Let’s Walk to Lower Blood Pressure and Build Bridges
The DC Tutoring & Mentoring Initiative is making steady progress in recruiting new volunteers and creating a public campaign to get a tutor or mentor for each of the 60,000+ students reading below grade level or with other academic or non-academic needs. However, progress is slower than we would like and we are committed to trying new approaches with the goal of making a greater impact.
We believe that the sense of self-efficacy, teamwork and simple, deep joy in life we often get through walking, playing, running and exercising outdoors helps build the foundation we need for adults and young people alike to work enthusiastically and more successfully together. This blog post by DCTMI’s Lizzi Marin and our upcoming Neighborhood Field Days will begin our work to strengthen this dimension of our civic wellbeing. Stay tuned for more in coming weeks!
“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”
– Barack Obama
“It’s just one foot in front of the other.” That’s what my father taught my sister and me about life and running. Whether it’s in standing up for a belief or running an extra mile, life and exercise are processes that are made up of steps. Naturally, the first step is always the hardest; it can often feel like a leap. And sometimes you have to walk, pace yourself before you can begin to run.
Walking towards something can lead to positive change no matter how large or small the steps. Aside from physical benefits like lower blood pressure and generally better fitness, walking is a great way for people to improve their lives emotionally and socially. Personally, walking has become a great way to explore new places and take a break from the non-stop city life. After realizing how much time I spend sitting and indoors, walking to and from work has been part of my goal to move more during my day and to see more of my surroundings. Not only does walking lead to spending more time outside and moving, it can also be a shift in how we interact with our surroundings and communities.
Incredibly, walking with other people also has social benefits like growth in self-confidence and building of community. Organizations like Teens Run DC (interview with our partner organization to come) and Girls on the Run-DC use exercising with others to develop a deeper sense of community. Both of these organizations combine mentoring with running to build confidence and promote goal setting. Kristen Komlosy, executive director for Girls on the Run-DC, has firsthand seen the value of exercise in mentoring. The young participants of Girls on the Run-DC learn how to accomplish goals in order to gain more confidence. They also become part of a special, close-knitted community as they work together to run a 5K, their final goal at the end of the program. As seen with Girls on the Run-DC, exercising together can serve as a way to bring people together to form relationships and communities.
Walking together might seem inconsequential to the amount of work that is needed from each of us to address the barriers between others and ourselves, but it can be a beginning. Having survived two strokes and being diabetic, my grandfather, a stubborn old man who loves sweets and hates exercise, was reluctant to walk after his doctor recommended it, and I was reluctant to spend time with him. In my mind, our differences had always prevailed: we grew up in different countries, times, and cultures. After much coaxing from my parents, my grandfather and I began to walk together in the evenings. My grandfather and I were never really close; by walking together, however, we were able to move past those things and grow comfortable around each other. Even with our small, slow steps, my grandfather and I built a new bridge across generations and divisions.
Here at DC Tutoring & Mentoring Initiative, we fundamentally believe that walking and exercising together can lead to a better you and a better us. In the pursuit of creating a supportive, communal atmosphere, we want to begin a campaign Neighborhood Field Days where communities can come together for a day of inclusive outdoor activities that range from walking to sports. By providing a space of exercise and companionship, we hope to give you a place to flourish and grow while getting to know your community. Together, all the steps we take together can become miles.