Move for your mind: Kamloops coach raising awareness one stride at a time | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Move for your mind: Kamloops coach raising awareness one stride at a time

Kamloops running coach, founder of Runclub, and co-founder of Boogie the Bridge, Jo Berry.

A well-known Kamloops coach who has spent years working to bring awareness to mental health is seeing important conversations around the once taboo topic opening up in her running community.

Jo Berry said she has seen a big reduction in stigma surrounding mental health issues in the past three years since pandemic restrictions were started.  

“The coolest thing about COVID is people are finally talking about mental health,” she said. “I love that the conversations are actually happening. I love seeing it normalized. COVID taught us how badly we need support from our community in order to be well.” 

Berry, who is a social worker, has committed her life to mental health awareness and helping others to improve their whole health through movement since she lost her mom to suicide in 1998.

She said the recent isolation caused by pandemic restrictions, along with the winter season contributing to seasonal affective disorder in some, have shone a light on the need to remove judgement and stigma surrounding mental health issues.

“My mom was either bi polar or experiencing severe depression,” Berry said. “I didn’t find out how much she had gone through in her life until after she passed away. It would have really helped her if she was more active and if there was medical intervention.”

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Berry is one of the founders of Boogie the Bridge, a charitable fun run which has raised over one million dollars for local charities, and founder of Runclub Kamloops, a run/walk training group for all levels. The programs integrate emotional and physical health.

“In this (running) community there is an open discussion about mental health, especially in the past three years,” she said. “In the past you almost had to be cautious about what you shared because of stigma. My mom’s generation never talked about anything, it was a tough time for people with mental health issues.”

Berry said she was young when she first started running on her own to ease anxiety, but after losing her mom, she came to a point in her life where she “woke up” to the deep connection between movement and mental wellness.

“I was in school studying social work and Boogie the Bridge was starting up,” she said. “I really started associating movement with my mental health and wellness, and keeping my brain chemistry healthy. It is a real thing. It ebbs and flows like our physical health and is just as vulnerable.”

Berry started up the Runclub the following year to help get others moving for spiritual, emotional, physical and mental health benefits. 

“It is not about competition it is about community building and wellbeing,” she said. “Helping others find that in their life is my jam. We move at different paces. Some people go on to do marathons, some power walk, they are equally the same. We are all built so differently.”

A big part of Berry’s mental health push is to encourage everyone to get outdoors, no matter what the weather is like.

“We move outdoors all year round, we’re not afraid of winter,” she said. “We do a lot of teaching and sharing on how to do it properly. There isn’t bad weather, just poor clothing. Winter is the most important time to be outside because of seasonal affective disorder.”

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She said while many people can be intimidated by running, the hardest part is to get started.

“Our program incorporates a lot of walking in between so it is doable,” she said. “There is a way to do it in the beginning and some people go on to do big runs when they never thought they would. It is so worth, it is life changing.”

Berry’s mantra is "Movement is Change," a powerful statement that means movement on all spheres of health: physical health, spiritual health, emotional health, and mental health.

She said the biggest thing for keeping healthy over a long period of time is being a part of a supportive community.

“People make lifelong friendships through running as we come together in a safe, warm and welcoming environment," she said. "In our community we discuss all aspects of our health, there is no judgement."

Go here for more information on Runclub Kamloops. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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