Girls running strong

. July 16, 2013.

Raising healthy girls with adequate self-esteem in today’s world can be a constant challenge. But nothing can build self-esteem like the combination of vigorous physical activity and working towards a goal. Girls On the Run, an after-school program for girls from 8 to 12, aims to teach healthy messages through a combination of running and inspirational teaching.

Girls on the Run was founded in 1996 by Mary Barker, a former high-school teacher and track coach—and also an Ironman Triathlete. Distressed by the negative messages bombarding young girls about body image and gender roles, she created Girls on the Run, which now has chapters in 44 states. Barker aims to help girls at a vulnerable age to escape what she calls the “Girl Box”—the set of restrictive
gender roles that force young women into behavior patterns and beliefs dictated by society, rather than by what’s best for them individually.

The program encourages positive physical and emotional development by training girls to participate in a 3.1 mile running event. During the ten-week program, teams meet twice a week after school for workouts and workshops, and also take part in a community service project. The original Girls on the Run program is for girls in grades 3 through 5, but girls in grades 6 through 8 can participate in the counterpart program, Girls on Track. This two-tiered system allows the instructors to give the teams specifi cally tailored age-appropriate instruction.

The fall Girls on the Run season is already underway, but registration for spring begins February 1. Call 734-712-5640 to fi nd a convenient location in the Ann Arbor area, or see