Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Moser Column: Running and walking to kick a bad habit

Dan Moser's column this week reports on the inspiring story of the local Striders program where residents in Salus' substance abuse treatment center participate in a twice-weekly walking and running program, leading to success by some participants in a recent half-marathon. Thanks to Dan and Roger and all the volunteers involved in running this program, congratulations to the Salus participants, and thanks to Salus for being one of BikeWalkLee's supporter organizations.

Florida Weekly Outdoors section, March 18, 2015

On March 1, more than 1,100 runners completed the Hooters Half-Marathon, arguably one of the best 13.1-mile runs in Southwest Florida. Among the participants was a young woman in the midst of a personal recovery process that includes fitness as one of the tools to help her and others in similar situations deal with it. Watching her succeed in something as significant as this demanding physical undertaking is even more that was envisioned when the Striders program was put into motion at a local substance abuse treatment center a number of years ago.

Striders is based on a national program that is too expensive to bring here, so a few of us who are involved in human services as well as safety, fitness and wellness got together in 2011 to create the program. We approached a residential treatment center near downtown Fort Myers that is operated by what was then Southwest Florida Addiction Services and is now SalusCare, and nearby Red Shield Lodge, a Salvation Army facility, with a request for them to allow their clients to participate in a twice-weekly outing where they would walk or run. The idea of introducing physical activity into the recovery process, which is proven to have significant benefits for those who embrace it, is to get participants to use their walk or run as a positive alternative to whatever brought them to the treatment center.

In the short term, while in the residential center, engaging in physical activity on a regular basis serves as a way to breakup the usual routine while introducing the concept of making exercise part of their lifestyle. An important part of the program includes educating participants on the rules of the road and pathway for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists and the need to take personal responsibility for one’s own safety while mixing with traffic (most are and may be without a motor vehicle for some time, but the message also targets those who will get back behind the wheel at some point). As participants move from residential treatment to transitional and independent living, the hope is that they do indeed incorporate regular and sustained physical activity into their daily life.

It’s hard to estimate how many folks have been part of Striders over the years it’s been around because there’s a constant turnover of participants in the residential treatment program, but there are between 15 and 25 walkers and runners every Tuesday evening and Saturday morning. Local athletic shoe stores, including Snyderman’s and Run Florida, provide new and lightly used running shoes for those needing them. Volunteers from Grace Church, area fitness centers and the general public provide their time, expertise and encouragement. And Rotary has come through with the funds used to enter those motivated to do so into races, mostly 5Ks. Hundreds of pairs of shoes and dozens of Striders have run races, many completing a 5K for the first time. But having someone with only one 5K under her belt complete a half-marathon in a very respectable time is especially rewarding and helps motivates us to keep the program going. If you’d like to help with donations or volunteer some of your time, contact me or Roger Mercado at

Upcoming events

Organized runs, walks and rides are happening just about every weekend as we reach the peak of season. This weekend there are two definitely worth taking part in. A run that is among our area’s oldest events and had previously been the only 4-mile race has now become the Lehigh Spring Fest “Race in the Park 5K,” happening Saturday, March 21. The following day, Sunday, March 22, the Caloosa Riders’ signature event, the 17th annual Royal Palm Ride (, takes place. Last year the staging location debuted at Fort Myers Brewing Company in Gateway after many years at a community park. It was a move that proved to be an excellent one, with the number of participants increasing significantly. Accompanied by some of the best craft beer around, cyclists enjoy a post-ride lunch provided by food trucks and their outstanding fare so it’s no wonder the Royal Palm Ride has achieved a new level. Hope to see you there.

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways.

Upcoming Events


Lehigh SpringFest 5K, Saturday, March 21, Lehigh (

Harbour Heights Half-Marathon, Saturday, April 4, Punta Gorda(

African Aid 5K, Saturday, April 11, New Hope Church, Fort Myers(

Viking 5K Paint Run, Saturday, April18, Bishop Verot High School, Fort Myers(

Run for Kayla 5K, Saturday, May 2, Patriot School, Cape Coral (

Turtle Trot 5K, Saturday, May 9, Lovers Key Park, Fort Myers Beach (

Cycling and other events:

Miracle Limbs Ride, Saturday, March 21, Naples (

Royal Palm Classic, Sunday, March 22, Gateway (

Pedal and Play in Paradise, Saturday, March 28, Punta Gorda (

Ride for Literacy, Saturday, April 18, Immokalee (

— Dan Moser is a long- time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at or 334- 6417.

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