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Athens, here we come

So you’ve never pictured yourself as an Olympic athlete. Your high jump is a short leap, a long distance run is more like a slow walk to the mailbox and weightlifting describes your effort to get out of bed in the morning.

Quit watching others exert energy on television and start exerting your own through the transportation department’s 2004 fitness challenge, a “Journey to Athens.” The ITD Wellness Council challenges employees to take part in the 10-week commitment to increase exercise activity, and as a result, improve physical and mental health.

Appropriately, as the world gathers for the 2004 Summer Olympics, participating ITD employees will already have made the Journey to Athens by logging their exercise hours.

“You can participate in your choice of 50-plus fitness and sports activities,” according to an information bulletin on the program. “Since progress is based on time spent exercising, rather than degree of difficulty (no need to worry about scoring a 10.0), you don’t have to be a world-class athlete to benefit from this challenge.”

The exercise/fitness program is designed as a one-size-fits-all: regardless of your physical condition, you can realize health benefits from participating. And maybe you’ll pickup some tangible rewards along the way.

Those who complete the 10-week program with at least 30 hours of exercise can choose a shirt, hat or Summer Olympic pin.

In addition, prize drawings are scheduled for those who complete their log and turn it in every two weeks.

Here’s how it works:

Your goal will be to exercise for at least an average of three hours per week. During the challenge, as you keep track of your exercise and record your time on the log sheet, you will qualify at higher and higher levels… beginning at the local level and advancing to state and regional levels on your way to the “Olympic Trials" (a total of 24 hours).

When you reach the goal of 30 exercise hours, you will have qualified as an “Olympian” and are well on your way to Athens, Greece, site of this year’s Summer Games.

There are almost as many exercise options as there are actual Olympic events, from walking, running and biking, to hiking and canoeing. (Check with organizers for qualifying activities and limitations.) Expend physical energy and earn your medal.

The deadline for registering is Wednesday (April 28), but you can begin counting the hours on Sunday (April 25). Registration forms were distributed through ITD mail. If you need another one, contact a wellness committee member or call Pauline Davis in the Environmental Section at Headquarters (334-8481). Completed forms should be returned to your appropriate wellness coordinator or committee member.

Studies show that a program of regular exercise improves health, reduces stress, contributes to a sense of general well-being and enhances self-image. Participating in the Journey to Athens will improve physical, mental and emotional health, according to the ITD Wellness Committee.

The theme of this year’s challenge coincides with the return of the Olympic Games to their original location in Athens. They were first held in 776 B.C. in ancient Greece. Competition continued every four years for more than a millennia and were considered so important, even wars were interrupted for participation.

The Games were abolished in 394 by Byzantine Emperor Theodosius. The modern era of Olympic competition began in 1896 as a way to promote friendship, understanding and peaceful competition among nations.

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