Perfection is not required in this new West Orange County fun fitness challenge.
The Beary Healthy 5K Challenge will span three different events this fall beginning with the Back to School West Orange Walk in August and ending with the annual OktoBEARFest Fun Run and Festival in October.
This year, Bears Who Care, Healthy West Orange and their frequent sponsor, Orlando Health, have all teamed up to get West Orange County up and moving in a fun and engaging way.
Lesa Boettcher, director of Healthy West Orange, said the idea of the event is meant to give participants an opportunity to train for a timed 5K run without the intimidation factor or pressure that often comes with a timed race.
The challenge begins with the Back to School West Orange Walk, which will kick off the school year on the morning of Aug. 18 at Cinépolis Hamlin in Horizon West.
“Parents can walk it with strollers and kids,” Boettcher said. “There’s not an expectation that you have to be an athlete. It’s really important for Healthy West Orange that we let people know that exercise and activity can be fun. You don’t have to be competitive about it, you don’t have to be a runner to enjoy exercise.”
Following in September will be the Healthy Selfie 5K — a little different from the other two. While participants will have the opportunity to race in person on Sept. 15 at Cinépolis Hamlin, the time and location are up to each individual.
“Healthy Selfie for us is a virtual 5K, so what happens with that is we give people the entire month to complete a 5K however they want because we know that 5Ks can be really intimidating for folks,” Boettcher said. “They can run it, walk it, swim it, bike it, they can do a mile a day, just participating (in) that virtual 5K at all is the second event.”
And although participants also are able to race in person, it is not a requirement. Those who want to run and want to test their time will be encouraged to do so.
“What we’re hoping is as we get people who register for all three events, that they’re going to want to do the live (event), and maybe even do more than (3.1 miles),” Boettcher said.
The challenge will culminate at the final event: The annual OctoBEARFest 5K, which will take place on Oct. 20, and will be a timed 5K event. While it is still a casual fun run/walk, those who used the events as opportunities to train can be timed.
“Every time we can help pull away the intimidation factor for people, we think that’s a good sign, because that allows someone who maybe wouldn’t (have) even considered getting up and going for a walk at all to say, ‘OK, I can do this’” Boettcher said.
To learn more and register for the events, visit healthywestorange.org. Participants who want to complete the challenge of finishing all three events will need to register for both the challenge and each individual event so organizers can keep track of who completes the challenge.
Those who finish all three 5Ks will receive an exclusive race medal.
“There’s a lot of messaging right now that says you have to (be) perfect and what that does is it intimidates people and makes them scared to try at all,” Boettcher said. “And for us, we believe in small choices. You know, having a walk after dinner is better than not and it’s those small choices that lead to habits that lead to better health outcomes in the long term.”