Cassidy looks on as her mother

Sampare leads walk-to-run health program

SportMed BC came to the Friendship House in Prince Rupert to prepare participants for a 13 week walk-to-run training program

Winter is no excuse to place personal wellness and fitness on the back burner and First Nations leader, Vincent Sampare, is encouraging an active lifestyle over the frosty months.

A 13-week program to promote healthy habits through a walk-to-run training for First Nations residents kicks off this month. The idea has grown over the past eight years when SportMed BC, a not-for-profit organization, started a training clinic with three Aboriginal leaders and 100 participants for the 10 km Vancouver Sun Run, the largest foot race in Canada. Now, there are over 100 leaders and 2,000 First Nations participants in the program.

It’s not as feasible for people from Prince Rupert to travel to Vancouver for the race so the city hosts its own version of the Sun Run. Last year, Sampare, a youth inclusion program coordinator at the Friendship House, helped organize a training program that led to a race around Butze Rapids.

This year, Sampare invited SportMed BC to come to Prince Rupert for the first time from Vancouver to hold a Health Beat, or health check, before training begins.

“It’s very important because it actually helps. Even though some people say, I’ve been working out, they don’t see any results. If they see the numbers they can compare it to 13 weeks from now, and they can see not just their body wise but they’ll see healthy benefits,” Sampare said.

On Jan. 6, approximately 30 people came to the Friendship House to get fitness tested before their 13-week training begins. SportMed BC checked for many health factors including blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol levels, as well as a strength and walk test.

Former Olympian, Lynn Kanuka, was there as part of the SportMed BC coaching team.

The training program starts the third week of January and finishes the third week of April. Kanuka trains the clinic leaders to lead the walkers and the learn-to-runners.

“We have a counselling component as well so we talk about other ways that they can maybe take steps towards better health. Maybe we get them to think about cutting back on pop or cutting back on chips,” Kanuka said.

The results are almost 100 percent positive if people stay with the program, according to Kanuka. It depends on the group, but she said that not everyone is able to do the full 10 km the first year but they pick it up the next year.

For Sampare, his goal is to make wellness top of mind for people and youths in the community who work seasonally and usually relax during the winter months.