The National Walking Summit was simply a great conference. Upon arriving in Minnesota, I took my first day to the streets and explored the area by foot, getting familiar with the amazing walkability and transportation of the area. My first stop was Raspberry Island which was a great park like area.
Now jumping to the actual conference, I started my morning off right with Jonathon Stalls, the founder of Walk2Connect. I have to admit, I was in the right place. This session was called Talking the Walk: Communication Tools for Walking Champions. The reason I picked this session was to gain new tools that could inspire and engage those I work with and the public. The biggest points I learned was strategies on how to shape messages with social media. Jonathon really stressed the importance of social media and encouraged us to embody this is our own messaging. I am not a twitter user and this seemed to be one of the biggest forms of engagement for some of these attendees. I watched and listened as I learned how to engage the public through these forms of social media and got some creative since behind it. One thing that stood out for me was Jonathon’s hash tag #lifeat3mph. I thought this was so clever. Although some things I heard may have been a repeat, Jonothon inspired me with new ways to look at messaging and the importance of not only capturing life with your eyes but with social media. I actually posted my first live Instagram post of the group as well as creating a few new post that I tagged partners and new friends in. I really enjoyed how our group walk went. He had us split up with a person we did not know and walk with them and talk about a specific item he gave us. Some of the problems that I have had with other conferences is that I somehow do not get the chance to network with others or even socially engage them. This was one of the most personal moments I had at the conference and getting personal feedback from other attendees was very impactful. I somehow felt more a part of this conference and I wasn’t just some person attending.
Later that evening I was able to do the Walking Boot Camp. I was not sure what to expect but I have to admit I loved the leader, Chris Freytag. Although I consider myself an expert when it comes to fitness and health, her level of inspiration and energy had me right away. There is a reason she was recruited for the National Walking Summit. Although this did not completely apply to my line of work, I transformed my appreciation of what it takes to get others to commit to walking programs and it hit me on a personal level. I sometimes find myself thinking why it is so difficult for others to do what I find simple in life. We all come from different walks of life and Chris gave me a perspective that touched my heart. She also said something that really stuck with me, Motion is Lotion. I loved this.
On a personal level, one speaker really resonated with me. She was the previous Mrs. Wheel Chair of America. I truly love to be inspired and let me tell you, I was inspired. I got goosebumps from her speech and she literally had my full attention with every word she would let out. She said, “it’s hard to hate people from up close, so move in”. Although at a working standpoint, this may not be as significant but on a personal level, I felt this huge encouragement to move closer to people, to really listen and understand where they are coming from. Sometimes I forget the world doesn’t just revolve around my opinion and that in fact I can come off as naïve with my unwillingness to understand concepts fully just because they have nothing to do with me. With so many barriers in life, I was able to understand hers and what I take for granted. She explained so much more too why we want to achieve better walkability and the importance of working together. Through her speech, I realized that the best decisions don’t always come from the professionals, although they are the ones that make things happen. It is when we listen to our community and the people that we, as professionals, can take this input and place it into practice.
One of the other exciting sessions I did was the Walk with a Doctor. We had to jump on a bus and that was so much fun. My hometown does not have transportation like this so it had been a while since I had to cram onto a bus. At the Walk with a doctor I really gained a lot of new knowledge to explore and implement when I return home. We got to watch the entire process and actually engage with those who benefit from this program. I saw the importance of such a program and was given the very tools to adopt such a practice. Although a webinar could have explained these concepts, I actually got to live the moment with these individuals involved and feel the emotions they have from being able to have such a program.
When all was said and done, the Walking into the Future: Technology and the Walking Movement gave me that greatest ideas that I am going to explore in my community. The tools that I received from this session were amazing. Some of these ideas could really change the world. Technology is really what drives motivation for most as it creates something deeper to explore. The greatest example was the Pokemon Go game. It is unbelievable how many people got outside and started playing. One of the speakers had created a game that gets not just kids but adults to go outside and explore their area. The concept is remotely the same to Pokemon Go except you don’t catch those little monsters. I really see such a great importance of advancing technology into our sights for improving walkability as we struggle to get people away from other technology that keeps us sitting. For myself, you don’t have to ask me twice to get outside and play but as the world is changing, so is our vision of what we enjoy. With that being said, I see a huge role in taking items such as games to integrate into our future because these items will really create a walking movement but in a fun presence that keeps up with the future.
I am truly happy I was able to attend such a great conference and although my essay barely scrapes the knowledge and new skills I have obtained, I feel I had an emotional connect with this conference. I met individuals who inspired me and deepened my passion towards improving the walking culture in my community. Not only was I given new skills and tools to do this, but I was able to network with other like minded people and gain something from their experience.
I would also like to share 3 quotes that really spoke to me that I wrote down during the conference.
- Falling down is a part of life but getting up is living.
- It’s not about our difference, it’s about what we have in common.
- Walk towards the good in life and one day you will arrive.
Cameron Lievense, M.S.
Worksite Wellness Coordinator
Shasta County (California) Health & Human Services Agency