You No Longer Need to Be a Lonely Walker
By Susan Rich
So you decided, come 2007, that you were going to get started on a walking program, or just start walking more regularly. But there are so many obstacles, you tell yourself:
• “It’s too cold to walk... and I don’t have the right coat to wear.”
• Or, “It’s raining, and I will get wet.”
• Or, “It’s dark by the time I get off work. I don’t want to walk in the dark.”
• Or, the real motivation killer: “I don’t have anyone to walk with!”
But as sure as you know it’s almost spring, you also know there really are no excuses not to walk: There are plenty of clothing choices that will keep you warm and dry, no matter what the weather is like. As for night-lighting, check out Wendy’s Picks on page five to see the latest in glow-in-the-dark safety.
And if you don’t want to walk alone – you’re not alone! There are countless formal and informal groups out there, with walkers who are looking for people just like you.
When you join a group and start walking, you’ll still be cold, wet, and possibly walking in the dark for a few more months. But once you start logging the miles, making friends, and experiencing the physical and mental benefits of walking, you’ll become so motivated that the other challenges will melt away.
Of all the ways to stay fit, walking is the easiest and still the cheapest – and it can be fun.
Getting out the door to walk can seem daunting. Questions like, Where should I go for a walk? How far can I, or should I, walk? What shoes should I wear? need to be answered.
When you join a group, these questions, and many others, will be addressed by experts. Most of these groups not only provide training tips by certified coaches, but many provide seminars taught by experts in their given field.
Whenever your start a fitness program, the first thing to do is set a goal. Initially it can be as simple as meeting people and walking for companionship. As you get better at walking, you might want to train for an endurance event or raise money for a personal cause. You might even want to learn how to hike. Again, joining a group will help guide you through this process.
No matter what kind of walking you are interested in pursuing, there is a club that will meet your needs. And of course, you can always join more than one; eventually you will find the perfect fit. Many walkers are active in more than one club. If you practice, for example, racewalking, hiking, and Volkswalking, you’ll get the benefit of cross-training, build endurance and stamina, see some great sights, meet new people, and learn more about yourself and what you are capable of than you ever imagined.
With so many clubs to choose from, you’ll want to research the kind of walking and what kind of clubs that appeal to you.
Call the organizer, and ask those specific questions – the ones that keep you from getting started in the first place: What should I wear? How far do you go? Do you walk in the rain? If you’re invited to walk with a group for free, go! It’s the best way to find out if a particular walking form will work for you. And don’t give up. What might not appeal to you this year might be just the thing to step up your routine the next.
Cause Walking Groups. Do you know someone with breast cancer? Leukemia? Cause-walking is a way to combine walking with fundraising. It’s a win-win situation; you get healthy while raising money to share that same gift of health. While the groups all have the same basic goal, there might be different requirements, so do your homework. One of the most successful cause training groups is The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training. The Arthritis Foundation sponsors cause-walking; others include the 3-Day Walk for Breast Cancer, American Association Heart Walks, the Clara Jean Walk, the MS Walk that benefits Multiple Sclerosis, the Walk for Diabetes, and more.
American Volkswalking Association (AVA.) This national organization has a network of 350 walking clubs. Members organize more than 3000 walking events per year in all 50 states. Walks are open to the public. AVA offers weekly walks, maps, and 10ks.
Marathon Training Groups. Almost every major city has a marathon with its name on it: That includes Portland, Seattle, Las Vegas, Kilimanjaro, and others. You can train for one in your home town or set your sights on a travel adventure. In 1989, USA Fit started its first marathon training program. The program is now available in countless cities and successfully trains non-athletes to safely walk or run a marathon in six months. Looking for a similar training program? A keyword search in Google will get you started.
Walking Clubs. Smaller, more intimate, these offer regularly scheduled walks and an opportunity to discuss your health and nutrition concerns. Wonders of Walking (WOW) sponsors a walking club, hosted by REI. WOW also offers group training to teach basic skills, and walks every Saturday. Find others by doing a keyword search on Google.
Local Running/Walking Store Walks. Many stores host group runs and walks out of their stores.
Baby Boot Camp and Stroller Strides. These groups combine walking and an on-the-road fitness “boot camp” to get new moms and dads back in shape after baby is born. Plus, the camaraderie of walking with new parents can’t be beat.
Hiking Groups. These are just as popular and common as walking groups. From day hikes to overnight trips, you’ll not only get a chance to cover amazing terrain, you’ll also improve balance, coordination, and core strength. Sporting goods stores like REI, the Mountain Shop, and non-profit organizations like Mazamas can get you started.
Nordic Walking. A long-time passion for Europeans, Nordic Walking is starting to gain ground here in this country. It’s safe, easy, and great for beginners. Nordic Walking provides a great cardio workout, too. Classes are offered by numerous walking clubs and fitness center; poles can be purchased at many retailers, including the Mountain Shop.
City/local group walks. Want to combine a walk with a tour of the city? It’s a great way to get moving, and enjoy a history lesson at the same time.