A push to get state legislators to participate in the “Lighten Up, Iowa” challenge led to a strange sight in a corridor behind the Iowa House Tuesday.
Two treadmills were placed face-to-face so members of two House committees could compete to see which committee could log more miles. House Commerce Committee chairman Willard Jenkins of Waterloo says his committee’s challenge of the House Transportation Committee was done with fun in mind — but it also sends a serious message.
“The legislature…wants to set some kind of a priority on health,” Jenkins says. Jenkins, a retired John Deere executive who is 70 years old, is a runner. “Just a mile a day,” Jenkins says. “I’ve done that for years and years. It’s kind of helped keep my heart ticking.”
So why did the Commerce Committee challenge the Transportation Committee? “Because we thought we could win,” Jenkins told reporters, laughing. “It was real simple.”
The Transportation Committee asked that two of its members be given a pass — one has had a heart attack, the other two bad knees — and they brought in two other legislators to run in their place. Jenkins calls the subs “ringers.”
One of those subs was Representative Rich Anderson of Clarinda who was running at a pretty good clip Tuesday afternoon. “Not bad,” a sweaty Anderson told reporters. He’d been running for 25 minutes at a pace of about 6.7 miles per hour.
Anderson said it gave lawmakers a chance to be role models for Iowans. “We’re in the middle of the ‘breadbasket.’ We like to eat. We need to create a new standard, I think, of being fit,” Anderson says.
The agreement was that the losing team members had to carry around a five-pound piece of fat to symbolize the weight they should be focused on losing, and that’s what Representative Jo Oldson of Des Moines was focused on avoiding as she ran. “A blob for the rest of session,” Oldson explained as she ran. “It’s making me move.”
When the machines were shut down and the competition was over, the House Sergeant-at-Arms declared a tie with both teams racking up 51.1 miles on each treadmill during the 10-hour competition.