Fifty-five-year-old Kym Gouchie from Lheidli T'enneh First Nation was one of 2,912 people to register for the 30x30 Active Challenge in 2019. The mother of four and grandmother of 10 was asked by her friend Brenda Wilson to join the Challenge with her, and they decided to start before the challenge even began.
“At first I was doubtful about joining the 30x30 Active Challenge," Kym says. “Because I used to start but rarely finish when it came to things like this. But this time I did it, and it has become a ritual!"
The key to Kym's success was that she set a realistic goal and chose activities that were comfortable for her at that time. “I don't have a set schedule for exercising, and I'm not a morning person," she shares. “Some people would need a routine, whereas I'm all over the map -- and that works for me."
Keeping safe while exercising in remote areas
“I live in a remote area of northern BC that is the end or beginning of the Highway of Tears corridor," Kym says. “Many Indigenous women have gone missing in this area. I try to not dwell on this fact, but I have a healthy fear that keeps me alert."
Many women living in remote communities share similar concerns, and it's important to find ways to stay active and feel comfortable and safe.
One tip Kym shares is to set a timer when walking. When it hits 15 or 20 minutes, she returns to her starting point. This way, she's never too far from home.
This past August, Kym had an encounter with a black bear while walking alone near her home. “I usually have bear bells with me but on this day I left home without them. I had my earbuds in both ears and was on a phone call when the bear appeared. Luckily the bear was as startled as I was and took off. This was a good reminder for me!"
It's important to do what you can to be safe in your surroundings. Kym suggests having only one earbud in, and the other ear free to hear what's happening around you. Or even better, don't use your phone when out walking alone.
Enjoying the healing and soothing beauty of nature
Despite the very real concerns of exercising outdoors in remote areas, Kym is grateful and happy to be able to get out on the lands and water.
Being witness to the beauty of the changing seasons has been meaningful for Kym. She witnessed the thawing and freezing of the river and the rare blossoming of the elusive lady's slipper, and watched the leaves change colours. Getting out on the land nurtures her spirit, while also improving her physical and mental health through exercise.
Becoming a role model and inspiring others
What was once a chore – exercising – is now something Kym looks forward to.
“Our children are watching us," she says. “It's important to be a role model to them!"
Although her children are now adults, Kym believes it's never too late to start inspiring her family. Her son has begun going to the gym on a daily basis and has shed more than 40 pounds!
He isn't the only person Kym has inspired. She started a Facebook group called the Thirty-Minutes-a-Day Tribe for women, which has 20 members including Robyn from Prince George. Since joining, Robyn has recorded more than 3,000,000 steps in eight months. The online community has become a safe place for women to share stories and photos of their health and wellness journeys.
Making exercise a daily habit is important for your body and mind. Focus on doing something for just 30 minutes every day for 21 days, and it will become a habit that you can build on! Having a friend or small group that can support and motivate you can really help you to accomplish this. Also, even if you have never exercised regularly, or you have missed days or weeks – or months -- just keep on looking forward. The past is behind you! Start again, today!
What's next for Kym? She plans on taking up weightlifting and strength training and taking her fitness to new levels. You go, Kym!