FIT 4 LIFE is a resounding success story. Since it started in 2005 it has flourished and now it is embarking on an innovative pilot programme aimed at encouraging teenagers to get involved.
The Fit 4 Life for Youth is aimed at young people between 13 and 19 years old. It is about getting fit, having fun and feeling good and no running or sports experience is required. Groups will be split by age and it costs a mere €2 per session.
“Fit 4 Life started out back in 2005 when Sean Lynch of Kilkenny City Harriers rolled it out in Kilkenny. It was literally running around loops starting at St Canice’s School and along the Granges Road and we trained at James Park. There were around 50 of us at the start and most of us were randomers,” said Irene Hennebry who took up running in her late thirties and has completed numerous marathons since. “I was in my late thirties when I took up running. I had never run competitively and I got great encouragement from the group. Running completely changed my life,” she added.
“Fit 4 Life happened organically a few years ago,” said Niamh Richardson who is behind the new youth pilot programme along with European Championship athlete Geraldine Nolan. The adult group has grown to 280 members and there is now a waiting list and the club is actively encouraging male members to join. “At the moment there are more women than men. What is great is that people come and start off and then go on to participate in races and become leaders themselves. There is no pressure though, people are put in groups of people of the same speed. There have been some real success stories, there was one girl who lost five and a half stone. People from all walks of life come along and it is a great leveller,” he added,
“Running is the cheapest form of exercise and it costs €85 to join for the year which includes membership to the Athletics Association. There is a huge voluntary input in the group and there are always leaders needed,” said Niamh.
Geraldine Nolan who is also involved in Kilkenny City Harriers is instrumental in setting up Fit4LifeforYouth. “I have been involved in athletics since I was 12. There are so many teenagers who don’t realise that they have talent. We want to get more teenagers involved without the pressure of competition and want to help to channel those who want to into their local athletic clubs. The drop out rate in clubs is huge and many people who come into the sport stay involved in it later.
“This is a pilot six-week programme but if the demand is there we will keep it going. The initiative is being driven by Athletics Ireland because of the teenage fallout in the sport.
“We will be showing them the Learning to Run programme. Pace is everything. You have to learn to run within yourself and there you will realise your athletic ability in the long term. People’s perception shift - at the beginning they think a five or a ten k is way out of their league but they realise that it is within their reach within a few weeks and that is a great accomplishment. Running can become a life skill that you can tap into whether you’re having a good day or a bad day. Never before has there being such a need for an outlet for people to manage stress and worry. There is great comradry in the group and we are looking forward to getting more young people involved,” she said.