Last year Ann Marie Allen couldn’t walk one block without needing a break. In fact, just walking around the grocery store would tire her out. Ann Marie has been involved with Stella’s Circle for more than three years and in the spring of 2018 she learned about a participant running/walking group at Stella’s Circle and decided to try it out.
The group operated out of the Just Us Women’s Centre at Stella’s Circle and nine women participated, gathering weekly to walk or run to train for the 5K at the SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. Run for Women. The women received support from staff, and also encouraged each other. They worked on improving their health by walking or running a little farther each week. The focus of the group is not only on physical health but also mental wellness.
“Getting out to exercise, joining a community of others and working towards a goal is helpful for anyone’s mental health, says Nicole Aylward, Mental Health & Outreach Worker at the Just Us Women’s Centre. The group finished up by completing the 5K Run for Women around Quidi Vidi Lake at the 2018 run.
The group was such a hit that many of the women decided to sign up to do the group again this year, including Ann Marie. She is full of enthusiasm for this group, never misses a session and often encourages other group members when they are struggling. “It’s not always easy to get up in the morning,” says Ann Marie, “but I force myself to get out of my apartment every day. Walking makes me feel better.”
As part of the program, each participant receives a pair of sneakers and running clothes. Ann Marie is very proud of her new sneakers. “Sometimes I feel like I can’t do it [the walking], but then I think to myself – I have the sneakers so I have to use them.”
Ann Marie has continued with regular exercise and has even started swimming once a week. So walking through the grocery store or to the bus stop is much easier for her now. She says she has even lost some weight and her diabetes is improving. She is grateful for the assistance she receives from staff at Stella’s Circle “It is so helpful knowing that Stella’s Circle is here for us,” Ann Marie shares. “It’s good to have somewhere to go for support. I feel less alone.”
The proceeds from the SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. Run for Women support women’s mental health programming at Stella’s Circle, including the Just Us Women’s Centre and Naomi Centre emergency shelter for young women. The run is happening on Sunday, June 23 at Quidi Vidi Lake. More information is available at runforwomen.ca.