GirlTrek: How the act of walking can become a healing tradition for women and their families

By Hailey Darby
August 12, 2020

My journey to walking for 30 minutes a day as a radical act of self-care and as an opportunity to focus on my health began in 2016. What set out to be a short walk with both my mom and my sister, would unknowingly become a life-changing moment for my entire family.

There is something that happens when you embark on a new health journey. You are overwhelmed with inspiration in the best way, but if instant results don’t appear or you feel like you cannot take another step, you often get discouraged and end up giving up before the journey towards a healthier lifestyle begins to take root. This could have been the story of my own family, if it were not for a gentle woman who asked my own mom at a time when she felt like giving up, one simple question, “Have you heard of GirlTrek?”

Walking Everyday

Inspired by the Civil Rights movement, GirlTrek, the largest health organization supporting Black women and girls, encourages women to use walking as a practical first step to inspire healthy living, families and communities.

GirlTrek \gûrl-ˈtrek\
(v.) To lace up our sneakers and walk each day as a declaration of self-care!
(v.) To heal our bodies, inspire our daughters, and reclaim the streets of our neighborhoods.
(v.) To reestablish walking as a healing tradition in Black communities as tribute to those who walked before us.
(n.) A health movement organized by volunteers across America to inspire one million by 2020.

Something powerful happens when you get a group of women walking together in the same direction. There is a connection that happens that leaves room for healing to occur. For women who struggle with loneliness or women who are held down by the effects of systemic racism, putting one foot in front of the other is a solution.

In my own journey, walking continues to be a weapon that I use to help me fight the everyday battles of anxiety and depression. For thirty minutes a day, I give myself room to leave my troubles on the pavement. I am allowed to shift my mindset away from anxiety to one of peace and joy. This is something all women not only deserve, but should demand for themselves.

With a commitment to have 1 million Black women and girls walking by the end of 2020, you too can sign up and “Join the Movement” that is transforming the lives of mothers, daughters, and sisters across the globe and turning the tide on what it means to be a healthy Black woman. You can join the Houston community on Facebook.

During the Pandemic

While GirlTrek does not have any planned group walks during the COVID-19 pandemic, GirlTrek offers several ways to still connect and engage within our community.

What started in April as a weekly morning meditation with GirlTrek co-founders, T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, evolved into the Black History Bootcamp. As a 21-day walking challenge centered on learning the powerful history of the women who walked before us, the bootcamp, gives an opportunity for women to stay connected to the other women in the GirlTrek community and keeps them accountable in their own health journeys.

GirlTrek is rooted in being a sister’s keeper. In a time where we are spending more time physically distanced from one another, the GirlTrek hotline is a saving grace. The GirlTrek hotline is available by calling 1-855-GRL-TREK and is an opportunity for women to be supported, listened to and encouraged.

What makes walking so great is that it is accessible to everyone. In the midst of a global pandemic, walking is something you can do for yourself and by yourself. Right now, you can go outside and walk for your health, and you don’t need permission for that.

At GirlTrek, we often say, “Never ask permission to save your own life.” Lacing up your tennis shoes and walking out your front door is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your health both physically and mentally.

As for Me

As for me, it pains me to say that I had no idea about the alarming statistics surrounding maternal mortality and morbidity, especially in Texas. It is also probably safe to assume I am not alone in being unaware of the crisis that is going unnoticed in our own community.

As a 24-year-old Black woman, I need to know that this affects women, especially women in Black and minority communities. Not only do things have to change from an awareness standpoint, but once people become aware of the statistics surrounding this challenge, we have to be brave enough to listen to women and their stories for solutions.

When GirlTrek is able to physically start walking together again, I would love to have group walks specifically dedicated to connecting and serving pregnant women and those who have just given birth. Extending women an opportunity to have accountability from sisters on a similar journey as them and walking alongside them saying, “Hey, sis, how can I support you?” is a step in the right direction.

Improving maternal health in Harris County is important to me because I know firsthand what happens when a mother takes the first step and declares that she is worthy of being and staying healthy. When a mom starts improving her health, life-changing habits trickle down to everyone in her family. From my personal experience, when my own mom took control of her personal health, it transformed my entire family. I know that when women walk, things change.