Helping Others Get Fit Keeps GR Woman Accountable to Herself
It all started with a couch-to-5K training program at her church.
After that, Grand Rapids resident Aliya Armstrong was hooked. She started running regularly with a neighbor, actually took over teaching the beginner’s running program at her church and added Zumba instructor and personal training certifications to her fitness repertoire.
Still, she knew she could do more. Armstrong remembers her first race and how strange it was to her that she didn’t see many people who looked like her.
“I didn’t see anybody who looked like me, whether it be the shape, the build, or the race… and it was discouraging,” she said.
After embracing her own fitness journey, Armstrong started a running group called Sisters Taking Action Reversing Statistics (STARS) in 2011. She wanted to inspire others to join her on a path to better health. She put the word out through local organizations and was surprised when “lo and behold, these five or six strangers actually showed up and they just kept showing up and more and more people started showing up.”
“It was awesome to hear everyone’s story,” she said.
Armstrong was recently recognized for her work with STARS by taking home the Health & Wellness award at the LINC UP 2015 Community Spirit Awards, an event that was sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Today, about 45 women are on the STARS roster, with 25 to 30 participating consistently. The program doesn’t charge any sort of fee for the service, an important distinction for Armstrong, as it keeps the group accessible to all.
“Our mission is to remove barriers,” she said.
While Armstrong started her journey to improve her own health, losing 40 pounds in the process, she’s making a ripple effect on her family and in her community. As a wife and mom to three children, ages 4, 6, and 8, Armstrong is proud to see her healthy habits rubbing off on her family.
Her oldest daughter runs 5Ks, her middle daughter has participated in the Grand Rapids Children’s Marathon for the past two years, and she recently walked in on her son, the four-year-old, lifting weights – just like mom.
“That does something to you, to your psyche,” Armstrong said.
Like everyone, Armstrong goes through periodic slumps. What gets her moving again? The knowledge that she’s setting an example for her children plays a big part, but her fellow STARS also keep her accountable.
“These ladies are always quick to give me so much credit and so much praise, but they are really my saving grace and my lifesavers,” she said.
Are there people in your life who’ve motivated you to pursue a healthier lifestyle? Tell us about your health heroes in the comments!
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Photos courtesy of Aliya Armstrong