Fitness

Volkswalking primer

This group-walking trend is a fun, free way to get fit by walking

Chatelaine

If your ideal workout is more casual than competitive, consider taking up volkswalking. These drop-in, free group-walking clubs have been gaining popularity since the 1980s, when they were imported from Germany as part of volkssports (“people’s sports,” which include biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing). Volkswalking is by far the most popular version – almost 50,000 Canadians participated in walks held across the country last year. Interested in joining them? Here’s how to get going!

Find your type
Most walks are free and joining is easy: just show up at the appointed time and register with organizers. There’s an option for everyone: Beginners can start with a guided walk – these shorter routes are led by a host, and are normally five or 10 kilometers long. Another version is map walks, where participants are given a map, route card and an amount of time to complete the walk. Or try an Annual Volksmarch Events, which have routes that are indicated with signage and markers, and checkpoints along the way.

Enjoy the journey
“With volkswalking, you don’t always have to be the first to the finish line,” says Parr. Instead, the beauty of volkswalking is that it combines exercise with socializing. And the bonus is, since the routes wind through parks, trails, or historic areas, you get to see a new part of your community.

Or get serious
Are you an experienced walker looking for a serious challenge (or just a keener)? Try a 42-kilometer marathon organized by The Canadian Volkssport Federation. Or, act like many volkswalkers, and compete…. against yourself. People keep track of their kilometer counts (some rack up counts in the tens of thousands) which are applied towards CVF awards that recognize distance and event levels. Some walkers, like Kathy Parr, Alberta Director of the Canadian Volkssport Federation, aim for even loftier goals: “My dream is to walk in 54 countries,” she says.