All kinds of things keep people from running: Wonky knees, the thought of being the slowest person in the pack, lack of interest …
But walking. Walking is something almost everyone can do.
It’s social, it requires no equipment other than a decent pair of shoes, and like other forms of exercise it reduces the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. It also puts less stress on the body, so you’re less likely to get injured.
I was reminded of all that a few days ago, when I met super walker Elayne Barber for a cup of coffee. Barber has been a fitness walker since 1997, and today heads up the Austin Fit Walking program.
To get an idea of how much she loves running, consider this. Barber has completed nine marathons and too many half marathons to count, all walking. Last year she did 11 half marathons; this year she’s aiming for one per month.
“I feel better, and I can manage life better, if I can walk consistently,” she says.
Barber purposely parks a 7-minute walk from her office. She walks from her car to her office in the morning, to her car and back during lunch, and back to her car after work. That, along with a 15-minute walk thrown in during the day, gives her 45 minutes of exercise nearly every weekday.
“Nobody wants to go to lunch with me because nobody wants to walk that far,” shes jokes.
Even if long-distance running isn’t your goal, Barber can get you fired up about walking. A dedicated walking program, instead of a walking component to a running group, gives non-runners a place to fit in. They’re not an after thought to more fleet-footed exercisers.
“Usually walkers’ focus is to get fit or lose weight,” she says. “It’s not about speed.”
Austin Fit offers two walking programs – the eight-week Art of Fitness Walking program for beginners looking to build up to a 5K distance ($60), and the 19-week spring training program ($125). Group members meet in Central Austin and walk an array of neighborhood routes. Pace varies according to participants; no experience is necessary.
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