When was the last time you took a relaxing stroll downtown? With striking landmarks and hidden gems around every corner, San Antonio rarely leaves one short on excuses to ditch the couch and go exploring. Plus, once San Antonio decides which season it wants to be in, our city is privileged with near perfect weather and fully designed for outdoor activity. Need I mention the River Walk?
With a noticeable increase over the past 10 years, more and more cities have begun to incorporate fitness-friendly resources into their community development. Alamo City natives are hardly strangers to a good taco, but we’ve been working hard to shake our reputation for being one of the least fit cities in the US.
Fortunately, the American Volkssport Association (AVA) is here to help the cause with San Antonio’s first-ever AVA/IVV World Walk Day on Saturday, May 3. This is not your average walk, however, but an official volkssporting event through our city’s downtown area.
Now in 28 countries worldwide, volkssporting is a noncompetitive, self-paced activity consisting of walks and hikes, bike rides, swims, skating, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Despite its international reach, many people in the US have yet to discover the fun of volkssporting. My relationship with the sport traces much farther back though.
In the mid 1990s, my uncle was stationed at a U.S. Army base in Germany, where he kept close touch with my grandmother during his stay. She became my family’s main source for updates on Uncle Robert’s adventures abroad and would often relay exciting stories of him walking here, there and everywhere across Europe. We soon discovered these tales from the trails involved more than the typical stroll, as he was actually volksmarching with the International Federation of Popular Sports (IVV).
During this time, my grandparents took an extended trip to visit Uncle Robert. They later returned with adventures of their own, raving about the amazing people they met and the unique IVV awards they received while volksmarching with my uncle across Germany. Next thing I know, my mother is loading my grandmother and me into the family Buick to drive across South Texas for our first volksmarching event.
This soon became a regular thing for us, as we began to select our next walk based on the award featured by our host AVA club. I have so many fond memories of those trips. At the age of 13 or 14, I found my “dream neighborhood” during a volksmarch, which was a place I had decided (and still hope) to live in as an adult. I also remember being the last walkers during a volksmarch in the tiny, coastal town of Indianola, Texas. It was a hot day, but the dedicated and helpful AVA volunteers kept driving by on their golf carts to check on us and ensure my grandmother would be able to finish the route.
Our involvement lasted for years and then life happened. My time became consumed by career building, establishing my family and earning two master’s degrees from Our Lady of the Lake University and St. Mary’s University. However, it wasn’t long before volkssporting found me once more. I learned about AVA’s open position for national executive director only a few days before the application period closed and jumped at the chance to apply.
As the official representative of volkssporting in the United States, AVA administers one of the nation’s largest healthy living sports programs and more than 3,000 events annually. The volunteer-driven organization works toward one, simple mission: To promote regular fitness activity through fun, friendship and, of course, volkssporting.
I truly believed in AVA’s message and the family-friendly fitness opportunities it provides, so I was incredibly thrilled and honored when the National Executive Council XVIII announced my selection as executive director this past January.
Since beginning my new journey with AVA, I’ve been able to support a network of over 250 chartered clubs across the nation and provide wonderful experiences for thousands and thousands of people, just like in my own childhood. Through this position, my goal is to increase participation in volkssporting events and spread the message of fun, fitness and friendship to people of all ages. I also want to use this opportunity to establish a sustainable future for AVA, so the next generation can enjoy the outdoors, develop friendships and build a healthy lifestyle through volkssporting.
AVA’s volkssporting events are the ideal venue for multi-generational families to maintain an active lifestyle while exploring their city, state, country and world. Fitness is a major component of each event, but we also place equal emphasis on providing a safe, stress-free environment where everyone can have fun among a network of friends.
In planning our volkssporting activities and events, we incorporate as much diversity and flexibility as possible to ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate. Translated from German, volkssporting means “sport of the people,” which is strongly reflected in its versatile and family-oriented nature. There are no limitations on age or physical ability, as trails are rated based on the challenge they present, and events take place year round in various locations and climates.
IVV World Walk Day retains all these values and will take place on Saturday, May 3, in beautiful downtown San Antonio. Choose a 5K or 10K trail (rated 1-A) to explore historical markers, unique churches and other gorgeous sites. Our starting point will be at the Holiday Inn Downtown Market Square (318 W Cesar E. Chavez Blvd). Event parking is free.
Since this a noncompetitive event, you can begin your walk anytime between 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., after paying the nominal price of $3. Walkers new to AVA can purchase a specially priced new walker packet for only $5, which includes event and distance tracking books and coupons for free credit at upcoming events. For more information, visit our event page here.
While San Antonio is hosting IVV World Walk Day on May 3, the rest of the world will be celebrating the same event either on this day or throughout the week. It will truly be a unifying experience and I hope everyone can attend.
Since I was a young girl, AVA has brought me closer to family, new friends and a healthier lifestyle, which is something I want to share with our city through World Walk Day. If you’re not able to make it on Saturday, then there are still plenty of opportunities to participate.
San Antonio is currently served by four AVA chartered clubs, the Lonestar Walkers, Randolph Roadrunners, Texas Wanderers and Selma Pathfinders, and regularly offers volkssporting events throughout the year. To explore membership and participation opportunities, visit our website at www.ava.org.
I look forward to seeing you all along the trail.
*Featured/top image: A sea of feat prepare for a marathon. Photo by Tom Trevino.