Joining a Walking Group? 10 Tricks to Keep it Interesting
You've got a great group of walkers and everyone is enthusiastic, at least in the beginning—but motivation wanes if you walk the same route day after day. Share these ideas with your walking buddies to put some zip in your step again!
Pick some fruit
Do you know of some neglected apple trees in your community or where some roadside raspberries are wilting away? "Give your walk more purpose (and weight) by setting out to gather along the way. Bending and squatting, reaching and carrying ramps (or other fruits and veggies), not only ramps up the physical benefits of your walk, you can count your walk toward your volunteer time by joining a gleaning group," says Katy Bowman, biomechanist and author of Movement Matters. Not familiar with a gleaning group? It's a group that picks unwanted fruit and donates it to a local food bank. Fresh fruit and these other items are what food banks need most.
Everyone needs a break from being the walking group leader. Ilyse Baker, AFAA Certified Fitness Instructor and creator of Dancinerate workouts suggests choosing a walking captain for a walk. The captain's job is to come up with a walking topic. Try topics like new recipes, books, films, restaurants, trails for hiking, vacation destinations, or nutrition tips. "The captain would start the conversation and then invite everyone else to join in with their favorite picks. Not only will this be fun to educate yourself on new things to try, you will also be having fun while forgetting that you are exercising," says Baker. Want to tone up for spring? Here's how to walk for weight loss.
Play like a kid
If you have access to a park, head over and play a game like Frisbee golf, suggests Wayne Caparas, fitness pioneer and author of the upcoming book BioLogic Revelation. "Many parks that are laid out with walking trails are being augmented with metal baskets made for the emerging game of Disc Golf. If your park lacks these baskets, simply pick a tree or light post ahead of you to serve as the target. This game is especially appropriate for walking groups due to the ease of learning and playing the game, especially when the group divides into two teams who play the best throw among each team for each successive throw," says Caparas. Anther kid-tested and walker-approved area is the playground: Use the swings and pump your legs; climb on the monkey bars and do some supported squats; use a park bench for dips or push ups; or do lunges in between the bases of a baseball diamond. Check out these seven ways to make your walking routine healthier.
"Walk" around NYC
One of the best ways for walking buddies to stay motivated is having mileage goals, says Patricia Friberg, an ACE-certified trainer and creator of prenatal and postnatal DVD series Belly Beautiful workout. "Pick a goal for the week and walk it," Friberg says, for example, a Big Apple Manhattan walk is 13.4 miles long. Choose a person to keep track of the mileage. "Always start smaller with the goals and then work your way up as the group demonstrates consistency," says Friberg. Celebrate reaching the mileage with a NYC-themed group pic or a healthy NYC-inspired lunch. Walking group members can take turns choosing a favorite destination to walk around or to for the next challenge. Here are 16 ways to lose weight walking.
Tag! You're it!
Tag isn't just for kids. You can play a fun grown-up version while walking and rev up the calorie burning at the same time. Patrea Aeschliman, BS, NSCA CSCS and owner of 15 to Fit Pilates, Barre and Fitness suggests pairing off into groups of two or three. Designate one person to calls out the places to reach (the house with the Japanese maple or the first group to reach the stop sign) by walking at race pace. "Everyone gets a turn calling out. It makes the walk more fun and increases your heart rate." Make sure everyone has a chance to cool down and walk at a regular pace to catch their breath before calling out another location. If you want to really spice it up, call out one of these exercises and do it for 60 seconds.
Watch where you step
Is your current route getting boring? When you start thinking about a new route, focus more on the surface of where you will be walking suggests Galina Denzel, coauthor of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well: 52 Ways to Feel Better in a Week. "The group can walk on grass, gravel, sand, moss, leaves, asphalt, concrete, pine needles, or any surface that is available in the environment," says Denzel. Have the group focus on what is different about the surfaces and what do they like or dislike about them. "They can also feel how their bodies work differently based on the type of surface." If you prefer the woods over concrete, try forest bathing on your next solo walk.
He ain't heavy, he's my bag of potatoes
Our ancestors probably didn't have walking groups. They were too busy walking with a purpose, like carrying loads of laundry to the stream or armfuls of firewood for stacking. "The group can share a load such as a large rock, a bag of potatoes, even a small (and willing) child who needs to be carried in arms, as a way to add a natural challenge to the walk," says Denzel. Or consider getting a five-pound medicine ball to carry. Each walker carries it for five minutes and then passes it to the next walker for walking workout. Can you carry a gallon of water in each hand? If not, this could be why.
Who says you have to stay in your own hood? "Get your group together and go to a local mountain for a hike, head across town to the new walking trails, or venture to the next town and explore their greenways or walking trails in the woods," says Emily Holdorf, RDN, LDN owner of EmPowered Nutrition. Check out these seven stunning hiking trails.
Bring it on!
There's nothing like a little friendly competition (and prizes!) to spur people on. "Create a friendly competition with other walking groups in your community or workplace. The group that logs the most miles during the month gets gift certificates or other inexpensive fun prizes to celebrate," says Holdorf. Each walker could contribute a set amount and the winning group divides the loot or the money can be ear marked for a group class of yoga or Zumba. Just make sure you don't make these mistakes when you take a group class.
If you're walking several times a week with your walking group, the conversations can lag or get boring. Julie Driver, a certified Pilates instructor suggests playing an old favorite, like "I spy" to wake up the walkers. "Work your way through the alphabet while you walk," says Driver. Another suggestion is the A to Z game of geography and/or animals, where you walk your way through the alphabet by naming cities and animals. Finish off the week with a snack by taking turns bringing a healthy or energy boosting snack to share with the group.