Put one foot in front of the other. Then do it again. Congrats, you’ve just done Maryland’s state exercise.
STATE EXERCISE: WALKING
Turns out, Maryland is a trendsetter. In 2008, we named walking our state exercise, becoming the first of the 50 to have one. So far, Missouri is the only other state to have followed suit, naming jumping jacks its official state exercise in 2014. We’re sure all the other cool kids will join us soon.
Our guess is state officials saw the appeal in walking because it’s something almost anyone can do. There are even clubs dedicated to noncompetitive walking, like Maryland’s Freestate Happy Wanderers, one of about 300 volksmarching clubs in the U.S. Volksmarching is a German term meaning “people’s walk” that became popular in America in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Volksmarching clubs across both the nation and the world set up walks, both as events and standing routes, open to anyone who feels like taking a stroll. Walks can be done at any pace and are really more of a social event, though there are a number of health benefits to regular walking.
Not to state the obvious, but we went for a walk. After checking out some information on the Freestate Happy Wanderers, we reached out and learned they have a number of year-round walks established that people can take at any time. For $3, anyone wanting to go on the walk can visit a start box and get the route’s directions, which include checkpoints and notes about interesting sites along the path. You even earn a stamp at the end, which is a nice treat, though we would suggest the clubs consider upgrading to gold stars or glittery stickers. But that’s just one opinion.
For our journey, we picked the Denton walk and were joined by three members of the Freestate Happy Wanderers — Phill Wilder, and Linda and Bill Hassell. After meeting with the trio of experienced walkers at the Foundry in Denton, the location of the walk’s start box, we got our set of directions and were ready to get to strolling. There were two routes — a 5k and a 10k — and in the interest of saving time and the fear of being in worse shape than we thought, we chose the shorter.
There was a bit of concern before we started the walk when the club members handed us the set of directions and let us take over. While they were printed step by step and there was a map on the back, we were still pretty confident in our ability to get lost. That was probably the most challenging part of the day, since it’s been several years since any of us followed printed directions and some of us are a bit derelict on our map reading skills. Let’s be honest, we’re in our 20s, we rely on our phones for pretty much everything, including GPS.
Choosing the shorter route, we never ventured too far from downtown Denton. We saw a restored train caboose, a steamboat museum, an abandoned skipjack and a great blue heron. We got nice views of the courthouse and the detention center (thankfully not from the inside), and even explored some neighborhoods. We also saw the Choptank River, from both sides of bridge, including the one you’re not actually supposed to walk on, which made us a bit nervous. Let’s just say there was more traffic than we would’ve liked.
Apparently the 10k walk takes you out to Martinak State Park, which sounds like a nice view for another day. The club members also recommended their Cambridge walk for those on the Eastern Shore, and any of their events for people looking to meet some walking buddies. Unfortunately, we only had time for the one walk, and in about an hour, we wrapped up our adventure.
It turned out that our ability to follow directions was pretty good, and we ended our walk without getting lost. While we’re proud of ourselves for that, it would’ve been pretty sad otherwise, since it only required the ability to read.
WHAT WE LEARNED
From talking to the wanderers, we learned walks like this exist all around the world. They had done extensive traveling and found a walk to help them see the sights on each of their trips. They also talked a lot about how social of an activity it is, and we had a good time walking around and talking. It seems like a great way to explore and see things you might otherwise miss, and to get in some exercise along the way. While walking isn’t the most vigorous of exercises, we’ve decided not to scoff too hard at Maryland on this choice.
Also, don’t forget to stretch.