Caroline Shugart column mug

The seasons help us schedule and plan our lives. Currently, we are enjoying the football season — Go Aggies! The camping and fishing seasons are winding down, and ski season is just over the horizon. Unfortunately, flu season is upon us (don’t forget your flu shot), and the upcoming holiday season means we need to navigate the excesses of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s with an eye toward mindful eating.

My running season has just ended for the year. Depending on our travel schedule, hubby Robert and I try to begin our Utah season by running either the Salt Lake City Half Marathon, or the Buffalo Run 25K on Antelope Island — or both. Our season usually ends with the Mountain View Trail Half Marathon (again on Antelope Island) in early November. I love to support the local Top of Utah Runners, with their professionally managed races. I’ve run their half marathon for many years, and I was able to participate in the festive 9.3-mile Freedom Run in Blacksmith Fork Canyon with a bunch of friends for the first time this year.

My season just ended with the Top of Utah Runners’ First Dam Scary Run. Runners had a choice of the 10K or 5K course, and the weather was very cooperative. As with all races, some serious runners participated, and fast times were recorded. However, the race was designed to be inclusive, and walkers were accommodated. I loved seeing all the runners, but I was particularly happy to see the parents walking with their kids. I saw one parent pushing a stroller while carrying another child on their back. And I chuckled when I overheard another walking parent telling her young child to “go for it” and run to the finish line up ahead. I think these parents deserve a ribbon.

I imagine that many people think that running is for thin people with a lot of time on their hands. As I looked around the crowd of costumed runners at the finish line of the First Dam Scary Run, there were young runners — some under the age of 12 — and runners on the long side of 60 years. Tall and short, thick and thin, the people who came out for this race participated in an event proving that practice gives positive results. If you haven’t been exercising, of course running for 30, 40, or 50 minutes without stopping seems an impossible task. But as with any big adventure, it starts with just a single first step.

If your goal is to be healthier next year, here’s a suggestion: Commit right now to participate in a 5K race. Local 5K (3.1 mile) races are plentiful and inexpensive. Early 5K races in 2019 include the Shamrock Shuffle in March and Health Days Fun Run in May, with both occurring in Smithfield. That gives you four to five months to get ready. And here’s the thing… you can choose to run them, or walk them. Walking a 20-minute mile pace — 3 miles per hour — means that you’ll be done in about an hour. If you are not used to walking that far, or that fast, work gradually toward this goal. Keep track of your efforts, and chart your progress along the way, because this can be very motivational.

Does this sound like too much work? The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends that adults “do the equivalent of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, the benefits are substantial. These benefits include lower risk of premature death, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and depression.”

I’d say these are all very good reasons to engage in regular exercise!

Walking 3 miles per hour counts as moderate-intensity exercise, whether outside or on a treadmill. And if you can jog or run, so much the better. But move those legs! If you need motivation, get a friend to walk with you, and sign up for a 5K fun run together to inspire each other. Your heart, and your friend, will thank you.

If you see me on the trail, on a road, or in a race, please stop and introduce yourself. I will want to commend you for your commitment to wellness. You deserve the kudos. Be Well!

Caroline Shugart is a nurse, dietitian, and personal trainer. She can be reached at caroline.shugart@gmail.com.

Caroline Shugart is a nurse, dietitian, and personal trainer. She can be reached at caroline.shugart@gmail.com.