Jamie Smithers, 36, and his son, James Smithers, 12, have always been fans of the outdoors. Avid campers and hikers, they took their fandom to the next level in June 2012 when they attempted to climb their way to the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro — the highest mountain in Africa. An eight-day trek (six days up and two days down), the father and son duo prepared for their journey at Life Time Fitness in Warrenville, Ill.
At the time, their plan to ascend Mt. Kilimanjaro felt like a great way to celebrate James’ upcoming 12th birthday. However, it evolved into more than just a celebration — their climb raised money for the Amani Children’s Home in Tanzania, Africa. “We wanted to do something big to celebrate James’ golden birthday, and we really wanted to give back to the Tanzanian people,” explained Jamie.
To prepare, the duo trained intensely for three months prior to the climb, using the Stairmaster as their primary conditioning tool. Starting out, they used the Stairmaster for 30 minutes, three times a week, and increased their time as the weeks progressed. Near the end of their training period, they added hiking boots and 20-pound-weighted backpacks to their hour-and-a-half-long sessions. Their hard work paid off. After three months of faux-climbing, they felt prepared to tackle the real thing — the 19,341-foot-high ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
They began their ascent on June 7, 2012. “Because of the training we did we were really physically prepared,” said Jamie. The real challenge began once they made it to 15,000 feet, where the difference in altitude became increasingly noticeable. James and Jamie made it to 18,000 feet before the altitude got the best of them — altitude sickness forced father and son to turn around only 1,341 feet away from the top. Despite this, they weren’t discouraged. “Even though I didn’t make it to the summit, I felt pretty accomplished,” said James.
The accomplishment was one that Life Time Fitness recognized. After James and Jamie returned from their journey, Life Time highlighted their achievements on its blog and within the organization.
According to Lauren Flinn, a representative from Life Time Fitness, Life Time realized the importance of sharing its members’ stories. “We hear countless stories of members who have used Life Time’s people, places and programs to help achieve their goals,” said Flinn. “The blog is one channel where we share some of those stories and photos — in hopes to inspire others and highlight what we do here on a personal level.”
Life Time discovers members’ stories through “myStory,” an online portal members use to submit their stories of success, many of which are then promoted by Life Time Fitness to the local media. “It’s a great way to spotlight local-level club achievements and share them with a larger audience,” said Flinn. “You may never know the impact of one person until their story is written.”
By sharing James and Jamie’s story on its blog, Life Time Fitness recognized that promoting member achievements and accomplishments was a great way to bring positive press to the club. Do you promote your members’ accomplishments? Doing so will not only inspire good will within the club, but be inspiring to prospects who may have a story of their own to share.
By Rachel Zabonick