This morning I took my frequent early morning walk with our yorkie, Carmen. We usually go out shortly after daybreak, and walk for about a mile. It’s a real leisurely pace. Takes us about thirty minutes because she is a small dog, and she has frequent stops to . . . well, you know.

But it is a nice beginning to the morning. Even at that pace, it gets my heart rate up a little, and starts the creative juices flowing. Plus it is a quiet time for me. At this time of the morning, only one car went by (with waves), and no other walkers were out yet. I value these walks almost as much as Carmen does.

But it got me to thinking about something (as these walks often do). A couple of weeks ago, I was at one of the walking clubs I occasionally walk with, and security at that particular park asked me why I belonged to a club like this. I stopped and thought about it a little before answering her.  My answer was that it gave me discipline in my walking. That it was like another meeting scheduled for the week. But upon further reflection I decided there was more to it.

I walk with a walking club because it helps me stick with a discipline of walking frequently.  For me, these walking clubs are more than just “It’s a nice day. I think I’ll go out for a walk”. They are on a schedule as far as when and where they walk.  And that schedule is in my calendar as a personal appointment. I find that this scheduling becomes an encouragement, and perhaps even a little bit of guilt. I don’t walk with any of them every single week because my schedule won’t always allow it. But that calendar entry is always there to remind me and push me, if only a little bit.

I walk with a walking club for the companionship.  Although I value my occasional solitary walks and what they give me, I don’t always yearn to be alone. I like the companionship and the conversation that comes with a walking group. I have met new friends this way, and have learned much. And I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.

I walk with a walking club to encourage others.  I have become more than an avid walker.  I have become an advocate of walking and hiking and biking, in part because I have personally experienced health and other benefits from the increased outdoor physical activity. Indeed, some might say that I have become a bit obsessive about it. (Some might, but not me.) Frankly, it makes me feel good if my presence, even from time to time, can be an encouragement for others to walk.

I walk with a walking club because it helps to build community. Sadly, many communities and neighborhoods in our city and in our nation are experiencing a feeling of being disconnected. Any kind of socialization can increase that connectedness. Even if it is a small group of people, it can build. And the relationship created in this kind of a setting can also expand out into an even greater sense of purpose.

I walk with a walking club for safety. I saved this one for last because it is not really one that I feel myself, but it is a benefit that others have shared with me. Some people feel insecure when walking alone. That fear can come from unleashed dogs, fear of falling and being by themselves, fear of others in a park or a neighborhood, or an entire range of other reasons. And there is a definite sense of there being safety in numbers. In a strange way, this does affect me, because I feel like I am adding to that sense of safety when I am there.

So that would be my more complete answer to her question of reasons to join a walking club. I have gone from someone who was in no organized walking clubs at the beginning of this year, to being in a half-dozen of them (okay, so maybe I am a little obsessive). That doesn’t mean I don’t still value the occasional solitary walk. I do.  I get real value from both.

Don’t belong to a walking club yet? Perhaps this will encourage you to join one. Or maybe, just maybe, this will encourage you to start one in your neighborhood, school, church, company, or any other area of common interest. Try it. You’ll like it. And you most definitely will benefit from it.