Editor's Note: Nero Borja is a 27-year-old Philadelphia resident and nonprofit professional specializing in youth development. Borja participated in MyCityMoves, a Philadelphia-based organization that runs fitness competitions designed to build healthier communities. Below, he shares his experience with the campaign.
On a Saturday morning last month, I found myself at the base of the Art Museum steps. I was sweaty and out of breath — Friday night escaping out of my pores — and all I could hear was Tom Wingert of City Fitness yelling at me to "move!"
This may sound like cruel and unusual punishment, but I felt like a champion because that morning I joined a flash mob of Philadelphians to collectively burn 100,000 calories by running the iconic Rocky Steps as part of City Fitness' #MyCityMoves campaign.
The competition started on March 11. Participants wore a MYZONE fitness belt to track their "effort points" for each workout completed over 20 days.
Whenever I chose to walk instead of take a cab or squeeze in a quick run before eating dinner, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride. As the competition went on, I grew more and more consumed with #MyCityMoves. Once, in the early days of the competition, I found myself on top of the leaderboard. After that, I became obsessed. Whenever I had some free time, I put on my MYZONE fitness tracker and got in a run or a workout, just so I could watch my name climb the ranks. I traded in my usual light jogs and low-key workouts for uphill sprints and high-intensity interval training. I researched exercise routines that increase your heart rate. I worked out in the morning and in the evening.
During this time, I started to see a change in my daily life. I couldn't wait for the moment when I could suit up and go workout. If the weather didn't allow me to run, I'd be devastated. I found myself rifling through fitness blogs for new workouts that I could try and started targeting parts of my body that I had previously neglected. I watched what I ate and made sure I was getting more sleep in order to tackle days that included multiple workouts. My life revolved around fitness.
I also became part of an exciting community that share a universal goal to be active. I gained new friends through social media. On workouts when I didn't think I gave it my best, comments from new friends on Instagram helped me get back out there the next day. In turn, I added some encouragement to their posts. After seeing what others in the competition were posting on their social media, I was reassured that I wasn't in this alone.
To say #MyCityMoves was life changing sounds dramatic, but for me, it's true. Before this competition, I never even thought of completing three workouts in one day. Now, when I catch that red MYZONE belt out the corner of my eye, it's my daily reminder to MOVE! Looking towards the future, I'm committing to my new routine even after the competition is over.
The personal changes #MyCityMoves has afforded me are numerous but there were other benefits too. My outlook as a member of this community has changed. I want to maintain this idea of motivating people around me to be active. The word "fitness" can be synonymous to Philadelphia as long as we do it together.