Campus challenge

Under the umbrella of the 100 Missouri Miles Challenge, the Campus Challenge has been launched to encourage wellness on college campuses throughout the state. (Photo illustration by August Jennewein)

Starting Sept. 1, University of Missouri–St. Louis students, faculty and staff entered the chase for the 2014 Missouri Miles Cup, a month-long campus wellness challenge.

Pitting Missouri’s public institutions against each other in a friendly battle for bragging rights, the campus challenge is part of the larger 100 Missouri Miles Challenge launched by Gov. Jay Nixon last year. The initiative encourages people to enjoy the state’s great outdoors, track their activity and get fit – #UMSLfit.

“It’s only a month long – that’s a relatively short challenge, and it’s a good time of the year for it,” said Katy Mike Smaistrla, UMSL’s sustainability coordinator and an eager participant in the challenge. “People are ready to form new habits.” She added that supporting green space and connecting people to the natural environment are especially important in a digitally oriented world.

Signing up is simple, at UMSL students and employees may create an account using their email address and select the UMSL group from a list (under “Personal Information” section) to ensure their logged miles count toward the campus total. The university’s goal is 100,000 active miles – and to be named the winner among other schools including the University of Missouri–Kansas City, Missouri State University and the University of Missouri– Columbia (view the leaderboard here).

“Who doesn’t want to win?” said Katy Hubbard, a UMSL graduate student who already logs a lot of active miles on a daily basis. A car-free commuter hailing from Buffalo, N.Y., Hubbard sometimes takes the campus shuttle from her nearby Mansion Hill apartment, but she also does a lot of biking and walking to get to class and work at UMSL.

“It paces my day,” Hubbard said. “It prevents me from overloading my schedule, since I need some time to travel from one thing to the next. It also gives me a new perspective of campus.”

She’s explored St. Louis more broadly via foot, bike and MetroLink, hopping on the train with her bike to log miles around Forest Park and exploring trails that wind through campus, the Delmar Loop and beyond. She’s excited to see the campus community come together toward a shared goal of increased wellness.

Smaistrla noted that the online 100 Missouri Miles logging tool enables participants to log not just walking, running, cycling, hiking and other linear aerobic activities but also kickball, Frisbee, basketball, yoga and more. This is possible by simply keying into the “activity converter” the amount of time spent engaging in a particular aerobic endeavor.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to share their success throughout the month and spur friends and coworkers to participate as well. It’s not too late to join in, and the team spirit can continue on after September, too.

“I’m seeing students posting pictures of themselves running this morning, and I think that’s great,” said Jonathan Lidgus, director of residential life and housing. “Due to the competitive nature of the challenge, it’s a great way of not only getting out and being active but also showing campus pride and Missouri pride.”

An avid runner and hiker himself, Lidgus noted that for some UMSL people this is one more way to quantify something they’re already in the habit of tracking, thanks to Healthy for Life programs and their own competitive tendencies. During August, the professional staff of Residence Life logged 848 miles on their FitBit pedometers.

“We do ‘walking meetings,’ we no longer take the elevator – we’re that competitive about getting our steps in,” Lidgus said. “I think it’s pretty awesome that all our students, staff and faculty can get involved in this effort.”

Questions about the campus challenge may be directed to

The UMSL Experience

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill