Health Hero: Encouraging Black Girls to Run

Black Girls Run founders Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks want you to be 5K ready!

Posted: 01/08/2013 12:39 PM EST

(Photo: Courtesy Ashley Hicks)

When Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks started running, they noticed that there weren’t a lot of other African-American women doing the same. So in 2009, they started a blog, Black Girls Run (BGR), to document their experiences and to encourage other Black women to join them on the trail. Two years later, their online diary turned into a huge success garnering attention from around country.

Today, Black Girls Run is more than a blog: They have 60 affiliate groups and more than 50,000 members around the country who plan running events. The events are sorely needed: Recent stats claim that 75 percent of all African-American women are overweight or obese.

BET.com sat down with the co-founders to talk about the barriers to working out, their new tour Preserve the Sexy and tips on starting your own running regimen.

What have your members told you were the main barriers to running or even working out in general?

Toni: Hair. Regardless of whether you have a perm or if you are natural, maintaining our hair and working out is a challenge for a lot of women. Culture is another issue. When I first started running, my mother shot me down a little. I think there are things that culturally that we say we don't do: We don’t ski. We don’t mountain bike or we don’t run long distance.  

BGR gives women a sense of empowerment and dispels myths when it comes to our health. We tell women it’s OK to step out of the box. You don’t have to feed into the stereotype of what “Black people do.” Or you don’t have to believe that being thick or large is OK because we are told it’s socially acceptable.

Ashley: Time is another barrier. A lot of women don’t take the time to take care of themselves. We hear a lot, “I’m a Mom, I’m a wife and I work a lot of hours.” But at the same time you have to make yourself a priority and work out.

What has the response been to BGR?

Ashley: There are the numerous weight loss stories, but we have a lot of non-scale victories. Members who were pre-diabetic, but now are not. Members who were on diabetes medications or high cholesterol meds and now are not. And we have support from the medical community. We met a woman in Philly who told us that her doctor told her about us and that, given her health issues, she should become a member.  

Tell me about the Preserve the Sexy Tour.

Toni: It just launched in Nashville, Tennessee. This tour is really a way for Ashley and I to get more involved in local communities and to encourage women to get healthy. We also want to help take away that intimidation factor of running by providing them with that support system on a local level and to help them complete their first 5K. We are hitting seven cities including Birmingham, Miami and Jackson.

Running can be intimidating. What are your tips for our readers?

Ashley: Start slow and build up your endurance, where you can run without stopping. Also get fitted for running shoes. A lot of times, people will say that they can’t run because of bad knees or a bad back, but in some cases they are wearing the wrong shoes and don’t have the proper support they need.

Toni: Just remember that running is an individual sport. Just because your treadmill partner may be running 30 minutes straight doesn’t mean you have to. In the beginning, don't go all out. Take your time and focus on your goals. It’s a marathon not a sprint.

Learn more about Black Girls Run and their new tour Preserve the Sexy here.

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