As a parent of three young girls, it’s safe to say that my listening ears were turned on and as alert as they could be during my recent conversation with Christina Zelgar, the executive director of Girls on the Run of North Alabama.
Girls on the Run is a non-profit after-school program for girls in grades 3-8 where participants build confidence and character while using running and exercise as a tool.
Girls on the Run is going virtual this semester, but Zeglar says that the lessons will be just as important, interactive, and enjoyable as ever. The semester will be broken into 20 lessons over the course of 10 weeks with each session lasting just 45 minutes.
“The lesson may be about stopping to take a breath in a hard situation or about teaching girls how to be responsive instead of reactive,” shared Zeglar. “We talk about how to be a good friend as well as how to find good friends.”
During past semesters of Girls on the Run, participants have met at various elementary schools throughout Madison, include Heritage, Mill Creek, and Columbia. Zeglar says they are working hard to get their foot into more schools’ doors to impact as many girls as they can.
Though the program has the word “run” in its title, Zelgar says that “it’s really focused on just moving and about teaching these girls about exercise and movement and how much it helps them process and learn through life.”
She added that one of the program’s key components is the “star program”, where each participant works to find something they love about themselves that makes them unique.
“We want them to find something about themselves that they love and to teach them to remember that and focus on that when the days get tough.”
Normally participants are split into teams of 12 girls, and the virtual program will function similarly where 12 girls will meet on Zoom or Google Classroom to talk through a lesson. Then the coaches will lead the girls in a warm-up activity.
“If the weather is bad or the girls do not have a safe place outside to do the workout, we’ll always have an alternative workout,” emphasized Zelgar. “The coaches will make sure the girls all know what to do and then release them to do the exercises.”
When the girls meet online at the next meeting, they’ll have a big group discussion about the lesson and activity from the previous session as far as what they learned and potential ways that it was applied.
In addition to the 20 lessons and guided exercises, each participant will receive a shirt, activity journal, water bottle, shoes (based on need), and an entry into the end-of-season 5k.
Though this Fall 2020 season is virtual, Zeglar has high hopes that the Spring 2021 season will be back to normal and meeting together in-person at area schools and community centers, such as potentially the YMCA.
This semester’s season starts on Monday, September 21st, but registration ends this Friday, September 18th.
More about Girls on the Run of North Alabama
Zeglar, a former Army Intelligence officer, has lived in Madison for just over two years and couldn’t wait to get involved when they moved here.
“I saw the job opening and thought it was a great fit.”
Zeglar, a current member of the National Guard and a stay-at-home mom with young children, desired to plant roots here in Madison and serve our community in any way she could.
“We love this community and are always looking for ways to get more plugged in.”
Zeglar says that she really believes in Girls on the Run and its potential to impact lives in big ways. She is hopeful for another successful season, and though it may look different from semesters in the past, she knows that the lessons and exercises can still be just as fun and beneficial for girls across our community.