When Jane Serues moved to the North Myrtle Beach area she brought with her a program to help women start walking or running toward fitness and less stress. Serues started First Strides in Allentown, Pa. “I began First Strides in 1997 and when I came here I wanted to continue it for women in this area,” Serues said.
Serues describes First Strides as a beginner’s workshop for women that enables them to learn about walking and running over a twelve-week period of time, culminating in participation in the “Dashing Through the Glow Walk/Run 5K on November 22. “We have weekly meetings at the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex amphitheater where we discuss things like proper shoes, injury prevention, motivation, nutrition and more. Our goal is to get everyone walking and running in a self-paced program to prepare them for their own running/walking program,” Derues said.
“The program’s twelve-week length enables each participant to work at their own pace while we try to gently push them to a little more effort than the week before. Since we have 155 women signed up for the program, we divide them into groups of thirty and we assign each group a mentor from the Grand Strand Running Club to help them. Each week we assign homework, which means two more days of running or walking at home,” Serues said.
Serues stated that each week is supposed to be “a little more challenging, along with the fitness part of running or walking as well as the social benefits of meeting new people. Our groups are called cheetah, deer or fox and we want each group and each person to have fun while they challenge themselves,” Serues said.
Since the program began in Pennsylvania, Serues stated that over 7,000 participants had been part of First Strides. “Over the years our retention rate has been high, with 60 to 73 percent graduating to a T-shirt that they wear in their graduation running event. This year’s Dashing Through the Glow 5k will be a unique event for them,” Serues said.
Serues stated that she was “thrilled at the turnout here. We try to make it doable and fun. We do it gradually, gently and consistently, so that they find out that they can do it. We have ladies in their 20s to their 70s and we have one twelve year-old. No experience is necessary. We know they have jobs and family and hope they can take one Wednesday a week away from that and not feel guilty as they work toward a healthier and less stressful life,” Serues said.
If anyone is interested, registration is open through September 25. The cost is $40 and includes the weekly workshops conducted by area experts, a graduation shirt (attendance at 8 workshops required) and a one-year membership in the Grand Strand Running Club.
Serues plans to offer another First Strides in January. “I want to have a fall and winter class and would like to offer the program everywhere. I just want it to spread and get more women involved in a more healthy lifestyle,” Serues concluded.