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Cabarrus Magazine

C25K: Concord Parks & Rec Wants to Help You Get Fit, and Have Fun Doing it

Jan 18, 2018 10:22PM ● By Melanie Heisinger
Couch to 5K (C25K) is a 10-week community fitness program that the City of Concord Parks and Recreation Department puts on each year. It consists of people of all fitness levels and ages that have a shared goal of getting healthier and in better shape. At the end of the program, they compete in a local 5K or 10K.

The next season will start on Tuesday, January 23 and will train for the Bunny Run 5K on Saturday, March 31. The department then will take a short break before starting back up on Tuesday, May 8 to train for the Streetlight 5K on Friday, July 13.

The original program was brought to former Concord Parks and Recreation Lifetime Specialist, Ryan Jones (now with Monroe Parks and Recreation) by the REFLEX International group which was headed by Tommy Snodgrass in 2009.  The goal was to promote a healthier lifestyle to people in the Concord community. Parks and Recreation already had an established road race series and wanted to help people understand that they could participate in these types of programs while allowing participants to enjoy the social aspect of healthy living. 

The program started very small and trained for each of the three 5K races that Parks and Recreation offered. As the program started to grow, it was taken over by a former participant who developed a passion for running and coaching, Michelle Zelaya and Concord Parks and Recreation Athletic Supervisor, Sara Rodgers. 

Along with Michelle, Parks and Rec started asking sponsors such as Phiddipides Sports Center, Academy Sports and Outdoors, Pure Chiropractic and others to come and speak to the group about their products and services. "We not only wanted to train runners," Sara told us, "but we wanted to inform our participants about proper running shoes, nutrition, and injury prevention."

Michelle created Motivate Wellness and brought on their current running coach, Francine Romain. Together, along with Parks and Recreation support, they increased participation in the program by continuing to motivate participants, creating a 10K training program for those that wanted to run longer distances and bringing in specialists such as athletic trainers and nutritionist to continue to educate.

"Our main purpose is to help people get moving and start their health journey, regardless of how long it’s been since they last ran or did any type of workout," Francine said. "Our hope is that they will meet others who are also on a wellness journey and help each other be accountable for not only showing up to run with us each week, but also staying on track during our session breaks."

They’ve seen many relationships formed through this program where participants “graduate” from 5K training and form smaller groups that meet to train for longer distances or continue down other wellness paths. They motivate each other and are able to continue the wellness initiative without having a coach there to hold them accountable or to motivate them. 

"We’ve also created a private Facebook page for participants to post about their accomplishments, ask questions to each other or to the coaches and motivate each other," she continued. "We welcome everyone. We want to help people achieve their personal goals. It’s not about losing weight, it’s about being apart of a community that will educated, motivate, and help make a positive and long-lasting change in someone’s life."


But, how exactly does the program work? "Once someone registers they will meet us at Dorton Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 pm starting January 23," Francine told us. "We also take registration at the first few weeks of class via cash or check. They’ll be greeted by their main instructor Fran and they’ll see a large group of people welcoming them to the class."

Some people will be brand new, and some will be returning participants that have developed a love of running and particularly just love running with this group. So don't worry, they will explain the program and answer any questions they may have.

"We understand that week 1, or better yet, night 1, can be scary," she said. "So, we do everything possible to create a welcoming, stress free, fun atmosphere."

Whether you are looking to improve your run time or just want to finish it, those running the C25K program are proud to say that everyone that stays with the program through the duration of the 10 weeks has been able to complete a 5K, and most meet their time goals if they have one. 

"We don’t put any emphasis on time," both Sara and Francine told us. "We understand that everyone has different capabilities and fitness levels and we welcome that. We have many people that come back session after session  It’s not that they necessarily need to be coached, they just love the community and relationships they find at C25K, along with the routine of meeting every Tuesday and Thursday."

It's this continued enthusiasm that helped motivate the coaches and the Parks and Recreation Department to create an intermediate program called the 5K to 10K challenge. The demand from their runners was there and they wanted to help them reach their next goal, so that program meets 2 times per year and trains for local 10K races. 

"I think if you spoke with any of our past or current participants, they would tell you that Couch to 5K is a great first step for anyone that wants to make a positive change in their life," Francine said. "For $15 you not only get a cool t-shirt, but you also get a 10-week program, coached by certified running instructors, that will introduce you to a community of people that will help encourage you and help you develop a long-term, overall, health change."

To learn more and sign up for the C25K program, you can visit their website

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