“Volks-what?” is often the response I get when I mention the American Volkssport Association (AVA). The word “volkssport” is German for “Sport of the people,” and Germany is where volkssporting began. American military people who served in Germany brought the sport to the U.S. in the 1970s. And it has nothing to do with racing Herbie The Love Bug.
AVA President Colonel Heinz Johnson was kind enough to send me materials about the organization. The AVA has almost 300 clubs throughout the country and it hosts over 1,200 “group” events a year, and offers an additional 1,850 “self-guided” events. The majority of their events are walks of varying distance and difficulty. Other volkssport events include bicycling, cross country skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and row boating. It’s almost like a low-impact, fun mini-Olympics where you can choose any activity you wish to participate in!
Non-competitive & Family Friendly
AVA events are non-competitive, and family and even dog friendly. In an age where people routinely injure themselves in competitive sports or push themselves to the point of heart attack, I was intrigued to see what attracts people to the AVA. The answer surprised me. These are not events for the “I pik tings up and I put dem bak down” crowd, but for regular people to enjoy tranquil activity.
This past Saturday I attended my first AVA walk with their Windy City Walkers club in Frankfort, IL. These are about the friendliest people I have ever met, and one of the most interesting was AVA regular Phil S. He was about the best person a first-time AVA attendee like me could have met. As we walked along a beautiful, tree-lined trail immersed in the Illinois fall, Phil told me how he became hooked on volkssport walks around 25 years ago when he walked amidst regal, historic castles of a Teutonic fairytale land while serving our country in Germany. He also told me about many AVA walks he had taken in the Midwest and other parts of America. Phil has walked around the tranquil canals of Indianapolis, along Chicago’s Gold Coast and Lake Michigan, through beautiful gardens in Illinois, and in many other rich, vibrant locales.
One of the powerful benefits of the AVA became clear to me. Taking a brisk walk surrounded by wonderfully friendly people while experiencing the sights, sounds and even smells of a scenic landscape that one does not see often is beyond invigorating: It is mind-cleansing, spiritual and leaves you feeling great. It’s like yoga without twisting yourself into a pretzel.
Fun, Fitness & Friendship
Colonel Johnson’s materials said AVA events are about fun, fitness and friendship and I believe they are. What they truly provide in a wonderful fashion is a chance to take a healthy, energizing mini-vacation without paying the price of a Disney World all-day pass or putting up with long lines in the Florida heat and humidity.
With the communications barrage of our mobile phones, email, and Skype, the media is telling us that we are better connected than ever before. However, none of this technology brings us closer to nature, and may actually move us further from it. Contrary to popular belief the 2D landscapes we have as desktop wallpaper on our computers actually exist and can be explored in person! Imagine that!
Beyond the multimedia inescapably-connected universe we are submerged in, most of us are also inundated with an abundance of organizations; clubs; committees; job duties; and family activities pulling us in many directions. Finding the time to attend an AVA walk or better yet, join the AVA, may be difficult. But, it is exactly because of these demands on you that you should. The AVA may help you rediscover yourself… and real friends that aren’t half-inch square avatar photos on a screen.
If you have ever participated in an AVA walk, please tell us about your experience by commenting below–what did you like, enjoy, dislike, etcetera. If you know an AVA walk participant or AVA member, please ask him or her to kindly share their AVA thoughts about AVA walks with us.
To learn more about the AVA visit http://www.ava.org/
Walk On (for Fun, Fitness & Friendship)!
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