Walk AS One World Cup: An Interview with the Winners – reFUSE to Lose

WP_20150623_058This year was the very first Walk AS One World Cup! There were two separate categories in this years cup, which were for the total number of team steps, and the total average steps per walker. I got in touch with Jessica Cuccio, the team captain of reFUSE to Lose, and winners of this years total average steps Cup, to talk about their experience in this years WYASO.

 

Congratulation on winning the Cup for the highest average steps per person.  Have you had a chance to celebrate a successful WYASO yet? If so, how did you celebrate?

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I am so proud of my team!  I wasn’t expecting to win the cup, but when I heard about the WYASO online event on June 13th, I knew it would be the best day to celebrate my team’s efforts!  We planned a menu that corresponded with the Blue and Orange theme perfectly; for starters, we had Orange/Mango salsa with Blue corn chips and Orange cream sickle drinks.  For dinner, we had Chicken Cordon “Blue” and a side of carrots.  I am a vegetarian who does eat seafood so it seemed fitting to have some Blue claw crab which paired perfectly with Blue Moon beers w/Orange slices! And of course we had a cake for dessert which read “Walk You’re A.S. Off Team refuse to Lose”

This award shows that it’s not just big teams that can be successful in WYASO, but the smaller teams can achieve great things too.  You have just 3 members in your team; who are they?  And do they have A.S.?  If not, who are they stepping for? 

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My team consists of only 3 people but we have the spirit of an entire cheerleading team!  My mother (Donna) has been there for me from day 1; fighting to find an answer to my struggles.  The other member of our team is my husband, Frank.  Although I always suffered symptoms, I wasn’t diagnosed until after we were married.  He didn’t sign up for this, but he never hesitated to take my challenges on as his own.  My mother and Husband have been an amazing support network.  I am honored to walk alongside them!

Your team averaged 580,667 steps per walker! How did they manage to do that?  What challenges did they accomplish? 

 

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When you put a number to it, it seems so much more inspiring.  We did that?!  We took each day as it came and we didn’t always walk together.  We took any chance we got to step even if all 3 of us couldn’t get together.  My husband wore a pedometer while at work while my mother and I took every spare moment to count steps in the pool where it is easier on my joints or starting our morning off with a nice stroll around the park.  Some days we only did one mile, others two.  We just did what was comfortable.  On rainy days we got together to play Wii Fit.  There is a little free walking game that tracks your mileage.  My favorite way of stepping was walking around the Philadelphia Zoo.  When the WYASO event started, my husband surprised me with a membership to the zoo so I could go as often as I’d like.  Walking long distances proves to be quite a challenge for me but I learnt to pace myself and take breaks as needed.  In the beginning, (April) I could only make it to the Big Cats before needing a break and by the time I reached the Aviary, I was ready to call it a day.  My determination kept me moving forward as I reFUSED to Lose to this disorder.  By the time May had come around, I was making it to the aviary before taking a break, and making it all the way to the small mammal house!

How did you keep your team motivated throughout the walk?

At first, I was all gun ho and ready to take this challenge on but doing more than I was used to started to take a toll on me physically and mentally.  I was saying things like “I can’t even walk one mile without breaking down, how pathetic!”  My Husband would turn to me and reply “Jessica, you walked a mile! Could you say that a month ago?”  He was 100% right!  My team was so confident.  They had to keep me motivated.  They motivated me to pace myself and not to push myself too much.  Accept what my body can’t achieve while embracing the capabilities I do have while continuing to strive for a better me.

Do you have any tips for other walkers that are looking to try and improve their daily step count? 

WYASO has showed me that I am capable of so much more that I have ever given myself credit for.  My advice for anyone trying to improve their daily steps is to gently nudge yourself forward.  IN April, I struggled to find my comfort zone.  I so badly wanted to walk 3 miles but the more I pushed myself, the more I hurt and that put my mind in a bad place.  I have learnt to pace myself.  I couldn’t continuously walk 3 miles, but I could walk 2 miles in the AM and 2 miles in the evening.  I still hadn’t walked 3 miles, but 4! Believe in yourself and wear your pedometer all day long; doing chores counts too!

What did you most get out of the walk this year? 

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WYASO has given me the most cherished gift I could ever receive; I have learnt to truly love myself!  WYASO has given me strength physically and mentally.  Words simply can’t measure the depth of my gratitude towards everyone involved with WYASO; coordinators and other steppers.  I have drawn inspiration from each and every person who has posted their own struggles and triumphs on the WYASO Facebook webpage.  I have found myself.  I have found how strong I truly am and that there is nothing wrong with having down days.  Everyone has down days.  You just need to know when and how to get back up.  The WYASO event has brought out the very best of me and brought me and my team (family) closer than I could have ever imagined.  I have truly never been happier!

Is there anything you learnt this year which will affect the way you approach next year’s WYASO?

11065910_10207282528888172_4782282627039499873_nThis was our first year stepping for WYASO and it couldn’t have come at a better time in my life.  I have learnt so much about myself, fellow A.S warriors, and about A.S. in general.  With everything we have learnt, my team and I are ready for the next challenge and next time we will be armed with a great attitude and a backpack full of awareness information to be handed out!

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Ricky was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis in 2010. Exactly one year later he created Endless Trax, his personal blog about AS, to document his experiences and help inspire others. Living by the motto “your condition may become you life, but that doesn't mean your life has to become your condition”; Ricky has strived to be a positive role model and advocate for people with Ankylosing Spondylitis.

One Comment

  1. monica

    on June 28, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    Reply

    So awesome!!! I am so proud of you guys! Such a neat and inspiring way to bring awareness about A.S. If you are looking to add new members to the team next year let me know! 🙂 love you!

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