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Program created by Portland doctor aims to get you from couch to 5K in 12 weeks

Providence's 10th annual Heart to Start program kicks off Nov. 29 with a goal of getting people to walk or run a 5K in February.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Dr. James Beckerman is a cardiologist and the medical director of prevention and wellness at Providence Heart Institute in Portland. Ten years ago, he created a program designed to help people get more active. 

“I think that the pandemic has obviously been difficult for so many people in so many ways. And one of those ways is just trying to find a community and be a part of something,” said Beckerman.

For the 10th year, Providence is kicking off the annual Heart to Start. It’s a free 12-week training program with a goal of getting people to walk or run a 5K in February.

“You don't have to be a runner. You don't have to be a walker. Everybody is welcome,” Beckerman said. “We know that everybody wants to be healthier and accomplish new goals, and we're here to help them.”

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“It gave me the opportunity to actually get out and move again,” said Katie Reed, a Heart to Start participant for the 10th year.

When Reed was in high school, her dad was diagnosed with high blood pressure, and it frightened her. Heart to Start gave her a weapon against her family history.

“I wanted to be active and I wanted to get out and try and stay as healthy as I could,” she said.

This is the second year the program will be virtual. 

Last year, over 2,000 people participated from 18 states and Canada. For 75% of them, it was their first time. 

Participants will be using a smartphone app to help track their physical activity and this year, a podcast will be offered as well. 

“We'll be dropping a couple of episodes with experts talking about things like nutrition, proper footwear, motivation and also bringing in some of our past Heart to Start participants to inspire our new ones,” said Dr. Beckerman.

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Anthony Scribner has been a participant for five years. He was previously diagnosed with heart disease. Scribner said the program is on a different level than most training programs.

“What Heart to Start does is gives you a place to feel like you're going to be supported no matter what you can do,” he said. “It's not about times, it's really not even about distances. It's about being able to get out there and go a little further to be healthy physically, mentally and emotionally.”

The virtual kickoff is on Nov. 29 and runs through the weekend of Feb. 19-20. Participants can aim for the 5K or set their own goal.

“There's no judgment,” said Reed. ”You don't have to be fast. You don't have to put pressure on yourself. Just know that you're encouraged to get up, come out, take that step through the front door and actually get moving.”

“Everyone is welcome,” added Dr. Beckerman. “So no matter where your starting line is, we'll help you get across your finish line.”

You can register for free for Heart to Start at https://welcometobasecamp.org/hearttostart