No doubt, Ana Lucaci walks the talk, and the walk. Literally and figuratively, she can be counted on to go that extra mile, always. And if you are lucky enough to find yourself in her path, chances are she’ll carry you along with her for awhile, extending a warm welcome and opening windows of possibility.
Ana moved to Longmont from Romania on a diversity visa in 2008, just after completing her Masters in European Studies. With the help of her cousin living in Longmont, she wasted no time in getting to know the area. She secured her first job here with Pharmerica Pharmacy and she’s been with the State of Colorado as a Policy Specialist since 2013, and volunteered extensively with the Longmont Theater Company, where she met the man whom she would later marry, now vice-president of the Longmont Theater Company Board. Life was good.
Ana fell in love with her new community, and was full of appreciation for her new life. In 2013, she pledged her citizenship to the United States. She wanted to give back. In the back of her mind, an idea was simmering, a way to promote community. Despite the many great attributes of her new community, something was lacking. “It struck me, no one was out walking,” she says. “I would go outside and feel like, ‘where is everybody?’ I was used to seeing people everywhere. In Romania,the town structure is quite pedestrian-based. That is a really key part of social life.”
As Ana got to know Longmont and the surrounding areas, she appreciated the sidewalks, paths, and trails. She thought how nice it would be to get more people out there walking together, facilitating people getting to know one another. Then, January 2015, while crossing the street after work in Denver, Ana was hit by a car, and life changed.
“I was at a crosswalk downtown,” Ana recalls. “I had clearance from the pedestrian crossing signal to go, but the drivers turning left also had a green light. The first car stopped for me to cross, but the driver behind decided to pass and hit me.” The impact was serious–Ana sustained injuries to her lower back, left ankle, and left wrist. The intense pain on impact was followed by a significant period of equally intense physical therapy. Nevertheless, Ana focuses on the positive, eyeing the many ways she was “lucky”. ” The driver was in a pick-up truck,” she says. “Had the car been lower down, my legs would have been hit straight on. Also, since it was winter, I was all bundled up, which helped to lessen the impact. And finally, my laptop was slung over my left shoulder at the time, so it absorbed a good bit of shock.”
While not everyone would necessarily liken a destroyed laptop in a car crash to a stroke of luck, Ana’s trademark way of gleaning the silver linings from every experience certainly served her well through this one. “I needed to be sure to do a lot of exercise outside of of physical therapy,” she says. “Speaking with my sports medicine doctor, we determined walking was the best supplementary exercise I could do. I thought, ‘great, something I am already doing and was built to do’.”
Hardly a moment passed once Ana’s doctor suggested adding more walking to her regimen when the Surgeon General issues a Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities. The call emphasized both the innumerable health benefits to walking and the importance of safe, accessible places for all community members to get out and enjoy fresh air and exercise. Ana was inspired by the timing. She contacted LiveWell Longmont Manger Melissa Houghton, offering to lead Longmont After Work Ambles throughout the month of May, 2016, as part of the annual LiveWell Colorado Get Moving Challenge. The walks were so successful and well received, she continued the weekly walks, which are still held today, listing the regularly varied locations through Walk2Connect and Boulder Ramblers. The energizing, themed walking routes highlight various aspects of our #HealthyLongmont: historic Longmont, parks and recreation areas, neighborhoods, and more. Each weekly walk duration is one hour, and open to all paces.
In addition to her weekly Longmont Ambles, Ana set up and led a Jane’s Walk in June. Jane’s Walk is a global movement of free, citizen-led walking tours inspired by Jane Jacobs, a writer, self-taught urbanist and community advocate for standing up to big development at the expense of more personal downtown centers. The walks encourage people to tell stories about their communities, explore their cities, and connect with neighbors. “I read about her and thought, yeah, that’s what I want to do,” Ana says. “Then, when I was telling a friend about Jane, she said, ‘oh, she’s like you!’, which was pretty cool. I realized, OK, I guess I am kind of a mini Jane Jacobs.”
Obviously, Ana didn’t take her post-crash recovery sitting down. She took brisk, long walks by herself, she organized and walked with others, and oh, by the way, did we mention she earned her Master’s in Public Health while working full-time all the while? Time is certainly a commodity she appreciates, but Ana is comfortable with her busy schedule. She enjoys the opportunity to support a healthy community through leading and supporting regular walks. “Walking is such great exercise, and such a wonderful way for people to get to know their neighbors and community,” she says. “Walking and talking, everyone relaxes and builds refreshed energy. They learn from each other, get to know each other. Over time, everything about the community becomes brighter.” However, in promoting walking for health, Ana is also highly mindful, and motivated, when it comes to promoting pedestrian safety.
Last spring, Ana was awarded a fellowship with America Walks Walking College, sponsored bythe CDC and American Public Health Association. While working full-time, leading walks, and continuing her involvement in theater, Ana took classes online and participated in work groups via weekly video conferences for a period of five months, culminating with the Walking Summit held September 2017. She worked her way through various modules, focusing on everything from advocacy and how to promote walking to building walkable communities and improving walkability. At the Walking Summit, Ana presented her project for her fellowship: her Made2Walk campaign is designed to showcase pedestrians’ right of way to motorists. Included are both educational and enforcement components which she is working with city officials and the Longmont Police Department to implement.
Inspired by Ana’s momentum? So are we. Lest you find her the prospect of following in her footsteps a little daunting, however, know that one needn’t necessarily create a compelling campaign to make a difference and promote walkability. Truly, every step does count. Take it from Ana. “The first step in making a difference is as simple as showing up,” she says. “The city offers great opportunities to talk about and invite input on improvement projects. Just show up. This is the city’s opportunity to hear what the community really needs. You don’t need to prepare, you just need to be there.”
Want to make the most out of walking your way? That’s all about showing up, too. To get the most out of walking, visit Walk 2 Connect or Boulder Ramblers for interesting routes and meetup opportunities, Ana suggests. Follow Ana on Twitter, @Made2Walk. Don’t worry about pace, fitness, just do it. “We’re all made to walk,” Ana says. “We’re pedestrians by design. Even if we’re riding in a car most of the time, at some point everyone becomes a pedestrian.”
There’s nothing pedestrian about your approach to walking, and to life, Ana! Thank you for sharing and being such a healthy community role model!
LWL: What does your fitness routine look like? Obviously it involves a lot of walking…
Ana: I go to Boot Camp classes at Fit Chick Express to boost my core. 2-3 mornings a week. Of course I lead weekly walks–once weekly at a minimum; I also contract with Longmont Downtown Development Authority (LDDA) to lead special event walks.We offered a glow in the dark brewery tour, and are hosting a Christmas lights walk Friday, December 8, downtown. I’ll also join in on other walks with Walk2Connect after work. And I like Aquazumba at Centennial Pool. It’s really fun.
LWL: What are some things you and your husband do to prioritize healthy eating?
Ana: We have an app for our shopping list. Organizing is a simple way to prioritize health. We like to make smoothies every morning, especially during the week. Meal prepping is also important when you have a busy life. I learned a lot in the past year from the Fit Chick group and I now prepare our protein breakfasts for the work-week on Mondays, to make sure we get it one of the most important meals of the day.
LWL: Where is your favorite Longmont place to be active?
Ana: There are so many. McIntosh is so nice. I like to go through neighborhoods, taking solo walks. Oligarchy Ditch Greenway is a favorite area for reflection. I get inspired by the water there. I store my thoughts with the hashtag, #lessonsfromtheriver on Twitter.
LWL: What do you treasure most about Longmont?
Ana: The community, definitely. When I moved here, I only knew my cousin, who was new in town as well, but I found community in the Longmont Theater Company, and it became my second family. People here are really warm and welcoming.
LWL: What would you like to see develop in Longmont’s Healthy Future?
Ana: I would like to see a Vision Zero. Vision Zero is a multi-national road traffic safety project that aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries involving road traffic. I would love to see communities connected to each other more by multi-modal transportation and keep in mind the pedestrians–the walkers, runners, joggers, strollers, wheelchairs, etc.