Team FIT gets families moving

In its sixth year, the Hope running team is growing rapidly

Kevin Chisholm and Fred Phoenix lead the way down 7th Avenue during last Sunday’s Team FIT learn-to-run practice.

“Forty-three families moving,” would normally be disastrous news for the town of Hope.

No worries here, though: these families are moving toward a goal of being able to run or walk 10 kilometres, so they can take part in the annual Sun Run in Vancouver on April 21.

This is the sixth year for the Hope-based team, which has been organized by C.E. Barry staff members Pauline Johnson, Kim Hollmann and Jacob Cowan. Cowan’s wife Miranda is also part of the leadership group.

In the past, the team has been identified by the school, with students getting their parents and siblings to join them in their goal. Johnson says that presented a problem when the students moved on to the high school and still wanted to be part of the team — or when community members with no ties to the school wanted to join.

Change the title … and the problem is fixed.

“The name is now Team FIT, which stands for Families in Training,” says Johnson, who works as the Native education coordinator for the school.

The group is partnered with the SportMedBC Aboriginal Run/Walk program, which has approximately 1,800 to 2,000 participants each year. Participants do not need to have First Nations lineage, though. Getting people moving is the key.

Locally, the group has shown steady growth, with 52 members in 2011, 85 in 2012 — and now 103 this year. Of these, 23 are School District 78 employees.

Age range is from four years to 65-plus.

“Usually, one adult in a family joins because their kid is bugging them,” says Hollmann. “Then, after a few years, they’re all in.”

Hollmann should know. She joined in 2009 and she and her husband Peter and their four sons, her sister Marlo and her mom Carole-Ann McKay all took part in the Sun Run last year. The last holdout was Grampa Don, who was already getting into the walking habit on his own — but now has joined the group and has jumped into the Learn to Run program. Add neighbours Erin, Scott and Jaxson Wilkins and well over half the population on Ferry Landing Place is walking or running at least three times a week.

With the goal of having the team ready for April 21, the program begins in earnest 13 weeks prior. Some members need a lot of adjustment time, while others have already been maintaining an active lifestyle and just need to maintain or add to it.

In past years, Johnson says, they had three groups: Learn to Walk 10K, Learn to Run 10K and the Run 10K Faster groups.

“But some people just want to run steadily — just for the love of running,” says Johnson. For this type of member, which includes Johnson herself, Team FIT has formed a “Run Steady” group this year.

“The Run Faster group has interval training,” says Jacob. “You run fast for two minutes, then slow for one.”

By Week 11 of the program, the runners will be running continuously for up to 75 minutes on their Sunday group sessions and the walkers will be walking continuously for 90 minutes. That’s a great improvement over the half-hour maximum of the first week.

Members in all the groups are expected to practice on their own or with fellow members at least twice a week — in addition to the Sunday team practices, which start and finish at the C.E. Barry gym.

Why would anyone put themselves through all that work?

For one, the team effort is a motivator and the gradual build-up makes the transition to fitness less painful.

The team also has support built into the program, with lead runners doubling back to keep the group close together. They also have developed a Facebook group, where members can make plans to link up with members for a practice session — or  make encouraging comments to team members, says Miranda.

And then there’s the fun component. Crazy fun.

At about 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, you may see one hundred of the goofiest-looking people to ever walk or run on the streets of Hope.

Most likely, they will be members of Team FIT.

They’ll be competing for prizes for the best costume, which will be awarded at the potluck dinner, after the 5K event. Prizes will be awarded for best super-hero costume, craziest hairdo, most colourful, and best beachwear outfit.

“Some people try to mix all the parts together,” adds Hollmann, grinning at the memories of past years’ outfits.

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