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Fitness: Running club good for a girl's soul

Sole Girls training session begins in Vancouver Jan. 9 at Mountain Equipment Co-op.
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Girls and women run on a North Shore trail during a training session with Sole Girls, a running club for tweens.

Nothing beats the blues like going for a run: it clears the mind, tones the body and allows you to set your own goals. For Vancouver girls aged eight to 12, there’s a new program to get them running —walking, hopping or skipping — to build self-esteem and address self-doubts that arise from peers and media.

Sole Girls is a running club for tweens that celebrates being active, committing to healthy friendships and building confidence to develop a lifetime of healthy habits long after adolescence.  

The next eight-week session in Vancouver begins Jan. 9 at Mountain Equipment Co-op on West Broadway. The cost is $295 plus material and a $40 race fee for an event March 15.

Sole Girls founder Ashley Wiles was a life coach when she noticed a theme among some clients: women who attributed their negative body image to a lack of physical activity in childhood. As this theme persisted, Wiles began teaching clients to run in order to benefit both weight management and confidence.

Her results with adults were so successful, she started training girls when are especially vulnerable to adolescent pressures that can bring adult repercussions.

Sole Girls aims to empower tweens to have fun running with their friends. Wiles wants girls to learn to trust and believe in themselves.

Tween girls in Grades 4 and 5 are living through one of life’s most confusing developmental stages, she said.

“In a girl’s world, things like body changes, ‘frenemies’ and support systems are [paramount]. Girls are perceptive and the choices they make at this age will shape their future relationships,” Wiles said. “‘Frenemies’ a.k.a., mean girls, are friends that pretend to be your friends but then back-stab and say things behind your back.”

Running is an ideal sport. Outside of a club, it’s free and non-competitive. It can be done socially or independently and the exercise also releases serotonin, a natural stress-buster.

Wiles launched Sole Girls to help tweens establish a strong physical and mental foundation. By mentoring tweens to make healthy choices and meaningful friendships while also starting a running routine, Sole Girls tries to fill in the gaps so girls keep their new habits and motivate each other. Her best advice to parents is that actions speak louder than words and they should lead by example because children are perceptive. “Love yourself,” she said. “Kids are so smart.”

Wiles collaborated with MEC because it already offers regular running clinics and hosts a race series.

The fee for a Sole Girls training series includes three months instruction and mentorship leading up to an organized event, essentially a race but competition is not the ultimate goal.

Families unable to afford the cost can apply for a bursary, which is enabled through MEC. One bursary is awarded each session.

Parents, siblings and anyone who enjoys working with children through physical activity are invited to volunteer.

Giving girls today the tools they need for tomorrow is a sure way to build a healthy, happy tween. Expect to see groups of beaming girls running through your community in the New Year. If you’ve got daughters, why not get the whole family involved. 

Stephanie Florian is always chasing her next adventure and plays with her family in the mountains and on the water. Get in touch at Twitter.com/@PlayoutdoorsVan.