Fit women around the country have been lacing up their brightly colored sneakers with Girls on the Run, a non-profit organization that uses a 5K-training program as a basis to inspire young girls to be healthy and self-confident. It’s a fitness spin on a mentoring program that strengthens both participants—inside and out.
As Athleta’s charity partner (all proceeds of this weekend’s Flatiron Fitness Biathlon go to Girls on the Run), Well+Good readers will be sweating for this good-for-girls cause. And here are four reasons why that’s a great thing:
1. Not all girls have access to sports programs. Or playgrounds! Girls on the Run was founded by four-time Ironman finisher Molly Barker in 1996 with just 13 girls in Charlotte, NC. In 2012 Girls On The Run mentored over 120,000 girls across the U.S. and Canada. This was made possible with the help of 55,000 volunteers, across 200 cities. “It’s an awesome program,” says Kristin Hutton, a New York City PR executive, who signed up to be a GOTR running buddy. “I have young nieces with sports programs, but I know many girls, especially in the city, don’t have access to that.”
2. The girls train to build confident minds, strong bodies, and positive spirits. The program, for girls in grades 3 to 8, consists of a 12-week curriculum. Each girl is paired with a certified coach, who acts as their mentor throughout the program. Over that period of time, the girls meet twice a week for sessions that mix physical activity with value building workshops.
3. The Girls on the Run “graduation” ceremony is unlike any other. Instead of walking down an aisle to receive a diploma, the girls run a super-festive 5K to the finish line where they collect their medals. Last year GOTR held 253 of these end-of-season events. “It was amazing to see how the parents who came and cheered at the finish line were supportive of those who ran with their kids,” recalled Hutton.
4. You can get fit and do good at the same time. “It’s easy to take part as a running buddy—you can just jump in on a run by signing up online and do a race,” she added. As a Running buddy, you’ll run alongside your girl as she experiences her first finish. You can also volunteer as a coach, create a chapter in your city, or make a charitable donation. —Sarah Sarway
For more information on Girls on the Run, upcoming races, or becoming a volunteer, visit www.girlsontherun.org