Commissioner and daughter go ‘from couch to 5k’ together

By: Jessica Strachan | Southfield Sun | Published June 19, 2013

 District 21 Commissioner Janet Jackson and her daughter, 24-year-old Courtney, will run their first 5k together June 22.

District 21 Commissioner Janet Jackson and her daughter, 24-year-old Courtney, will run their first 5k together June 22.

SOUTHFIELD — To say Commissioner Janet Jackson has been on a bit of an exercise hiatus may be an understatement, she said.

“It’s been about five years,” she said with a chuckle. “I’ve never run a 5k before, but I used to be an avid walker.”

Jackson, whose District 21 territory covers Southfield and Farmington Hills, is participating in HAP’s From Couch to 5k in Nine Weeks program, which has nearly 400 metro Detroiters lacing up — some for the first time — for the Detroit River Days Race June 22.

Jackson said she’s seen diabetes, along with other illnesses, strike people closest to her, and this was her chance to get fitness back in her life again, before it was too late.

“Diabetes, primarily, has ravaged my family over the years,” Jackson said. “I’d like to try to be a healthier role model because of my position, too.”

Participants get full resources of a training program in the challenge, including support from fitness experts, weekly meetings and coaches to work with.

Jackson gets the added bonus of a full-time workout buddy: her daughter, 24-year-old Courtney Jackson, who hopes to take her experience in interval running to the next level.

“The program teaches you how to gradually work your way up to a consistent level of running. I used to do interval running. Now, I’m able to jog 15-20 minutes without stopping,” Courtney said. “I feel like we are an inspiration to each other. Our mom has always been an advocate for healthy eating, but that’s just one part.”

While Jackson said her 20-year-old son, Anthony, already qualifies as a “health nut,” Courtney is on a mission to supplement her healthy diet with cardio to round out a better lifestyle.

“Jogging relieves stress and helps me sleep,” Courtney added. “I’m definitely going to continue jogging and push myself to go further. Maybe one day, I’ll be doing marathons. For now, reaching the 5k mark is absolutely unbelievable.”

For Jackson, like many working mothers and politicians, her schedule has been the biggest obstacle in training, she said. That, along with realizing that bouncing back from a less-than-committed exercise regimen is tough.

“Wanting fast results has also been a hurdle for me … just realizing that the older we get, we have to be patient with our bodies,” she said. “They don’t respond as quickly as they did when we were younger.”

Between squeezing in the training sessions in Southfield and Farmington Hills, Jackson added that going through the process with her daughter has made it more fun and less of a chore. She said she’s still nervous and can’t promise that she won’t need to take a few breathers on the course, but that she’ll be completing that 3.1 miles.

“If I can’t do it without stopping, I’m going to walk fast and we will cross that finish line!” she said.

Many HAP members are taking part in the program, including a bride-to-be and her fiancé from Madison Heights, and Southfield resident Erica Ballard, who said she is motivated to lose 20 pounds to avoid developing diabetes, which also runs in her family.

They, along with Jackson’s family, friends, coworkers and constituents, will be rooting the commissioner and her daughter on that day.

“By participating in HAP’s Couch to 5k Challenge, Commissioner Jackson and her daughter, Courtney, are terrific examples of HAP members who are working to gain a higher level of fitness, a healthier life, and for Commissioner Jackson, taking control of her diabetes,” Terri Kachadurian, director of Worksite Wellness and Member Engagement programs for HAP, said in a statement. “I applaud both for their hard work and look forward to seeing them cross the finish line.”

For more information about the Couch to 5k Challenge or the participants’ journeys, visit