Recently, our Community Services Department asked our community of blind individuals some questions about how they live their lives and get exercise. One question was: Do you think you’d be able to run a 5k race?
Most respondents said no. Surprised?
Whether it’s a normal response – many folks just don’t have an interest in distance running – or a testament to misconceptions about blindness, we decided a 5k was a goal worth taking on, and a realistic one, to boot.
Running 5 kilometers sounds like a lot of work, and maybe the letter “k” turns people off of making the effort. Also, a common misconception about running a race is that you must run the entire time, which is not necessarily true. Many people who participate may walk for the majority of the race. Another reason blind people may shy away from a 5K is the fear of losing their way or not being able to keep up. Well, with a bit of training and help from LightHouse’s fitness partners resource many blind people may be unaware of–such problems can easily be solved.
The LightHouse’s own Serena Olsen set out this year on a mission to change fitness goals for blind people around the Bay Area. It’s called the National Fitness Challenge, put on by the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and the Anthem Foundation to celebrate fitness goals for the wider blindness community.
August is the NFC’s halfway point, and we’ve already seen a ton of progress from our 25 participants, who were all given complimentary Fitbits to help them track their progress through the year – and it’s all part of a national effort to get the low vision community out and about. Here’s some data on all the blind people exercising their way through the summer:
“Through the first 5 months of the 2017 National Fitness Challenge, our 342 participants and 13 cities have gone over 320,000,000 steps and 141,000 miles, surpassing the number of steps from the entire 2016 Fitness Challenge.
Even during the warm weather of summer, cities have increased their activity levels on an individual and group level. Groups like Memphis and Fort Wayne showed their desire to participate in the different sports available to the blind and visually impaired with Paralympic Day events, while other groups like St Louis and Knoxville continued increasing their steps through monthly walking meetups.”
With the challenge running until November, there’s still a lot of ground to cover, so in the spirit of setting new goals and mixing things up, Serena has set the group’s sights on the 5K.
“Your muscles and vital organs benefit from the increased bloodflow,” Serena sounds like a doctor when she rattles off the reasons, adding. “There is a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of community.” To prepare her NFC team, Serena also holds weekly running (and walking and jogging) club every Saturday morning at Lake Merritt in Oakland. It’s a perfect opportunity to prepare.
To really up the ante, Serena takes the challenge, too—she will personally register for and participate in every event where another NFC participant signs up.
“As the coordinator, it is important for me to be a good role model,” she says.
Pasted below is a list of local 5 & 10K run/walks happening all over the Bay Area throughout summer and well into fall. The National Fitness challenge will reimburse you for your registration fees (conditions apply. Be sure to click through and read more details about specific events).
August 27, Hayward
September 16, Alameda
October 14, Oakland
October 14, Berkeley
Forward a copy of your registration to Serena at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will join you in your efforts, matching whatever you register for-5K, 10K, you drive it and I will see you at the starting line at the event!
And a 5K isn’t the only way to stay fit. While it is a great challenge to get people out there, socializing and exercising, there are simple ways to increase your steps every day that Serena mentioned. “Tooth brushing is one of those things where you’re brain can focus on something else. This is the perfect opportunity to pace,” she revealed. “Sometimes I will even march in place while I’m washing my hands.”
Contact Serena Olsen at email@example.com or 415-694-7316 for more info or to get involved.