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Bringing hiking to new communities: An interview with Kim Rodriguez, founder of Latinas Running
"The lack of representation in media, lack of outdoor gear and materials, and simply not knowing about these activities is what limits many in our community from enjoying."
Kim Rodriguez is nothing short of a pioneer. She’s the founder of Latinas Running - a body positive community of runners across the country who are breaking running stereotypes just by being who they are. The main message the group wants to get across is simple: all paces, all body types, and people of all different backgrounds are welcome to join in the joy of running, or walking.
This month, on May 28th, Latinas Running is hosting a run/walk at Murphy Candler Park dedicated to supporting mothers. Given the current baby formula shortage, the group is asking for those joining to bring formula and other baby items to donate to the Norcross-based nonprofit Helping Mamas (More info here).
When Kim isn’t facilitating the community of runners and walkers, she runs her own chiropractic practice in Marietta, all while still finding new ways to break boundaries. In March, Latina’s Running hosted the first ever Mujeres who Hike event to encourage more diversity in hiking.The Refugee Women’s Network and the Georgia Conservancy, are also part of an effort to encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to take up hiking.
I connected with Kim about what inspired her to start hiking and how she got folks to venture out of their comfort zones and into the outdoors.
How did you come up with the idea to have a Mujeres who Hike event?
I thought of the Mujeres Who Hike event to bring women together during Women's History Month, and to also remind the community that Latinas Running welcomes all, and not just Latinas. Aside from my love for running, hiking is also one of my favorite activities and my goal is to start bringing more hikes to Latinas Running. Hiking allows us to come together as a community, check out mentally from our daily lives, and bond on the trails. When we're running, we don't really get a chance to talk throughout the run; but hiking allows us to communicate on the trails while doing a physical activity.
Although hiking can be physically challenging, it's very hard to say you don't enjoy the views once you get to the top of the mountain. It also brings a sense of accomplishment, and it feels so rewarding. I plan on creating this signature every event every year, so that women can come together and empower one another. Empowerment can be as little as saying hello to a new woman, giving her a hug, sharing a smile, and sharing your story. I want this to stay a safe space where women can come together and explore the outdoors.
Is hiking common in LatinX communities? Why or why not? Do you hike regularly or is this new for you?
Hiking is not as common in the Latinx Community, but it is slowly growing. Oftentimes, the lack of representation in media, lack of outdoor gear and materials, and simply not knowing about these activities is what limits many in our community from enjoying. Not to mention, in a lot of these green spaces and parks, BIPOC people have experienced feelings of uncertainty or worry when traveling through routes where there is not much diversity.
It's hard to do something you've never seen or if your circle isn't doing much outdoor activities.
This is why having communities that welcome all and who are doing the work of getting people outside and diversifying the outdoors is important.
Do you think there are any misconceptions people in the Hispanic community (or other immigrant communities) have about hiking?
I can't think of any misconceptions per say, but there is a lot of uncertainty and little knowledge.
Common thoughts that people think are they have to be super athletic to hike and or have a different mentality about hiking because of the limited media. Many times, people think hiking has to be climbing a huge hill and incline. Hiking can be simply going for a long walk on a trail and it doesn't have to require some serious elevation.
For people who want to join, but are nervous or it's new for them - do you have any words to encourage them to try?
- Remember to pause and breathe
- Don't forget to hydrate while you're hiking too, not just before and after.
- Oftentimes we take off really fast, and use up all our energy right away. It's important to slow down .
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times
- Hiking requires using a lot of muscles, especially your quads with hip flexion. Try and listen to your body, and slow down when needed.
- Check the weather, so you know how to dress before your hike
- Take sunscreen/ bug spray.
- Wear the right shoes and socks ( Hiking boots with good ankle support )
- Pack some snacks. People get surprised how hungry they can get on a trail and take a backpack with you.
- Take a journal - and don't forget to seize the moment. Once you make it to your destination, give thanks to the land you hiked on and honor any other feelings.
Are there any other upcoming Latinas Running events people should know about?
We will be hosting more group runs/walks and hikes throughout the year. Follow along @latinasrunning on instagram or facebook to stay updated. Check out info about the May 28th event at Murphy Candler Park here.
Top photo: Hiking up the Pine Mountain Trail in Cartersville, GA at the Mujeres who Hike event in March 2021. Photo courtesy of Kim Rodriguez.