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Belvoir youth athletes pose before starting a Sole Sisters Fitness Program session, July 11 at Pullen Track.

Fourteen female youth athletes from Belvoir’s School Age and Teen centers gathered at Belvoir’s Pullen Field, July 11, to participate in a new Child and Youth Services program for girls designed to promote physical fitness and encourage self improvement. 

“This is an eight-week program, where young girls are given the opportunity to be part of a running club that will help improve physical health through different forms of conditioning,” said Julie Libert, CYS sports and fitness assistant director and program coordinator. “It will also help improve self-esteem and confidence through building community and discussing various topics. It’s designed to empower, encourage and educate young girls on how to develop a sustainable healthy lifestyle, with self-love and confidence.” 

The program began June 17 and runs through Aug. 15. Each week (Mondays and Thursdays, 9-10 a.m.) highlights a specific goal: Week 1 was called “Taking Care of Me,” and stressed the benefits of maintaining healthy habits. Week 2 focused on friendships and dedicating oneself to building lasting relationships and putting a stop to bullying. Week 3 highlights self-esteem and Week 4 explains different body types and the importance of “loving what I see in me.” 

Weeks 5 and 6 concentrate on community service, or using each participant’s personal strengths to help where needed; and body image, appreciating diversity and being open-minded, respectively. 

The program ends with sessions emphasizing goal setting, followed by a final review of all the topics covered. 

“During the first, introductory session, we told the participants to set goals for themselves, whether it’s to make new friends, to run faster, get healthier, whatever it might be,” Libert said. “Today, the theme is making new friends … so, think about what it means to be a good friend, what characteristics or qualities make a good friend and how to stop bullying. Each participant also gets their own workbook that’s just for themselves—we never look at them—to keep track of their progress and accomplishments. 

After the warm-ups, under the guidance of Libert and Carla Milton, CYS fitness specialist, participants engaged in a number of intense fitness activities, including a one-lap “leader’s choice” run during which the athlete at the front of the single-file line periodically stopped and called out a specific exercise like jumping jacks, knee-chest steps, or squats and the rest of the group would follow; and a tic-tac-toe dash during which competitors ran about 15 yards and placed a beanbag into a nine-ring array until either of two teams connected three squares and won the game. 

The session also included a “box run” during which athletes ran four laps around a square of cones spaced about 20 yards apart. 

Judging by the laughs and unmistakable expressions of pride and accomplishment on the athletes’ faces, the program is off to a promising start. 

“It’s really good, because you get to exercise,” said program participant, Imani Pirrs, 14. “And, it really works to help girls get fit.” 

“This is a place of encouragement and teamwork,” Libert said, “and everyone is responsible for their actions and attitude.” 

For more information call Libert at 703-805-9138 or email julie.k.libert.naf@maIL.mil