Three things inspired Parker's mayor to issue his most recent challenge to the community.
Mike Waid devised the concept of the mayor's challenge after taking office in December 2012, and his first — encouraging residents to leave Parker a better place than they found it by shopping local and volunteering — was a resounding success.
This year, Waid is inviting Parkerites to get involved in a fitness challenge with the motto “Get healthy, Live happy.” Among the catalysts for the campaign is the upcoming expansion and renovation of the Parker Recreation Center on Lincoln Avenue, a project prompted in part by public demand.
“The reason why we're doing that is because recreation and health and fitness have consistently been a top priority and top quality of life thing (residents) ask the town to provide,” he said.
Waid was also motivated by his wife, Pam, who set a goal of running her first marathon and ended up running two within a year of making that pledge. She now has her sights set on a half-ironman.
The mayor, taking a cue from the missus, has dropped 32 pounds in recent months, which he credits for a higher energy level and more personal happiness.
“I figured the best gift to my family would be to take my health seriously again,” he said.
Waid, a former certified personal trainer, admits that desk jobs and expense accounts got the best of his waistline. It's a common theme among people looking to get back into shape. Michele Ebedes, a Parker resident of 10 years, said health reasons are what caused her to start working out more than two years ago. The mother of four kids, ages 8 through 15, got bogged down with a hectic schedule, but she found a DVD series that allowed her to sneak in regular fitness routines at home.
Ebedes was one of the first people to take on the 2014 Mayor's Fitness Challenge after Waid created a Facebook group just before Christmas. She has since posted updates on her progress and says the social media interaction provides encouragement.
“It makes a difference instead of doing it all on your own all the time,” Ebedes said. “I got ideas from other people, like yoga, and a type of running I hadn't tried before. It makes you think of things in a whole different way.”
The fitness challenge is not meant to be daunting, but rather urges people to take small steps in their daily lives to improve their health, like walking the dog more often, Waid said. Participants in the online forum get motivation on bad days, advice in the face of obstacles and a sense of accountability.
“I don't want the challenge to be intimidating to people or make them think `I'm overweight and not healthy,'” he said.
Waid, whose goal is to run a 5K by the end of the year, didn't intend to officially launch the fitness challenge until the recreation department's “Love 'em or Leave 'em 5K Dash” in February, but people latched on early and got a head start. There were 81 participants on the Facebook page as of Jan. 28. He is also launching a self-funded website called www.parkermayorschallenge.com in the coming weeks.
The mayor's hope is to compile figures that put everyone's hard work into perspective at the end of the year.
“We can maybe see how many pounds people lost, how many miles did people or how many steps they climbed,” Waid said. “It would be cool to say at the end of the year that the Town of Parker walked around the planet five times.”
How to get involved: Log on to Facebook and type `The Mayor's Fitness Challenge 2014' into the search field. Click the `join group' icon.