The Parkville YMCA Story – How one small YMCA achieved BIG THINGS in the Top 100

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Parkville YMCA Fitness Director, Andy Corbett, about winning the inaugural YMCA Top 100 challenge. The story of how this small team came together, and 20,000 miles later, rode off as champions is sure to motivate and inspire you:


It all started in November with a simple email from our VP Troy Weaver. Troy emailed his Fitness Center directors about the YMCA Top 100 team challenge for December. In his email he said “Take a look at this. We have an opportunity to win a free bike next month.”


Well I began to think, if we are currently 6th in November, what would happen if we really focused on winning this contest come December? I thought the contest would be a great way to motivate our members since we typically see less traffic towards the end of the year and we could run it in conjunction with our “12 Days of Fitness” incentive contest.

At our staff meeting, we talked about how we would advertise. We decided to do the following: We attached Top 100 Challenge flyers to each bike. Sarah, our member services director, drew the exact same picture of the snowman riding the bike from the flyers on a dry erase board with all the details of the contest. Another dry erase board showed an actual picture of a Expresso bike with the following words above it “Look what Parkville could win!” We used this board for standings and motivational messages. We used a picture of Rocky on top of the steps with his arms raised in the air. The message read “Go For It!” The second picture was of Ray Lewis coming out of the Ravens’ tunnel doing his dance. This message read “It’s Game Time!” We sent a broadcast message about the contest to our Fitlinxx members and posted on our Fitlinxx kiosk. We offered Free 5-day guest memberships to any existing members’ spouse, friends, and co-workers to help us with the Expresso bike challenge.

The Parkville Y staff was simply amazing in recruiting riders and getting the word out to all the members about the contest. One of the first people I thought of for the team was Serge Arbona. Serge is a member of our center and a national champion ultra marathon runner. He is just an amazing athlete. I knew if I could convince Serge to ride we would have a great chance. Serge was up for the challenge and said he would be glad to ride. Some 1,886 miles later, he was the top rider worldwide.

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Once December hit we were off and riding. We were holding our own, bouncing around between 2nd and 4th place. After the first week it looked like we would have a stiff challenge from our friends from the Bear/Glasgow Family YMCA. We started to do some research about their center. On their website we noticed that they were open 32 hours more than us during the month of December. In fact, on New Years’ Eve, they closed at 5pm and we closed at 2pm. This being the last day of the contest, we thought this could pose a problem so we decided to extend our hours. The two centers exchanged places in the standings for several days between first and second. Neither center could take a commanding lead.

We ran into some adversity the next couple of days. On December 13th, the entire shopping center had a power outage for 2.5 hours. Several of our top riders who were in the club that morning lost the opportunity to ride and we started to lose significant ground to Bear/Glasgow. Members were disappointed, but not discouraged

I emailed Tom McCarthy, the sales rep for Interactive Fitness, to find out if there were better courses to burn more Calories. Tom was very helpful. He said that there was no difference in courses or chases, we just needed to increase the wattage and RPMs to increase the total Calories burned. He also told me about the Timberline Fitness guide to motivation and victory in the Top 100. After reading their amazing story I knew we could do it! We were already doing many of the things that were successful for Timberline. I told our team we just need to ride harder and stronger.

More adversity. On December 15th, one of our bikes was down for 5 hours. Luckily, staff member Will Whitelock and I came in to ride that day. It was like a pit stop. Will and I worked on the bike frantically while the members hovered over us. There was a line forming to ride the bikes. Thank goodness we were successful in adjusting the tension and getting the bike back working.

By now Bear/Glasgow had taken a commanding lead of 10,000 Calories per bike. It was the turning point where we started to pick it up. We felt like we were the underdog. We needed to make up for the lost time, so with the approval from our VP and center director we rode early. On Sunday December 16th we started at 4am. The first time it was just 4 riders. By 6am two more had arrived. By the end of the day we were ahead by 2,000 Calories/bike and never looked back.

We rode early again on December 23rd. This time there were more riders. The members began to recruit throughout the center. They challenged each other to ride longer. They were committed to winning. We began to post live results hourly. This was a huge boost in moral. It was not about winning the bike anymore, it was “Let’s put little Parkville on the map and be #1!”

We provided the riders with water, fruit, and snacks. This gave the riders the energy needed to complete some of those longer rides. Now members were bringing items to share: bananas, danishes, energy bars, and drinks.

The members were engaging with staff and each other like never before. The relationships built from this contest were simply amazing. The fun and level of engagement that we had here at Parkville was incredible. One of our early morning riders, who was new to the bike, beat her personal time by two minutes. This happened while riding along side of two of our top riders. Afterwards, she hopped off the bike and said “Yes! If we win it’s because of me!” The rest of the group said “You’re right, we need everyone’s effort. Great job Peggy!”

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On Sundays, we would pull over a TV in front of the bikes so that the members could enjoy Raven’s Football. By Christmas Eve, we had built a lead of 12,000 Calories/Bike yet the members still came in droves to ride. When we opened back up on December 26th it was hard to find an open bike. The members and staff sensed that if we just kept riding we would be able to finish it off. We were still competing to be #1 worldwide.

When the last day of the contest arrived, we pretty much had it in hand, yet we still had members lining up to ride. The final totals were staggering: 880,688 Calories burned; 176,138 Calories burned per bike, 20,036 miles rode, and 1,371 hours logged on the bikes. We even had 10 riders finish in the top 100 worldwide.

I think the following riders deserve a shout out:

Serge Arbona: 1st overall in the world for December, 98,474 Calories burned. Serge is one of the most determined individuals I have ever known. He made the entire team better and pushed everyone to limits beyond their imagination.

Bruce Derry: 4th overall in the world for December, 62,923 Calories burned. Bruce is an avid rider who kept everyone upbeat.

Jim Hessenauer: 5th overall in the world for December, 56,016 Calories burned. Jim held fastest rider for over a dozen courses.

John Brown: 35,034 Calories (12th). Will Whitelock: 34,947 Calories (13th). T.Tasi: 31,123 Calories (17th). Ron Fisher 23,387 Calories (33rd). Kim Antinone 23,106 Calories (35th). A. Chamberlain 19,084 Calories (63rd). C. Adenegan: 18,088 Calories (74th).

And to the hundreds of riders who rode the bikes to help us accomplish this amazing feat, we thank you ever so dearly. These memories will be everlasting.


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