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Walkers head to 'Key West'

It's time to put on your walking shoes and sunglasses. The newest New Richmond area community challenge is about to begin.

The "Walk to Key West" fitness challenge is sponsored by JA Counter, HealthPartners and the Vitality Initiative. It is the third in a series of fitness challenges offered as part of the Vitality Initiative's efforts to encourage everyone to increase their activity and eat better.

To join the online walking challenge, four-person teams simply have to sign up at between now and Aug. 15.

There is a $15 fee for each participant in the challenge, and each participant gets a free pedometer to help them keep track of their daily steps. The fee must be paid online with a credit card when registering. Pedometers can be picked up at the JA Counter office at 1477 S. Knowles Ave. in New Richmond.

The participants will then be emailed a list of instructions for recording their daily steps. The actual walking begins on Aug. 19 and runs through Sept. 29.

The virtual team trip begins in New York City and ends in Key West, Fla. To achieve that combined distance in six weeks, each team member needs to take an average of 10,000 steps a day (about five miles) for the entire challenge. A person's "steps" don't all have to be recorded on a pedometer. The tracking website also has an activity calculator participants can use to determine what the equivalent steps are for a particular activity, whether it's bicycling, playing sports or doing aerobic exercise.

As the steps and daily activity are recorded on each individual's "Walk to Key West" online tracker at, the person's and their team's progress toward the Key West goal is displayed.

"We're excited about this challenge," said Deb Henke, operations manager with JA Counter. "We get to walk to Key West virtually in our minds. We believe it's going to be a popular community challenge."

After the first four weeks of the challenge, if a team meets the goal of 1,120,000 steps, they will be entered into a team drawing for $200 in cash.

After five weeks, if a team meets the cumulative goal of 1,400,000 steps, they will be entered into another drawing for a $300 prize.

When the six-week challenge is finished, all teams that have made it to "Key West" will be included in a final drawing for a $400 prize.

Henke said organizers for the challenge hope that dozens of teams from around the community will decide to give the contest a try. While the prizes offered are nice, Henke said, the real goal is to encourage everyone to get a little more active than they currently are.

The "Walk to Key West" challenge has the potential to include more people than JA Counter's first contest, "Lose Weight in 8," Henke noted.

"For the first challenge, our audience was people who were wanting to lose weight," she said. "For this one, you just have to want to get more active. It's a potentially broader demographic of the community."

More than 300 people and 80 teams participated in the weight loss challenge last winter. Organizers hope even more will take part in the upcoming six-week challenge.

For more information about the challenge, call JA Counter at 715-246-3811.