TRI Challenge to Walk Across America Welcomes All Ability Levels

TRI Challenge to Walk Across America Welcomes All Ability Levels

March 22, 2016

Walk Across America group page on the TRI website - WAM logo and text that reads

By Carol Dennis

When many of us hear the invitation to “Walk Across America,” we assume it’s for someone else. We envision a person all sinew and muscle, wearing shorts and a tank-top, glistening in the sun.

We don’t see a person who might be in decent shape, but certainly not running marathons or biking 20 miles a day. The entire concept feels fun, but very much out of reach to most of us.

That particular challenge is so far beyond the capabilities of most of us, that it would be folly, and maybe even dangerous, to attempt it.

TRI's Walk Across America

And then came the invitation from TRI to join their Walk Across America challenge. This 12-week virtual trek across the country has made it possible for those of us with less than Serena Williams’ athletic abilities to give it a try. This desktop application is designed for people of all ability levels.

You choose a route and challenge yourself to meet daily goals of physical activity. You get to see the progress of the other people making the trek alongside you and measure your progress against theirs, or just against your own goals. As you move to a new state, the on-screen background changes and you see beautiful vistas of the terrain you are on.

Map helps you track your progress

Robbin Bull's map showing her progress toward Chicago.

The website explains

There are three routes to choose from to accommodate different exercise levels. The route to Chicago, IL is designed to get you to your goal if you did, indeed, walk 10,000 steps a day. The route to Miami, FL is the route people should take if they are training for an event or are already exercising multiple times a week for extended periods of time. The Denver, CO route is designed for those who are starting an exercise program, or who know they need a more moderate challenge than 10,000 steps a day.

Since it is not possible to make it to any of these destinations in 12 weeks by walking, we will be applying a 5x multiplier to each mile to boost people along. (This calculation will be done for you when you enter your miles on the website, you do not have to calculate it yourself.)”

Other forms of exercise besides walking will count too. The tracking system includes a logging tool that allows you to indicate time and exertion level of the exercise and the tool will convert it into miles for you.

Here's a short video that explains it all.

The Research Institute’s Robbin Bull brought the idea to TRI. “I have run a Walk Across America program before ​at Monmouth Fitness Club," Bull explains, “but it was just a paper map based program. I approached Jeff (Jeff Denton, TRI’s Lead Web Developer) to see if he thought he could create an online version.​ I wanted it to be more interactive and easier for people to be able to track and report their exercise.”

Not a new concept, but a new application

The Walk Across America exercise program is not a new concept, however Bull and Denton could not find anything out there that allowed people to track their mileage online and watch their progress.

The first version was launched February 1, 2015 and was only open to TRI staff and their family members. This gave the development team a chance to work out the bugs.

“This year, we added more instructions, screencasts and a calendar feature for logging miles,” says Denton. “We felt confident in the usability of it with these new features and therefore invited all faculty and staff at Western to participate this year.”

There were 31 participants in 2015, more than doubling in 2016 to 75

Wellness and a fund raiser

Governor's State Employee Food Drive logo

The February launch dates are not by chance. The program is launched on February 1st to coincide with the Oregon Governor’s State Employee Food Drive. According to Robbin Bull, “We tied the launch of it into the Governor's Food Drive and used it as not only a wellness benefit to employees, but a fundraiser for a good cause.”

Each participant was invite to donate $5 to the food drive in exchange for being part of a weekly drawing for prizes. This allowed Bull to reach out to community health partners such as Kaiser Permanente, Providence Health Plans, Play It Again Sports, Monmouth Fitness Club, and others to donate prizes to encourage participants during the 12 weeks.

What's next for the app?

When asked about the future of the app, Bull said, “Based on the positive feedback we have gotten so far, we would like to explore opportunities in which it can be used to benefit more people.”

Denton replied, "I would love to develop a native mobile app for next years' release. The iOS operating system (and apps for Android as well) now logs your steps behind the scenes at all times. It would be cool to make an app that accesses this functionality, allowing users to log their miles automatically. It would also be worth exploring how to incorporate exercise or nutrition ideas into the app."

Mark you calendars for February 2017

It's too late to join in the fun this year, but mark your calendars for February, 2017. Walking across America just became a journey more of us can enjoy.

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