When The American College of Sports Medicine released the 2014 ‘Fit City Index’ we found out that Richmond ranked 21st, leaving plenty of room for improvement in our quest to become the fittest city in America. Sometimes figuring out how to make the necessary changes can be daunting to say the least! You may think “Hey, I’m doing everything I can!” But that’s just it – if we want to be the fittest city then we have to stop thinking about how we are each doing individually and start thinking about how we are doing as a whole.
Sure there are parts of our city that seem to be hitting the mark when it comes to fitness. Take a drive down Monument Avenue and you are sure to see tons of folks out walking or jogging, not to mention it being the same street that hosts Richmond’s largest fitness event every spring. The Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k attracts tens of thousands of people who come out every year to celebrate a physically active lifestyle and it’s now one of the most celebrated races in the country. That’s something to be proud of Richmond!
Live in Midlothian? I do and I can personally say that there are a plethora of gyms to join, safe places to be active outdoors, parks a plenty, a 5k or some other fun fitness event being held nearly every weekend, and so on and so forth. And there are plenty of other communities within the greater Richmond region where we are hitting the mark by having playgrounds available, farmers markets selling fresh fruits and veggies, and schools with adequate facilities for physical education and other fitness activities. But those are just small parts of our greater city. If we truly want to become the fittest region then we must find a way to get traction in those communities that don’t already scream fitness.
Take a drive down Jefferson Davis Highway – see any fitness centers? Feel like you could bike or walk safely on that road? Notice any farmers markets? That’s just one example of an area of Richmond that needs a lot of improvement if we are ever going to be able to truly claim that we are the fittest city in America. I don’t say this to upset anyone or to make us feel like the goal isn’t attainable. I say it to bring attention to the fact that there are many smaller communities within the greater Richmond region that need our attention! Let the fit communities maintain what they are doing while we focus our attention on the areas that need it the most.
Sports Backers offers 10k Training Teams in three of these areas. Every Saturday folks are out training at Richmond Community Hospital in Richmond’s east end, Bellemeade Community Center in Richmond’s south side, and the Bensley Community Center in North Chesterfield. Active RVA Warriors are leading free fitness classes all over the Richmond region. Sports Backers also started initiatives such as Kids Run RVA and Bike Walk RVA, both of which aim to make Richmond the fittest city and focus on ALL parts of Richmond. But we can’t do it alone!
So what can you do to help make ALL of RVA active? If you have an idea for a fitness program or initiative that could be implemented in one of our Richmond region communities that needs it most you can apply for a mini grant to help fund that project! Spread the word – tell people about these areas that need our help and point them in our direction. Have time and desire to volunteer – let us know! Don’t have time but want to help? Consider making a donation to Active RVA to help us with our outreach efforts. I challenge you to at least step out of your comfort zone and get a feel for these communities. Take a bike ride through Church Hill, get a group of your friends together for a walk in Richmond’s north side, or consider joining a training team in one of the communities we are focusing on.
I train with the Bellemeade and Bensley Community Center 10k training teams – not because they are the closest locations to my house but because I want to meet the wellness champions from these communities, I want people to see us out running, I want them to know that it can be done right in their neighborhood. Each and every time I’m out on a run in the Bellemeade community I see people checking us out, hear them cheering us on, and even get asked “hey what are ya’ll training for?” That’s how it starts – spark their interest, be the role model that shows it is possible, and be a part of the Active RVA movement!