Have you ever wanted to become a runner but thought, “nah, I could never do that!” Fleet Feet Sports wants you to know – you can do it! Every Monday and Wednesday morning just before 9 a.m., Downtown Davis becomes awash in a blurry sea of fast moving legs and feet thanks to the Running For Women (RFW) program offered by Fleet Feet Sports in downtown Davis.
RFW is a physician-developed run/walk plan that allows women of all ages and fitness levels to gradually ease into a running lifestyle. With support and motivation in a group setting, the program encourages women to “revive, rejuvenate and reinvent” themselves by creating a healthy lifestyle and having fun doing it.
It all started with one little running class through the city of Davis in January of 2002, taught by Dr. Karen Zufelt. Dr. Zufelt created a running class to help moms exercise and be able to come out with their children – jogging strollers and all -to enable those who didn’t have child care during workouts to participate in an exercise program.
“I wanted to combine my passion of teaching women’s health and running, and (this class) gave me an opportunity to do that because I didn’t just conduct a running class – I handed out lessons and gave a little talk after every class on whatever the topic was for that day, so it really enabled me to teach,” Dr. Zufelt said. “I was also trying to build camaraderie and community so that women would keep exercising, and I also wanted to help women feel better about themselves. I knew once they got into a run/walk program, women who were trying to battle weight would start to see results and their self image would improve.”
A big weight gain during college inspired Dr. Zufelt to start running and lose the weight.
“(One day) I (saw) a Runners World magazine and looked at all the people. They looked healthy (and) happy. It inspired me. I started out very slowly, unable to do much, but I plodded along. And once I made that connection between what I put in my mouth and how I felt on my runs, I started to change my eating habits. It completely changed my life. It changed (me) mentally and physically in a lot of factors, and in that way I felt the need to pass that passion on to other women – at least introduce them to the sport.”
Each RFW class meets twice a week and coaches encourage women to run on their own a third time during the same week (called an “honor run”) to help with injury prevention and ensure success in the class. The program asserts “No Woman Left Behind” and they mean it – literally. Participants may take off running, but when the whistle blows for a walk break, the front of the line walks to meet the person in the back so no one is ever left to feel she’s straggling behind.
“That’s what helps take the intimidation out of the program,” Dr. Zufelt noted. “Nobody is ever last. Nobody will ever be the slowest, because the group turns around and the front meets the back and they start running again and they take off as a group. It’s a very inclusive program. And I think that’s what keeps women coming back.”