Fitness movement catching fire
A women’s health movement has taken Winston-Salem by storm.
Two years after its inception in the local community, Black Girls RUN!, a free running group for women with chapters all over the nation, has amassed hundreds of members, helping city residents to shed pounds, improve their cardiovascular health and even make a few friends along the way.
BGR’s latest “Walk Before You Run” group attracted more than 150 novice runners to its launch in September, the largest group to date for the local outfit, said Kannapolis native Kelly Barr, one of Winston-Salem’s three BGR ambassadors.
“The program is awesome to get ladies out and get them started in a healthy lifestyle,” Barr noted. “…To me, it’s a way of life for black women, but we have all types of women. It’s very diversified – any lady can come out.”
Among the new runners is Gail Hosch, a Wells Fargo employee and Mount Olive native. She said her involvement in the group, which coordinates regular run outings for women at every fitness level, is the result of a renewed focus on her health.
“My last daughter has gone off to college, so it’s about me now,” said the mother of two. “…I have no other child at home, so I feel this is the perfect time to work on me again.”
At the urging of Barr, her colleague at Wells Fargo, Hosch decided to give BGR a try. The 52-year-old said she took to the program right away.
“I fell into it after the first day that we walked. Me and another girl said, ‘We want to run!’” she related. “It’s just like a fever because you see all those veterans running.”
Hosch and the other women meet several times a week to complete a prescribed run course led by a run leader. Hosch and the other newcomers are training for their first 5k race in December.
“I get excited when I get off work now,” she confessed. “I can’t wait – I look forward to (practices) every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.”
The camaraderie she has found among the other women has been one of the best aspects of the experience, Hosch said.
“I just love the encouragement of the girls,” the Winston-Salem State University alumna declared. “Throughout the run, it’s always ‘Great job, ladies. Great job.’”
In the short time that she’s been running with BGR, Hosch said her life has changed for the better.
“I just feel good about my body again,” she happily related. “I feel good and I sleep very well and I’m just more conscious about me.”
Black Girls Run has grown to more than 1,200 members on Facebook, and boasts 36 run leaders and 11 coordinators, Barr reported. The Fulton Family YMCA fitness instructor said the community’s response to BGR has far exceeded the expectations of its early members. Being a part of the group has been an enriching experience for her, added the mother of four.
“It’s gratification for me, just to be a part of such an awesome group of ladies, and it’s getting bigger everyday,” she declared.
At 74, city native Margaret Epps is likely the oldest member of BGR, and an inspiration for many of the younger members coming on board.
“They say, ‘Girl, I want to be like you when I grow up,’” Epps related with a laugh. “I say, ‘Keep living and you will be.’”
Epps, who retired from the Winston-Salem Police Department over a decade ago, joined BGR in late March, after hearing about it through fellow members at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
“I heard them talking about it and I said I wouldn’t mind trying it,” related the great-grandmother of two, whose exercise regimen includes three days of running and two days of Zumba per week. “…The first night, the leader said we are going to run for 22 minutes. I said, ‘She’s crazy – that’s almost 30 minutes!’ But I did it and it was fun.”
Despite her initial reservations, Epps quickly adapted to running. She has since completed two 5k races – St. Leo School Road Race and the Black Girls Run! Sweat With Your Sole race in Charlotte – and placed first in her age group both times. Epps also competed in several track and field events at the Piedmont Plus Senior Games last spring, bringing home five medals for her efforts.
“Once you start running, you don’t want to walk again,” said the longtime Winston Lake Family YMCA member. “It’s just like freedom. I have my headphones on and I’m on that music, and I just don’t have to think about anything – I’m in the zone.”
Epps said she has become an unofficial advocate of BGR, urging other women to take advantage of the program that she says has made such a difference in her life.
“It seems like I’m more positive than I used to be,” she declared. “I think I can do anything I choose to do now.”
For more information about Black Girls Run or to join the local movement, visit www.blackgirlsrun.com.