Soboba tribal member takes first steps with fitness program

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Kelli Hurtado, at right, leads a walking group during a recent “Let’s Get Moving Mondays” program session. From left, Tónla Hurtado Laurenzana, Sasha Hurtado, Sr. Gen Sarigumba, John Sanchez and Kelli. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Kelli Hurtado has started a program to help her fellow Soboba Tribal Members and employees get healthier by learning more about fitness and wellness. “Let’s Get Moving” recently began with a walking group on Mondays. Currently serving on the Soboba Tribal Council, Hurtado has been planning this program for quite a while but was waiting for the right time to implement it.

After sharing her idea with fellow Council members, she started a private Facebook group for the community and employees and announced her “Let’s Get Moving Mondays.” Although she started walking Monday mornings, with the hotter weather – and now that the Soboba Sports Complex pool has reopened – she is switching her group routine to evenings in the pool. She said everyone can still walk in the water at their own pace with water weights or even swim laps if they wish.

“I’ve been in touch with Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health Inc. and they are starting some exercise programs for Soboba,” Hurtado said. “I’m going to work around their schedule to do an evening walk so the community can have exercise options five days a week.”

Her goal is to get people moving. She said, “so many of us don’t want to walk alone so we don’t know how to get started. I just want to encourage people to start walking and be outdoors, getting fresh air. Sometimes we underestimate the healing powers of Mother Earth/Mother Nature. I’ve been outdoors taking brisk walks, drinking plenty of water, cutting out sweets and I know it can totally change your mood or help with anxiety or depression.”

She touts the benefits of walking just 30 minutes a day to encourage everyone to keep moving on other days of the week, too. She said it can lower blood pressure, lower the risk of diabetes and help manage existing diabetes, reduce stress levels, clear brain fog and more.

Walkers take a few laps around the Soboba Sports Complex June 7 as part of Kelli Hurtado’s “Let’s Get Moving Mondays” program. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

“I’ve tried just about everything; I’ve done CrossFit, boot camps, hiking, Herbalife, fasts, detoxes – you name it,” Hurtado said. “But the one thing that worked best for me is walking. I don’t eat bread and I have not had soda in more than 5-1/2 years.”

The mother of four has always instilled fitness and wellness in her children, keeping them active and involved with athletics. Her oldest daughters, Sasha and Natasha, played basketball from a really young age and now her youngest daughter, 13-year-old Maryhelen, plays. Her son, Victor, plays baseball, basketball and football. Her oldest of three granddaughters, Tónla, 5, has already participated in a cross-country sports program through Inter Tribal Sports and is looking forward to the current ITS basketball season.

“I love watching them play; I will drive anywhere to support them and to cheer them on,” Hurtado, 44, said. “It was always easy to motivate them because they love to play.”

Even before she was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2019, Hurtado was always looking for ways to get and stay healthy. She chose some alternative cancer treatments and eventually had a successful double mastectomy in August 2020. Now in remission, she is thankful to her Creator and every person that prayed for her and helped her and her children get through it all. Now her efforts to stay healthy are paramount.

Several walkers joined Hurtado on a recent Monday morning at the Soboba Sports Complex for a one-hour walk at their own pace. Starting off with some stretching exercises, the group then made several trips around the perimeter of the complex.

John Sanchez said he joins his wife’s group every chance he gets. Working in the construction industry, he is often on the road by 5 a.m., a few hours before the group’s start time of 8 a.m.

“But whenever I have the opportunity to get out and do this with her, I’ll do it,” he said. “I encouraged Kelli and gave her all the support she needed – I thought it was a great idea. I told her that just like in the ‘Field of Dreams’ movie – build it and they will come.”

Carlene Masiel said she and her sister, Millie Arres, usually take evening walks at The Oaks but she wanted to try a morning walk for a change of pace and scenery. She said they do it for their health and feel it is effective to just keep moving. Coincidentally, Monday morning walkers pass by Noli Indian School where Arres works.

Sister Gen Sarigumba, from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church at the Soboba Reservation, said she often walks the church compound’s grounds but wanted to try this when Hurtado told her about it.

Sasha Hurtado, wearing a weight vest during the walk, said she enjoys working out and will “go anywhere for a good workout.”

Kelli Hurtado said that as the walking program grows, she hopes fellow Tribal Members and community members will volunteer to teach fitness and/or wellness classes. She admits it will take some time until the program has grown to where she’d like it to be but she’s OK with that because, “I’m not going anywhere.”

“It’s never too late to start getting healthy so let’s do it together,” Hurtado told participants.