Official Newsletter of the President's Challenge


Advocate of the month: CircusFit

CircusFit® is a national youth fitness program from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® that encourages America's youth to lead healthy, active lifestyles by combining the fun of circus skills with stretching, strength building and aerobic exercise. Ringling Bros. CircusFit Program provides educators, youth group leaders and parents with an easy-to-follow, flexible structure. A variety of implementation options can be customized to a wide range of group sizes, funding or scheduling constraints. Each CircusFit Lesson takes about 20 minutes and lesson tools can be made with readily available materials, such as plastic drink bottles or jump ropes. Once youth discover the FUNdamentals of fitness, they are likely to get active and develop a genuine fitness habit.

The President's Challenge Participant of the Month: Robert S. Herbst

This month's Participant of the Month is no stranger to the Presidential Champions program. As a 4-time Platinum Award winner, Robert S. Herbst has logged hours of exercise in the Presidential Champions online tracker. This month we took a moment to talk with Herbst about his success with the President's Challenge, how he stays on track, and his advice for those looking to add more activity to their everyday routines. Here is what Mr. Herbst had to say:

1. When and why did you start participating in the President's Challenge Presidential Champions program?

Back when I was in high school, I became involved in the predecessor Presidential Sports Awards Program, earning awards for Weight Training and Jogging. I found that keeping the logs to qualify for the awards was a good way to maintain the discipline of training. Fast forward some 30 years later to around 2005, I saw the new President's Challenge Program and thought that it would provide a good way to measure myself against the rest of the country. Also, the recording of time helped to impose another layer of rigor on making sure I was active.

2. Have you always been an athlete, or is this something you started later in life?

When I was growing up, there were none of the youth sports programs like hockey and soccer that are available today. I started playing organized sports in middle school and played soccer, hockey, and lacrosse in high school. I was small and slight and on the advice of some All American counselors at a summer lacrosse camp, I started lifting weights to build myself up. At the time, I had to buck a lot of headwinds and there was no encouragement such as there is now from the President's Challenge. There were none of the beautiful health clubs or school facilities like there are now and I started with a classic York Barbell 110 lb set in my mother's furnace room. Also, people looked down on weight training. Once, a pretty girl who saw my Presidential Sports Award patch for Weight Training said that weight lifting was "gross". This was very unsettling for a high school age boy, but I stuck with it because I knew that fitness was the way to go.

I wrestled and played lacrosse in college and kept lifting weights the whole time. Not only did it make me stronger and a better athlete, but I enjoyed the activity of lifting in and of itself. I also liked feeling and looking good and enjoyed the other benefits of being fit. I can eat dessert whenever I want and never catch a cold. When I had kids, I found that I could keep up with them as I coached their youth sports such as soccer, hockey, and Little League, while most other parents were relegated to the bleachers because they were not in shape.

3. What is your activity of choice?

I really enjoy lifting weights. Also, I found that I was good at it and became a competitive powerlifter. Just like some people who run or bike enter a 10K or triathlon, I entered some powerlifting meets. I became successful and have since won 13 World Championships, 26 National Championships, and set 35 world records. This past spring, I was nominated for the AAU Sullivan Award which is given to America's top amateur athlete.

4. With so many responsibilities and obligations during busy work weeks, how do you fit in time to be activ e?

I make training an irrevocable commitment. If it is a gym day, I do it regardless and put it ahead of things like watching TV or just relaxing on the couch. If I have a work commitment or children's recital, I make sure I get the training in regardless by juggling my schedule. Having a powerlifting meet coming up I need to prepare for or having to account to the President's Challenge tracker reinforces this also.

5. What advice would you give someone looking to make exercise a regular part of their everyday life?

People who want to make exercise a regular part of their life should choose something they enjoy and make it an irrevocable commitment. They should make a deal with themselves that they will do it. This is not as severe as it sounds because if they enjoy the activity, they will want to do it. Also, as they get into shape, they will enjoy the feeling and want to keep exercising more. They will feel sluggish if they do not exercise and will look forward to their next workout. Also, it helps if one sets goals, such as walk farther, lift more, lose X pounds, earn a Presidential Champion Award. If they get tired, that is a good thing. It means they are making progress.

It is easy to start getting fit. They can take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to do errands, and eat less junk. Soon it will become a mindset and a way of life to exercise and they will look and feel better .

6. Any other information, advice, or stories you feel our readers would enjoy hearing?

I have so many stories I could tell from competing around the world, but to summarize, I will say that through sports and exercising I have been fortunate to meet some really great like-minded people who are into health and fitness. Also, stopping in a gym in London or Paris while traveling on vacation is a great way to learn about a new culture and country, as well as burn off those fancy vacation meals .

Motivated to start working toward your own Platinum Award? Sign up for the Presidential Champions program here. Also, take a look at all of our Platinum Award winners! We are proud of each and every one of them!

Share Your Inspirational Story with Us!

How has the President's Challenge made a difference in your life, school, or community? Please email your story to to be considered for our "Get Inspired" feature.