Do you remember the thrill of the elementary school reading challenge... "How many books can you read in a semester?" The program had a lot of different names, but the principle was the same. It was exciting to leave the library, arms loaded, eyes peaking out from behind the massive stack of books, ready to beat any kid who tried to read more than you.

For those of you who remember elementary school life before the internet and e-readers, there was nothing better than the rush you got during reading challenge time when your Scholastic book order came in and your teacher placed a pile of books, smelling of fresh, new paper, on your desk. Ah, the challenge. One down, then two, then three, then more and more and more until you forgot about the other kids, and it became more about competing with yourself. You were a champion, one book at a time. You were your own champion. Unconsciously, you became a better reader … the great "intended" consequence.

That child competitor who wanted to be the champion reader still lives inside all of us. The little champion who was so incredibly energized by the challenge of adding to those totals may have just been sleeping. The Platte River Fitness Series awakens that part of us that is brought to life by the challenge of "How Many?" The concept is the same, the challenge, more challenging, and the pay-off so much bigger.

Our first challenge is to understand that the way we nurture our physical body is the way we live. We express our views of ourselves and our world by the way we take care of or don't take care of our physical presence in it. When we start to take care of ourselves by embracing the two most basic principles of physical health, physical activity and good nutrition, we start the process of realigning the stars in our own personal universe. Just as there were predetermined goals to strive for on that reading list, we find a goal, that first fitness event, to keep us motivated to continue to take care of ourselves in a way that has meaningful affects first, on our health, and next on that little elementary reading champion inside waiting to wake up to a broader experience of life.

The first fitness event is thrilling ...we might even be so brave as to call it a "race." Just like turning the last page of our first book, the only thing that matters is crossing that finish line. There is this moment, one most fitness enthusiasts never forget, this one distinct moment, as you cross that first finish line, when you become someone new. The sense of accomplishment and of community is palpable. You are moving to become the person you were designed to be.

Almost as soon as you cool down and visit the refreshment table, you begin planning the next fitness event. You rush home and register, ready to beat any kid … or grown-up ... who tries to do more races than you. Ah, the challenge. One down, then two, then three, then more and more, maybe even 21, until you forget about the other athletes and it becomes all about competing with yourself. You are a new champion, one race at a time.

You are your own champion. Unconsciously or deliberately, you become a healthier, whole person...the great "intended" consequence. Here's to the seven women who finished all 21 in 2013. You are champions of life.

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