As the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) began sweeping across the country in the beginning of 2020, millions of people were confined to their homes, especially seniors. The abrupt halt of group physical activities left many individuals stranded and confused without the exercise routines they had come to rely on. Judy Cowles, an 83-year-old lifelong area resident who currently lives at the Hultquist Place Assisted Living Program at Lutheran, decided to use the pandemic to take her existing exercise routine to new heights by competing in her first ever 5K run/walk competition on October 2, 2021.

“I moved to Hultquist Place in 2014 and begin my own walking routine in 2017 to stay active,” said Cowles. “The staff at Hultquist Place have been very supportive of my efforts over the last few years, but I decided that I wanted to do more this year,” she said. Cowles, a reader and subscriber to Prevention Magazine, found information on Prevention Magazine’s Virtual 5K and took it upon herself to register, practice, and compete.

The Prevention Magazine Virtual 5K occurs twice a year and is a free walk/run event that anyone can do from anywhere. Participants register individually or in groups, log their steps and times, report their activity through different social networking groups, and get entered to win prizes and awards based on performance along with others across the country. The event also includes fitness tips, advice, and a four-week prep plan for those new to walking or running.

“This was my first 5K event,” said Cowles. “I began walking at 5:00 AM sharp on October 2 and walked for an hour and forty-six minutes all over the Lutheran Campus. It was a beautiful morning,” she said. Cowles ended up logging 9,685 steps during the event which was the most and longest she had logged at a single outing.

“I’m very proud of the new ways our residents and families have found to stay connected, stay active, and stay healthy during this pandemic,” said Kathy Lynch, administrator at Hultquist Place. “The last 18 months have been very stressful and challenging for them,” said Lynch. Many of the Hultquist Place residents began using video chatting technology for the first time to stay connected to family and friends. Others, like Judy, found ways to stay healthy and active.

The Lutheran Campus, home to Hultquist Place, is cared for and maintained year-round by landscapers and other contractors to ensure all sidewalks, aprons, and walking paths are safe for use by individuals of all abilities. This includes a marked half-mile loop around the campus itself for residents wanting to keep track of their progress which many staff on the Lutheran Campus use as well. The close proximity and paths that connect to Falconer Park allows added opportunities for residents to get out and stay active in socially-distanced ways.

“I’m proud of my accomplishment and the certificate I received to acknowledge what I’ve done,” said Cowles. “I will try to do more in the future,” she said.