Check out the beginning of a Blue Cross Winter Warm Up 5k preparation practice at Meridian Mall: (Credit: Lexie Soro)
What is it?
Dozens of Meridian Township residents have officially kept their New Year’s resolutions as they prepare for the Blue Cross Winter Warm Up 5K walk/run on March 21.
The Blue Cross Winter Warm Up practice team meets twice a week inside Meridian Mall and nine other local locations across mid-Michigan. Members can choose to do the hour-long practice walking or running around the perimeter inside the mall or go outside. While at practice, partiipants receive walking and nutrition tips.
The practices run from January 27 through March 21, the day of the 5K the Blue Cross Winter Warm Up 5Kk walk/run at Hawk Island Park in Lansing.
Janet Quensen, a long-time mall walker, said she’s been walking in the mall for about 10 years but just began the Winter Warm Up program two years ago.
“The first year I came in, I loved it, and I won the Golden Sneaker Award, said Quensen. “It’s the award at the end for the township.”
She learned about the program through a prior exercise group at the same mall, and it has helped her get back into moving after various health issues. Through starting this program, she now has set a personal goal to walk the third longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere with her family by her side.
“I love it … It gets me up, I have a goal now,” Quensen said. “I would love to walk across The Mackinac Bridge and with my kids and grandkids and all. There’s no way I could have last year, but now I think I’m feeling better about it,”
Louis Hopkins, head coach of the Meridian location, is far from a newcomer in the exercise community. She is also a coach with the women’s 5K training team at Playmakers sporting goods and events store in Okemos.
Hopkins said she has been involved with the running community around Lansing for about 10 years.
Form is one of the key components to walking correctly, said Hopkins, head coach of the Warm Up group stressed the importance of taking the right strides while you are walking.
“Your body will thank you if you use good form,” said Hopkins. “I have had two injuries when I first started running, and they were both caused by bad form. So I am an avid believer in using good form.”
The program has multiple meeting times throughout the duration of the eight-week program, making it flexible for anyone who wants to join.
Hopkins meets twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the group.
The Blue Cross Winter Warm Up is a free eight-week program open to all ages Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. when participants walk indoors and outdoors.
She said typically there are afternoon programs at noon and the remaining meetings are typically in the evening. The program strives to make times flexible to reach residents’ schedules.
Walking doesn’t only increase mobility, but it can also increase your life span. According to Life Science, walking and exercising regularly extends life significantly and improves ones’ health.
“Adults ages 18 to 64 should get at least 150 minutes; 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week,” according to Life Science.
“This group teaches you how to walk properly,” said Lin Hirai, retiree and participant in Blue Cross Winter Warm Up 5K. “So that you are heel striking and that way you are avoiding injuries. It’s just called good form walking.”
Mary Kimball, another Warm up participant, is a runner but also likes to take walk.
“[Walking] helps you age gracefully,” said Kimball. “Keeps you strong and keeps you fit. You can eat more because you burn off more calories; it certainly has its advantages. As you get older I think it’s wonderful.”
Having consistent movement can have long-term health benefits.
Kimball said: “Move it or lose it. If walking is the best thing for them and you don’t like the weather they can come here … .And they can walk in the mall. I think it’s a real non-threatening way for people to have activity because there’s nobody judging them as they’re doing it.”
For those who are interested in being more of a walker there are tips on how to make sure you are walking correctly. Better Health says to make sure people are wearing the right shoes before they start strenuously walking.
“For starters, make sure you wear correct shoes for walking,” said Better Health. “Comfortable sneakers work well for most people. If they’re new shoes, try them on first to make sure they fit well and are comfortable.”
The 2020 Blue Cross Winter Warm Up is free, and its purpose is to motivate residents to get moving and stay moving while encouraging a healthy lifestyle. It is also open to all ages and abilities.
Sign-ups are available online and open to the public throughout the eight weeks and are accepted on a rolling basis.