How to Make a 'Fresh Start' in Wellness from Fit DC
It's January! Time to press the reset button on health and wellness. An important free resource is available that will help DC residents reach their health and fitness goals. It's called Fit DC. Mayor Muriel Bowser launched the initiative in April 2015 in partnership with the DC Department of Health, DC Department of Recreation, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, and a host of others. The mission is to motivate and inspire residents to activate their lifestyle by doing some very simple things such as changing their eating habits and increasing their physical activity. The Billion Steps challenge began in July as a citywide effort to reach one billion steps. Residents from all eight wards are encouraged to keep track of their steps and log them in steps, kilometers, or miles on the website. So far over 220 million steps have been logged.
In each ward a coach is available to help residents find local resources and provide tips on how to reach and maintain goals. Christina Alexander, a development professional and self-proclaimed curvy girl, is the coach for Ward 7. Being a Fit DC coach helps her to stay on track to reach her own goals. Charles Taylor, a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, is the coach for Ward 8. He has a passion for outdoor recreation and gardening. Together these coaches have some helpful tips on how to use community resources to help begin a healthier lifestyle.
Tip #1: The world is a gym. Wards 7 and 8 may not have gyms on every corner but that doesn't mean the opportunity to workout ceases to exist. There are many ways to use the outdoors as your space for workouts, according to Coach Taylor. “In wards 7 and 8 there aren't many gyms so one of the best places to work out is outdoors, whether it's riding a bike or going for a walk or going out on canoes, which includes education on environment and how to take care of the river. There's a lot of therapeutic aspects to it. It can make you feel better.” There are several walking and biking trails, playgrounds, and athletic fields with walking tracks for community use. Scenic Anacostia Park has a station complete with 18 pieces of fitness equipment. All are free of charge.
Tip #2: Check out your local recreation centers.As winter approaches it may be hard to get out and get fit. Workouts head indoors. Eight fitness centers and rooms are located throughout Ward 7 and 8 recreation centers. In January, Mayor Bowser announced that membership for all DC residents is free so cost wouldn't be a barrier to getting fit. Recreation centers also offer group classes as well for those who want to shake things up. Avoid using your home as your gym, says Taylor. “Home should be a place to relax not necessarily to work out. That's why you have gyms and places outside the home. It's more motivating. People buy this equipment, but a lot of times they don't utilize it well. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone to get the workout in.” Alexander adds that swimming is one of her favorite activities. “One of the things I really enjoy doing is swimming. They offer all kinds of classes all year long. I attend the ones at Deanwood since that's where I live.” Check out the Department of Recreation website for more information on fitness classes and membership.
Tip #3: Use the buddy system including social media.Having a workout partner keeps you accountable and will motivate you to be persistent. It also helps for safety if you are pursuing outdoor activities. Group classes foster friendships and help create a platform where people with similar goals can encourage one another. Social media can be used to find out more information about upcoming events and help people keep track of one another's growth and accomplishments. All Fit DC coaches have Twitter accounts, which makes them easy to follow. Alexander says on her Fit DC coach page that being a coach helps her to be accountable for her own journey to wellness.
Tip #4: Train your plate. Preparing healthy meals is another tip for reaching health goals. The Fit DC website has nutrition tips, links to local nutrition resources, and healthy recipes to try at home. Alexander says eating more vegetables, fruits, and healthy carbs has helped her shed 50 pounds over the last 15 months. She has also learned to curb her alcohol intake. “One of the things I found was that when I started working out more was that I didn't feel the need for that end of the day glass of wine or to go out for happy hour. Working out helped me manage my stress. My energy level was up. I didn't feel bad. Now it can be a reward for me. If I meet my weight goal or fitness goal for the week I may reward myself with a glass of wine.”
Tip #5: Ask for help. Consulting a primary care physician is always the first step in a wellness journey. Additionally the Fit DC website is available whenever you need resources or contact information. Alexander and Taylor say they are available to help people get started to their journey. They can refer residents to recreation centers, classes, and events that will keep them interested in health and wellness.
The Community Wellness Collective is housed inside the Anacostia Arts Center on Good Hope Road. It is a low-cost health resource that offers fitness classes such as Zumba, yoga, Da Go-Go, and boot camp, and workshops such as health literacy and meditation. The Just Walk group gathers to on Saturdays to walk a few miles in the community. The group pledges to keep going through the winter months. See their website for more information: www.communitywellnesscollective.com.
For more information about Fit DC visit www.fitdc.com. You can find the Fit coaches there or follow them on Twitter @FitDCChristina and @FitDCCharles.