A new club hopes to encourage middle-school girls to run and bike their way to greater confidence and higher self esteem.
Girls Thrive is a new group that meets twice a week for training sessions to develop strength, endurance and skills. Organizers say that participating in sports in statistically proven to increase the confidence and self-esteem of girls, improve educational performance and reduce the risk of drug use, smoking and other unhealthy behaviors.
Alyssa Evarts, 12, likes to ride her bike along side her dad when he goes jogging.
“I’m not very good, so I’m hoping Girls Thrive will help me be able to ride ahead of him,” said the Helena Middle School seventh-grader.
The small group met for the first time last week and set expectations for the program and each other, which included ways to create a respectful environment by supporting one another, not using cell phones during meetings and having a positive attitude.
After spending a little time getting to know one another, they split up into a runners group and a bikers group.
While the bike group went over the parts and functions of a bike and were fitted properly for a helmet, the running group discussed clothing and safety.
“All you need to start out is a good pair of tennis shoes,” said Aimee Reynolds, one of the running coaches. “Comfort is really important.”
Reynolds said unlike typical sports, running is different because it can be done alone.
Clara Thamke is in the runners group, but admits she’s not much of a runner. She is hoping to pull her nose out of books — which she says is almost an obsession — and get some exercise.
Thamke admits she went to the first meeting because of a pretty big push from her mother, but by the second meeting Saturday, she was getting in the groove.
The first activity was simulated mountain and valley interval training using the stairs and the yard at the YMCA.
“We run up the stairs and jog across, slowing at the top to about 80 percent of your top speed just to get your body used to what it’s like to push and gain your breath back, but still keep moving,” Reynolds said.
The girls then ran over to Memorial Park for some shadow tag — a game of chase where participants get tagged by encountering their shadow.
Reynolds said she’s helping out with Girls Thrive because it would have been helpful to her when she was in middle school.
“I think the starting point is having fitness be part of life because it can improve your quality of life,” she said. “I’d like to pass that on to someone else.”
The group of mountain bikers tested their balance by trying to ride as slow as possible without falling over.
Evarts fell over, but just laughed about the painless, low-impact crash.
“I like to be healthy and I’m doing this to get exercise,” she said.
Christine Thennis got the idea for Girls Thrive after hiking one afternoon with her niece, who noticed all the mountain bikers they passed along the trail were male.
Thennis is hoping that the group inspires more girls to participate in the Dynamos, a local mountain biking club for young riders. But she’s also hoping to put positive role models in the lives of some middle schools girls.
“I hope the girls gain more confidence,” Thennis said. “I hope they think about themselves in a positive light and all their strengths and they fit into the community and make some good choices. And if they learn to run or mountain bike, or both, in the process, that’s great too.”
This session runs through mid-October, and Thennis is already planning another session that will start in April.
No experience or gear necessary to join the group, which still has room for more runners and bikers, but the cost is $160 (scholarships are available). They meet on Wednesdays after school and Saturday mornings. Registration is available at the YMCA. For more information, call 422-6148 or visit www.girlsthrive.com.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or firstname.lastname@example.org