2012/11/14 by grahamfawcett2012
I’ve done several thousand organized walks in 20 years, and I must say I don’t think I’ve ever done a ‘bad’ one. Some have been shorter than planned, others have been longer; some were unique and never to be repeated, others I would do every day if I had the chance. Looking back, I realize there are a few things that make me come back time and time again.
I think it comes down to a very simple thing: reward. Where’s the reward in doing any particular event? What kind of reward is it? Physical? Social? Psychological? Emotional? Maybe even intellectual? I’d say two rewards above are an absolute minimum for success, but three would be better.
One of the rewards has to be social, that is certain. I now count hundreds of people whom I would never have met otherwise as friends. I like to see them and walk with them. The opportunity to move among different friends as we walk along for two hours or more is always a pleasure. We chat, we joke, we trade stories and catch up on what we have missed since the last time we were together.
The second reward is physical, almost a given if you go walking for two hours. The sun, the breeze, the fresh air, the physical effort all come together in the same way as running does for joggers: endorphin, a hormone associated with pleasure, is released by the brain and gives us that sense of well-being and accomplishment afterwards. I once took a group of Elementary School Vice-Principals on a 5 km walk at lunch time on a Professional Development Day. These are people with far too much stress and not enough exercise. After an hour walking, we were standing together and I told them to look at each other. I pointed out that they were positive, excited, refreshed and smiling. They were quite surprised, to say the least. Two of them are now regular walkers with clubs in the Ottawa area.
The third reward is a bit more nebulous, but I think I can sum it up in a word: discovery. For me, there has to be something additional in the walk to add to the satisfaction of having done it, so there has to be real discovery, or at least reconnection with something I have enjoyed previously. I either have to rediscover the pleasure of doing a walk I’ve done before, perhaps many times, or discover something entirely new.
These posts will alternate between thoughts on strategies to promote walking and my experience of doing particular walks in the past.
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