How did University of Texas rank on list of fittest colleges?

The University of Texas ranked 17th on a list of 50 Fittest Colleges compiled by The Active Times. File photo byLaura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The University of Texas ranked 17th on a list of 50 Fittest Colleges compiled by The Active Times. File photo byLaura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin consistently ranks highly in lists of the fittest cities in America. But how does the University of Texas stack up in a list of fittest colleges?

Turns out, pretty average.

The Active Times, a website that compiles information about travel, fitness and all kinds of active pursuits, unveiled its third annual list of the 50 Fittest Colleges in America this week.

UT nabbed the 17th position. That’s higher than Southern Methodist University (22nd) and Texas A&M University (an appalling 38th), but not as high as Rice University (seventh.)

Virginia Tech topped the list, followed by Claremont McKenna College, Ohio State University, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Dayton. Coming in at number 50? Skidmore College in New York.

I’m not putting a ton of stock in the list, which relies heavily on its own previous rankings, plus self-reported student opinion.

In a press release, the Active Times explains that it based its list on a number of factors, including U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Colleges Rankings,” The Princeton Review, and comments from students about their school’s sports programs, campus dining and campus safety. They tallied in things like student happiness and participation in recreational activities.

For more information go here. http://www.theactivetimes.com/fitness/n/50-fittest-colleges-america-2015

Final Ranking

1 Virginia Polytechnic Institute—Blacksburg, Va.

2 Claremont McKenna College—Claremont, CA

3 Ohio State University—Columbus, Ohio

4 Washington University in St. Louis

5 University of Dayton- Dayton, Ohio

6 Bowdoin College—Brunswick, ME

7 Rice University

8 University of Georgia–Athens, Ga.

9 Pennsylvania State University–University Park

10 Stanford University

11 University of Illinois–UrbanaChampaign

12 University of California–Los Angeles

13 University of Notre Dame

14 Michigan State University–East Lansing, Mich.

15 Gettysburg College- Gettysburg, Pa.

16 Vanderbilt University

17 University of Texas–Austin

18 University of Massachusetts Amherst–Amherst, Mass.

19 Middlebury College- Middlebury, Vt.

20 Wheaton College—Wheaton, IL

21 Scripps College—Claremont, CA

22 Southern Methodist University

23 Whitman College—Walla Walla, WA

24 University of Oregon–Eugene, Ore.

25 Kansas State University—Manhattan, KS

26 Cornell University

27 St. Olaf College—Northfield, MN

28 James Madison University—Harrisonburg, VA

29 Boston College

30 University of South Carolina—Columbia, SC

31 University of Florida

32 University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill

33 Bryn Mawr College—Bryn Mawr, PA

34 University of Southern California

35 University of Wisconsin–Madison

36 Tufts University

37 University of Missouri—Columbia, Mo.

38 Texas A&M University—College Station, Texas

39 USMA West Point— West Point, N.Y.

40 University of San Diego- San Diego, Calif.

41 University of Miami

42 University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Neb.

43 Oklahoma State University-StillwaterStillwater, OK

44 University of Scranton- Scranton, Pa.

45 Syracuse University—Syracuse, N.Y.

46 Florida State University—Tallahassee, Fla.

47 University of Maryland—College Park, Md.

48 Georgia Institute of Technology

49 University of Virginia

50 Skidmore College- Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Run a mile Sunday, and Nike will donate to Marathon Kids

Central Texas students and parents ceremonially begin their marathons in this 2010 file photo. RALPH BARRERA/Austin American-Statesman.
Central Texas students and parents ceremonially begin their marathons in this 2010 file photo. RALPH BARRERA/Austin American-Statesman.

Log a mile this Sunday using a special running app, and Nike will donate to Austin-based Marathon Kids.

Marathon Kids is one of three beneficiaries of the “Find Your Fast” Challenge, along with a nonprofit in Brazil and one in China. The home-grown program encourages kids to run one or more marathons, cumulatively, during the course of the school year, and lead healthy, active lives.

Anyone can participate in Sunday’s event by using the free Nike+ Running App to record their mile. Nike will cap its contributions to the three beneficiaries at $100,000.

To join, go here.

You’ll be hearing more about Marathon Kids from Nike. Earlier this month, the sports gear giant announced a two-year partnership with the local non-profit, which has encouraged elementary-aged children to run since it was created in 1995. Nike will provide marketing and communications support, plus incentives like T-shirts, shoe laces and bracelets, for kids who reach milestones in the program.

For more information go here.

Bigfoot Trail Race on Sept. 26 benefits Back on My Feet

Runners make their way through the course at last year's Bigfoot Trail Race at Flat Creek Ranch. Photo courtesy Back On My Feet
Runners make their way through the course at last year’s Bigfoot Trail Race at Flat Creek Ranch. Photo courtesy Back On My Feet

Long-time runners know that running isn’t only about the exercise. It keeps us steady, teaches us responsibility, helps us think clearly and makes us feel alive.

This year's Bigfoot Trail Race is set for Sept. 26. Photo courtesy Back On My Feet.
This year’s Bigfoot Trail Race is set for Sept. 26. Photo courtesy Back On My Feet.

That’s why I love Back On My Feet, a non-profit organization that uses running to help people overcome homelessness and gain stability in their lives. Participants have to show up for pre-dawn runs three mornings a week in order to get job training, employment and housing opportunities.

Here’s a link to a story I wrote about the program in 2013.

On Sept. 26, Back On My Feet will host the Bigfoot Trail Race, a fund-raiser for the Austin chapter of the national organization.

The race is set for Sept. 26 at Flat Creek Ranch in Johnson City. Runners can choose from a 10K, 30K, 50K or 50K relay.

Some of the Back On My Feet program participants plan to race. It will be the first-ever race for several of them. Erik Stanley, owner of

Proceeds from the Bigfoot Trail Race benefit Back On My Feet Austin. Photo courtesy Back On My Feet.
Proceeds from the Bigfoot Trail Race benefit Back On My Feet Austin. Photo courtesy Back On My Feet.

Trail Roots Running (and winner of the 2015 Statesman Capitol 10,000) is helping them prepare.

Race registration is open until the day of the race, with early bird pricing available until Sept. 1. To register go here.

Take a free class Sept. 7 during Austin’s Free Day of Yoga

Austin's Free Day of Yoga is set for Sept. 7. File photo by Ashley Landis for AAS.
Austin’s Free Day of Yoga is set for Sept. 7. File photo by Ashley Landis for AAS.

Is yoga a stretchy, pretzel-shaped mystery to you?

Mark Sept. 7 on your calendar.

Yes, it’s Labor Day, but here in Austin it’s also Free Day of Yoga Day, when yoga studios all over the city offer free classes so people like you can try yoga for the first time. (Not that yoga veterans get left out of the fun – it’s also the perfect time to experience a new style of yoga or check out a new studio or instructor.)

Kritin Canfield, left, and classmates enjoy a Wanderlust LIVE roof top yoga class in this file photo by Ashley Landis for AAS.
Kritin Canfield, left, and classmates enjoy a Wanderlust LIVE roof top yoga class in this file photo by Ashley Landis for AAS.

Austin’s Free Day of Yoga dates to 1999. Today, cities across the globe and as far away as Guam, New Zealand and the Netherlands, host their own such days.

Most Westerners are familiar with Hatha yoga, which uses physical postures like standing and balancing poses, twists and forward and back bends, plus relaxation and breathing techniques, to achieve health benefits. But there are a slew of other options, from Iyengar and Ashtanga to Viniyoga and Kundalini. All of them can help increase flexibility, strength, stamina and balance – and reduce stress.

The best way to find the right style and teacher? Try a bunch of classes until you find one you like. Go here to see a schedule of the free classes in Austin.

Here are some tips, from the organizers:

  • Arrive early. Classes are well attended.
  • Wear comfortable clothes so you can move easily.
  • Come with a stomach that is neither too full nor too empty.
  • Remember most yoga classes are taught barefoot.
  • Bring a towel, blanket or yoga mat to class.
  • Do the best you can and don’t overdo it. If it hurts, you may be taking it too far.
  • Go at your own pace and respect the limits of your body.

Austin Fit walking programs gear up in September

Kay Horn, an assistant coach, front left, leads a beginning walking group called Art of Fitness in this May 2015 file photo by Ralph Barrera of the Austin American-Statesman.
Kay Horn, an assistant coach, front left, leads a beginning walking group called Art of Fitness in this May 2015 file photo by Ralph Barrera of the Austin American-Statesman.

This spring, I dropped in for a brisk walk with the Art of Fitness training program, a group of fitness walkers who realize running isn’t for everyone. (Read my story here.)

It was raining, but we marched up Far West Boulevard and back, chatting about everything from what it’s like to walk an entire marathon to everyone’s summer plans. That’s what this program is all about – serious walking mixed with a lot of camaraderie.

This year's fitness walking classes gear up in September. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
This year’s fitness walking classes gear up in September. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

This year’s fall sessions, part of USA Fit Austin, are gearing up soon.

Fall training programs that focus on walking the full or half Austin Marathon start Sept. 12. The class meets weekly for 24 weeks at 7 a.m. Saturdays in the parking lot of the Austin Recreation Center, 1301 Shoal Creek Boulevard. The group breaks into six separate pace groups that range from 12.5-minute miles to more than 20-minute miles. There’s also a Get Fit component to help people shift to a healthier lifestyle.

More beginner friendly Art of Fitness classes start Sept. 15. That group, an introduction to fitness walking and interval training for beginners, meets at 7 p.m. Tuesdays in the parking lot of the Austin Emergency Center, 3563 Far West Boulevard. The eight-week program will prepare members to walk either the Race for the Cure on Nov. 15 or the Step Out and Walk Diabetes Race on Nov. 14.

Cost is $125 for new members or $100 for returning members (discounts for seniors over 62, state employees and groups of five or more).

For more information, check the AustinFitWalking page on FaceBook or email purple@austinfit.com. To register, go here.

Giant water slides, tunnels, trampolines and more at Rugged Maniac obstacle race Sept. 5

Competitors in the Rugged Maniac, coming to Austin Sept. 5, jump over fire. Photo courtesy Rugged Maniac.
Competitors in the Rugged Maniac, coming to Austin Sept. 5, jump over fire. Photo courtesy Rugged Maniac.

Giant water slides, trampolines, adult bounce houses and mechanical bulls? All in one spot?

Competitors swoop down a 50-foot water slide at the Rugged Maniac. Photo courtesy Rugged Maniac
Competitors swoop down a 50-foot water slide at the Rugged Maniac. Photo courtesy Rugged Maniac

A new obstacle race coming to the Travis County Exposition Center on Sept. 5 promises all that, with a little running in between.

Competitors in the Rugged Maniac, held in 23 cities this year, will tackle a series of obstacles, including a 50-foot water slide, underground tunnels and fire jumps, spread over a 3-mile off-road course.

Afterward, they’ll celebrate at a day-long festival featuring live music, mechanical bulls, adult bounce houses, beer, food and exhibition booths. The festival is free to spectators.

Entry fee for the race is $89 at http://www.ruggedmaniac.com, or $100 at the event the day of the race ($10 discount for students and military personnel with valid identification).

“We’re excited to be bringing Rugged Maniac to Austin for the first time,” says Rob Dickens, chief operating officer of Rugged Maniac. “It’s a vibrant city with an adventurous and active

Competitors cross a muddy stream at the Rugged Maniac. Photo courtesy Rugged Maniac.
Competitors cross a muddy stream at the Rugged Maniac. Photo courtesy Rugged Maniac.

population that loves having fun outdoors.”

Follow the Austin Rugged Maniac on Facebook here. http://www.facebook.com/RuggedManiac

Brewers pedal 1,400 miles for prostate health awareness; local ride set for Aug. 29

Davis Tucker and 13 cyclists will pedal from Austin to Denver starting Sept. 6. A local ride is set for Aug. 29. Photo courtesy 1400 Miles
Davis Tucker and 13 cyclists will pedal from Austin to Denver starting Sept. 6. A local ride is set for Aug. 29. Photo courtesy 1400 Miles

The foam hand with one finger extended that Davis Tucker handed me the other day makes me a little squeamish, but the cause is a good one.

He calls it “Don’t fear the finger,” and that finger, of course, is the one a doctor uses to check for prostate cancer. Tucker’s mission is to get 1,400 guys to take that test.

The group's goal is to encourage men to get tested for prostate cancer. Photo courtesy 1400 Miles
The group’s goal is to encourage men to get tested for prostate cancer. Photo courtesy 1400 Miles

To do that, Davis is leading a group of bicyclists on a 1,400-mile ride from Austin to Denver to encourage people to talk about prostate health. The 14 cyclists will pedal an average of 100 miles a day for two weeks, starting Sept. 6.

(And if you’d rather do a local one-day ride, which I plan to do, keep reading.)

Tucker, who owns NxNW Brewery, started the event three years ago, motivated by brewmaster Don Thompson’s battle with prostate cancer. Thompson has undergone treatment for the cancer twice, but is doing well now and continues to work at NxNW, where he oversees brewery operations.

“He’s my combination brother, father and craft brewing mentor,” Tucker says.

The riders will pedal between through the Hill Country and into the mountains, tackling Wolf Creek Pass and other challenging terrain along the way. They’ll arrive in time for the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, where they’ll set up a trailer where participants can get a quick blood test to check their prostate specific antigen, or PSA, levels.

The group will pedal an average of 100 miles a day for 14 days. Photo courtesy 1400 Miles
The group will pedal an average of 100 miles a day for 14 days. Photo courtesy 1400 Miles

High PSA levels sometimes – but not always – indicate prostate cancer. The best test is a digital exam by a physician.

“I’m as ready as I can be, but you never know what’s going to get you on the road, and that’s very much like cancer in general,” Tucker says. “How are you going to respond?”

Money raised through the ride and other 1400 Miles events are used not for research, but to raise awareness about the need for men to get checked for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. If detected early, it can often be treated successfully.

In the three years since it was founded, the organization has raised almost $300,000.

“The money is more about getting men to pay attention and be aware of what their responsibility is personally to get checked,” he says. “That’s our whole goal with this.”

If two weeks in the saddle sounds like too much, a one-day community ride is planned for Aug. 29, with 24-mile, 40-mile and 60-mile options.

That ride originates at the Twisted X Brewing Company, 23455 West RR 150 in Dripping Springs, and when you’re done riding, you get beer and barbecue. (You can even get free PSA blood testing at the site, for a mere prick of the finger.)

Look for me at the local ride. I’m planning to be there. Entry fee is $45. To register, go here.

CASA Superhero Run returns to Austin Sept. 13

In 2013, I met Superman at the CASA Superhero Run. Photo by Chris LeBlanc
In 2013, I met Superman at the CASA Superhero Run. Photo by Chris LeBlanc

Two years ago, I met Superman. Last year I met Batman, but that was the tiniest bit scary, because he didn’t crack a

In 2014, I met Batman. And he didn't smile, which was a little scary. Photo by Chris LeBlanc
In 2014, I met Batman. And he didn’t smile, which was a little scary. Photo by Chris LeBlanc

smile.

You can meet a whole array of superheroes (and dig your own superhero costume out of the mothballs) at the CASA Superhero Run, which returns to Austin this year after a one-year stint in Cedar Park.

Besides brushing shoulders with caped crusaders, participants can tackle the BAM Academy obstacle course, see the Batmobile, play in a bounce house and get their picture taken in a photo booth.

The sixth annual run is set for Sunday, Sept. 13 at the Domain Central Park, 11100 Alterra Parkway. Registration, check-in and a superhero costume contest are scheduled for 7 a.m. The 5K race starts at 8 a.m., followed by a kids’ 1K, complete with villains to chase, at 9 a.m.

Proceeds benefit CASA of Travis County, CASA of Williamson County and CASA of Central Texas, all non-profit agencies that advocate for abused or neglected children.

When the state steps in to protect a child’s safety, a judge appoints a trained CASA volunteer to make independent and informed recommendations in the

The Batmobile will be at this year's Superhero Run. CHRIS LeBLANC
The Batmobile will be at this year’s Superhero Run. CHRIS LeBLANC

child’s best interest. Children with CASA volunteers are more likely to end up with family, do better in school and receive therapy, health care and education.

To register or for more information go here.

Kids needed for Texas River School’s free River Sense canoe program

Texas River School has 200 spots in its free River Sense program for kids.
Texas River School has 200 spots in its free River Sense program for kids.

The Texas River School is looking for groups of kids who want to take a free half-day canoe and river safety class.

Classes were cancelled due to rain earlier this summer and funding must be used this year.
Classes were cancelled due to rain earlier this summer and funding must be used this year.

The non-profit school, based in Austin, had to cancel many of its River Sense programs earlier this summer due to rain. Now the non-profit organization has excess funding that it will lose if it doesn’t use by the end of the year.

The River Sense program offers kids who normally don’t have access to water get out and learn how to safely enjoy and protect our rivers.

Two hundred free spots are available. The half-day class includes a canoe trip on Lady Bird Lake, trip planning information, river etiquette and docking techniques.

Because of weather, holidays and school, the trips should be scheduled by the end of October.

The Texas River School has taken nearly 5,000 kids on the river during nearly 200 canoe trips. One of its main missions is to connect children with nature.

The class is open to groups of 30.
The class is open to groups of 30.

Ideal candidates for the program are under-served youth ages 8 to 15 including girls, physically challenged children and those from economically challenged families.

The program is eligible to groups of 30 students that can provide their own transportation. Students must be able to attend classes from 9 a.m. until noon on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Participants must take an online River Quiz, at texasriverschool.org/river-sense/, before they go out on the water.

For more information, email joe@texasriverschool.org.

Austin B-Cycle unveils new stations, $5 memberships for low-income residents

Austin B-Cycle announced new low-cost memberships and unveiled four new stations today. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN- STATESMAN)
Austin B-Cycle announced new low-cost memberships and unveiled four new stations today. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN- STATESMAN)

Austin B-Cycle today announced new $5 memberships for low-income residents, and unveiled several new stations at affordable housing communities.

The $5 annual memberships are part of the bike share system’s new “B-cycle for All” program. Residents who make $25,000 or less and are not full-time students can get the reduced rate memberships by calling 512-954-1665. Four hundred of the low-cost annual memberships will be available.

Austin B-Cycle also unveiled four new stations, including three – one at Sata Rita Courts, Second Street at Pedernales Street, another at Chalmers Courts, Fourth Street at Chicon Street, and a third at Capital Studios, 11th Street at Chicon Street – that are part of the Austin Bike Share Equity Project.

Austin was one of seven cities selected by the Better Bikes Share Partnership to receive a $50,000 grant to fund the equity program. The Downtown Austin Alliance also contributed $10,000. The program is designed to increase the usage of bike share among low-income populations as a low cost, reliable transportation solution.

A fourth new station at Sixth Street and Lavaca Street was funded by Parkway Properties, Austin Ventures and Green Mountain Energy.

For more information go here.