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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Leduc

Walk Together: Starting a Community Walking Club

There is always a story to tell about how something comes into existence. In just over a day from posting this, the Russell Run Club will start its first Walking Club event. We saw wonderful things happen with our running clinics and weekly group runs. We hope we can do the same with a new demographic.

Take a read about our journey. We hope that this inspires you to join us for some social miles.


There is a gap...between those not active and those running


Two months ago - a few emails came in asking if we have people who walk at group runs. One had bad knees and could not run. One was looking just for walking.


"No...not really" I replied "But we'd like to add something like that in the future". My boilerplate response, for a few years. I knew as I wrote this we were not living up to our values of "all ages and abilities welcome". People were being excluded from participating.


This time I approached two of our key members to let them know of the emails. It was time, however I had no time for yet another program.


"There is a gap" one of them pointed out. "Between being non-active and running. A few of the people registering for the Learn to Run clinic are not even ready yet to run".


"And some people just don't like to run" I replied. "And look at the impact the running clinic had on a few of our members. Why should not running prevent them from a similar experience?"


Days later the survey went out to get an idea of who was interested and who wanted to help out. The response and the reasons why they wanted to walk were overwhelming.


Two Years of Running Clinics and Group Runs


I met Rhonda eight months before starting the Learn to Run Clinic. I mentioned I ran.


"Did you hear that there is a running club in town?" She asked.


"That's me. I run that club". I replied.


This led to a more in-depth conversation about how some people wanted to run but had a reason why not. Safety, lack of support, feeling exposed, awkward, etc. This conversation had me compelled to do something about it.


Months later I held my breath and put the advertisement out for a Learn to Run Clinic and waited for the registrations to roll in. Four people....ugh. I was questioning whether or not to hold it. Part of the reason why not, was the embarrassment of all that work posting and sharing on the socials just to get a handful of people. It still went on - one coach, one run lead, and 4 participants. This group wound up being the seed that allowed the club to flourish.




"I Thought You Were Here For My Knowledge and Expertise"


"Thank you Michelle for doing this".


I was caught off guard by this. What did I do? I was still new to this coaching thing and still lacked self-confidence.


What was created, unintentionally, was a supportive, caring, non-judgemental environment. We accepted you as is and worked with you where you were at. I even downplayed my running experience to make sure they didn't feel intimidated or "less than"


The social aspect became more important than the actual training. Many conversations were had, stories told, frustrations vented and post-run beverages consumed.


At the end of the first clinic, I mentioned the struggles of creating weekly group runs. "We'll help," the OG's said. With that, every Sunday morning (and Tuesday evenings) we showed up. Sometimes it's just one person some days we fill the parking lot. The unofficial motto was "Everyone starts and finishes together and no one runs alone"



Over 2 years, the club has had the opportunity to see amazing things happen.  Individuals who had never run before worked their way up to 5km, 10km, ½ marathon and marathon distances, and new health and fitness goals were achieved.  But perhaps most important and most rewarding, has been witnessing the development of a strong community of people who support each other, not just through tough runs but through tough life events too.  Strong lasting friendships have formed and taken on a life of their own far outside the boundaries of the club.



The Walking Club Survey


A survey was sent out via social media and in short order over 100 respondents answered the call confirming the strong demand for a walking club.   Not only did the survey demonstrate that there was interest, but it also showed that it wasn’t just the physical exercise respondents were looking for.  Almost 75% expressed that they wanted to meet new people. 


Having witnessed the development of strong friendships and a supportive community through the running programs, a walking club seemed like the next logical step.  A great opportunity to expand the club’s reach by serving a broader community and providing a mechanism for the social support and physical activity respondents were seeking.


The Benefits of Walking

 

Of course it’s not all just socializing, the club recognizes that walking has incredible health benefits too.  More research is released regularly about how this simple and accessible form of exercise can benefit us in so many ways.  Here are just a few:

  • Improved mood.  Just 10 minutes of walking can actually lift your spirits.  This effect is even stronger when walking in nature and or walking in nature.

  • Improve heart health.  Walking can lower your risk of heart attack or stroke.

  • Reduce your risk of chronic diseases including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and major depressive disorder.

  • Reduce your stress.  Just 10 minutes of walking can lessen anxiety and depression while increasing focus and creativity.

  • Improve your sleep.  Regular exercise boosts the effects of melatonin, the sleep hormone and daily walkers get an improvement in both sleep quality and length of sleep.

  • Boost your brain power.  Yep, even your brain gets healthier with walking.

  • Ease your joint pain.  While you might think that rest will make those sore joints feel better, that is out of date information.  In fact, walking improves blood flow and lubrication to those stiff joints and strengthens the muscles around the joints to keep them supported.

  • Stimulate the digestive system.  Using those core muscles encourages your digestive system to move as well.  When you start moving, your bowels start moving too!

  • Improve your immune system.  Moderate intensity exercise including walking increases the number of immune cells in your body which can lower your risk of becoming ill from infections.  People who walk more tend to spend less time in hospital.

  • Protect your bones.  The stress on your bones generated by walking lowers your risk of bone loss.  Improve your walking and improve your bone density.

  • Boost your energy.  Walking provides a short-term boost to your energy by increasing oxygen to the brain and changing the hormone levels responsible for your energy level.  However, physical deconditioning can really zap our energy too.  As your walking endurance improves, so will your day-to-day energy levels.   

 

So, whether it’s meeting new people or improving your health, there are just so many reasons to come out and walk with us. 


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