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Starting a Walking Group

Tired of walking alone? Can't find any walking groups where you live? Why not start your own! Walking with others has lots of benefits:

  • It's safer than walking alone
  • It relieves boredom
  • It's fun and motivating
  • It gives you a chance to socialize and make friends
  • It increases your commitment to your walking routine

Starting a walking group needn't take much time or effort. Here's what you need to do:

Advertise

Post fliers in your local library, recreation or community center, senior center, health club, cafeteria at work or place of worship. Take advantage of free calendar listings in local newspapers or newsletters. The fliers should invite interested walkers to a meeting. Give people a day, time, and place. Choose a public meeting place like the library or neighborhood coffee shop. You also could include a telephone number for people to contact you.

Hold a meeting

At your first meeting, listen to what the group has to say. Then decide together:

  • How many times a week the group will walk
  • Where you will walk
  • What time you will meet and how far you will go

You might want to scope and map out several different routes. You can increase the distance as you go along.

You'll also want to set some guidelines:

  • Will you walk if it ' s raining or snowing?
  • Does the group want to walk both indoors and outdoors?
  • Do you want to ban cell phones and headphones during walks?
  • Do you want to have regular meetings?
  • Will members call one another if someone can ' t make it, or will the group just walk with whoever shows up? You can make the group as formal or informal as you like.

Other things you might want to discuss include dressing for the weather, warming up and cooling down, and recording and tracking progress.

Finally, demonstrate proper walking techniques: arms swinging, chest high, stomach in, back straight, rolling from heel to toe on both feet. Before the meeting ends, create a telephone tree so group members can contact each other. Include email addresses.

Get organized

Once your group is up and walking, you might want to get more organized. Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Give your group a name and have T-shirts or visors made
  • Elect officers
  • Enter charity walk-a-thons, community parades, or 5K races together
  • Have coffee or lunch after your walks. Spin off a dinner club or book club. Organize an all-day or weekend walk to explore a new place (a historic site, big city, part of the Appalachian Trail)
  • Start a newsletter
  • Organize a community walk to get others interested in walking. You can partner with a local hospital or other community organization to increase support and participation.

These kinds of activities can help your group stay interested and motivated. Motivation might start to dwindle over time. This is normal. People often find that one of the biggest challenges they face with any fitness program is sticking with it over the long haul.

Staying Motivated

If your group decides to hold occasional or regular meetings, you can turn them into opportunities to motivate yourselves and each other by:

  • Inviting a local speaker to talk about fitness and healthy eating
  • Finding and sharing articles or Web sites on walking and sample walking logs to record progress
  • Setting weight-loss goals
  • Sharing success stories
  • Recognizing group members who have lost weight or improved their health by walking
  • Making a list of all the benefits of walking, and posting and reviewing them at each meeting. Mention that walking can reduce stress, help prevent heart disease, improve sleep, and help you maintain or lose weight.

Remember that your continued enthusiasm as the group's leader is very important. Talk about how walking has improved your life. Encourage interested members and welcome new walkers. And most of all, be a role model by being a committed walker.

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