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Joliet woman says Take It Outside Challenge missions 'make you feel alive'

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Eileen Ryan says the Take It Outside Challenge has been key in her feeling better both physically and emotionally.

Before joining the Forest Preserve’s Take It Outside Challenge, Eileen Ryan of Joliet, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, was barely able to get in a few thousand steps a day. 

“I was on disability for a couple years before I officially retired on May 4, when I turned 65,” she said in an email. "I was pretty much homebound. After finding medications that helped a bit, I was able to do more social things, but never made my 10,000 steps a day.”

In late winter, she decided to join the Forest Preserve’s challenge, which sets out nature-themed missions each week for participants to complete to earn points using the free Goosechase app. 

“Since joining, the Forest Preserve’s Goosechase challenges, I'm hitting my 10,000 plus steps per day! I feel much stronger now,” Ryan said. “I still have some bad days, but they are less frequent than before.”

She said she still has mobility issues and she has to be careful to find that “sweet spot” between being active and overdoing it. Early in the challenge, she did too much and had to rest for a week. 

“Now, I know I can do 2-plus miles a day and still get up the next morning,” she said. “I wasn’t sure I could even do that much at one time. I feel better both physically and emotionally.”

JOIN THE CHALLENGE

‘Let’s go!’

Ryan said she joined the challenge with her husband, John, because they both like being outdoors. 

“And we knew we needed more motivation than just saying, ‘We enjoy being outdoors,’” Ryan said. 

Challenge participants can track their points on a leaderboard on the app and this has led to quite a bit of competitiveness. Ryan said she was pretty happy with her and her husband’s point total so far. 

“We made it to 36th place as of this morning,” she wrote in late May. “There are some days we get up and say, ‘Not today!’ Then we have our coffee, look at what challenges are left and decide, 'OK, let’s go!’"

So far, the Ryans love the missions at Thorn Creek Nature Preserve the best. 

“It’s so beautiful there and we hardly ever see anyone, which makes it feel like we are truly alone with nature,” she said. “When we saw those pine trees, we didn’t see the first time we went, we gasped!”

Overall, Ryan is thrilled with the benefits she and her husband have reaped from participating in the challenge. 

“I think the missions are not only physically helpful, but also helpful to our overall well-being,” she explained. “Exercising our brain is just as important, if not more. I really can’t say enough about how much I’ve enjoyed these missions. They make you feel alive! I don’t expect to reach the top, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try.”

The challenge is part of the Forest Preserve's Take It Outside Campaign in 2023, which encourages everyone to get in touch with nature and to explore the preserves. Funding for the campaign is provided by The Nature Foundation of Will County

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