A group in town advocates for people who are blind or visually impaired. Club VIBES (Visually Impaired/Blind Enhanced Services) encourages recreation, everything from indoor rock climbing to rowing to tandem bicycle riding. The group has been recruited to take part in the National Fitness Challenge, which officially kicks off Saturday. It fits in to the mission of Club VIBES.
Sarah Holloway has been testing a Fitbilt to make sure the technology works and aiming for 10,000 steps a day.
Walking five miles a day is pretty impressive for anyone, but much more so for Sarah Holloway. That's because about 10 years ago she got a hip replacement and was wheelchair bound.
"Just being able to get out and exercise, do this challenge and get these 10,000 steps, it's really a big deal for me," she said.
It's a big deal for people who are visually impaired, like Holloway, to work out.
Other people who go to a park or gym to walk don't face the same challenges as Club VIBES members who are blind or visually impaired. People who can't see, can't drive.
"One of the biggest barriers, of course, is always transportation. Getting to a park or somewhere to walk or exercise. Also just the motivation. Because a lot of times being blind can be very isolating, so if you don't really have a lot of friends around to motivate you to get you out and walking that's a barrier, too," Holloway said.
Those barriers are coming down.
The US Association of Blind Athletes and the Anthem Foundation gave grants to more than a dozen groups including Knoxville's Club VIBES. As part of the National Fitness Challenge they will track their steps and compete against a dozen other teams across the country.
"During this nine month process it's to teach the community that we can do things that people might be surprised at," said Sue Buckley, the founder of Club VIBES.
Buckley said the Fitbits are a good fit for her group because they sync with devices that can speak, like smartphones.
"The technology is what helps someone who is totally blind like myself actually hear the speech package that's on your iPhone and it will tell you how may steps you've done," she said.
Buckley needs someone who can see to walk with her.
Dani Clark is a Delta Gamma sorority member who walks with Buckley as a guide. Her sorority partners with Club VIBES to support their activities including the National Fitness Challenge.
Walking with someone else makes it fun and being a part of a team instills accountability.
"When I am getting like 8,000 steps,I am like, 'Oh my gosh, I need to kick up my game to get those extra 2,000 steps.' I have found that going with a friend to the mall will push me into that more steps or just walking my dog more a couple of extra times during the day," Buckley said.
The 20 or so people on the team aren't concerned about beating the other teams.
"I would actually personally like to see some other folks step it up and get those steps in that have not been very active," Buckley said.
Sarah said, "For me, it's just really the challenge because of what I went through with the hip replacement and now just being able to say, 'Hey I can do this now. I can walk, I can get these 10,000 steps, and it's really exciting,'" Holloway said.
If you would like to help with the National Fitness Challenge, you can show up Saturday for their first training walk. Meet at Runners Market in the Western Plaza Shopping Center at 9 a.m.
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