

July 5, 2018

In 2017, a large contingency of staff and family members from Special Olympics Indiana visited the University of Washington campus as part of their preparations for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.

Promoted as a “walking” games, with most 2018 USA Games activities and competitions taking place on the beautiful and sprawling ‘U-Dub’ campus, the group quickly realized they had work to do. They needed a plan to get their team in shape to not only prepare for competition, but to also have the capacity to walk from venue to venue and still compete.

They came up with a plan to motivate their team by creating a step challenge. Each team member was challenged to walk a minimum of 2,500 steps per day to start and, then, gradually increasing the number of steps each week. 

Their ultimate goal was for each individual to log 15,000 steps per day. In addition to training schedules, they created a Unified Fitness Club early in the year to create additional opportunities for teammates, staff and coaches to work out and everyone participated. In August 2017, they put Fitbits on 78 people to make logging steps fun and easy. Each had a mindset: walk to get ready for the USA Games.

Athletes also organized outside events. The basketball team ran 5Ks together to build stamina, and track and field athletes ran two marathons together, which helped prepare athlete Andrew Petersen to qualify for the Boston Marathon!

Sometime along the way, Special Olympics International issued a challenge to other programs to step up – and they did. In total, they logged two billion steps, the equivalent of 80,000 miles or walking around the world three times. Special Olympics Indiana was recognized for logging 100 million step as a team – the most of any Special Olympics program. Also recognized was Special Olympics athlete Victoria Martin, from Virginia, for logging six million steps individually.

Special Olympics Indiana hopes their Unified Fitness Club is not only a step in the right direction but, longer term, will become a model for other programs across the Special Olympics family.