We are a 12-week beginner running and/or walking program for women+ ages 16 to 116 based on mentoring, peer support, and lifestyle habits designed to help improve your fitness, self-esteem, and social support network, regardless of your current level of fitness.
It doesn’t matter where you start (how fit/fat/fast you are); it only matters that you start.
Please note that if you have run multiple 5k’s or longer races, or are capable of running a mile in under 9 minutes, this program is not designed to meet your needs. The Fleet Feet programs or GMAA membership may better serve the abilities of women running faster than a 9 minute mile.
The program was created in 1997 by Jane Serues, a former coach, Olympic Trials marathoner, and national-caliber masters triathlete. Jane’s original First Strides program has grown into eight separate workshops and has served thousands of women in the greater Allentown, Pennsylvania, area since its inception. (Curious to know more? Check out the website for the original First Strides program.)
In 2004, Michele Morris, a charter First Strides mentor, duplicated this life-changing program in Vermont and led the program through 2013.
In 2014, renowned Vermont runner and coach Kasie Enman took the helm and continues to bring First Strides to even more Vermont women!
Pennsylvania and Vermont host the only First Strides programs to date.
How the First Strides® Vermont program works
Each weekly, one-hour First Strides session typically begins with brief announcements, followed by that week’s workout. All workouts are based on time, not distance, so the program accommodates walkers as well as beginning runners. The first workout lasts just 15 minutes, with each week’s workout lasting a little longer.
Complimenting the workouts is a different themed resource each week, in the form of qualified Mentor presentations, guest experts, handouts or group conversations. Some topics we cover include: pelvic floor health, breathing techniques, apparel, injury prevention, safety, nutrition, mindset and more.
The first two weeks are in larger groups as we get to know each others paces and preferences. After the second week, we move into smaller groups of similarly paced women. Each group is assigned two Mentors to shepherd their group through the program. These volunteer Mentors are all experienced walkers and runners, many are First Strides graduates.
At the end of the 12 weeks, many of our participants choose to complete a culminating event: the Richmond Round Church 5k Run or Walk for Women at the end of July.