Volkssporting: A Sport for All Ages and Abilities
Sep 02, 2016 10:24PM
By Melanie Heisinger
No matter your fitness level, you can participate in
volkssporting. You can choose from a variety of activities, from walking and
swimming to cross-country skiing and roller skating, and complete them at your
By Mary Syrett
Volkssporting is a family-oriented activity open to anyone who seeks to improve their physical fitness. These noncompetitive events include everything from walks, hikes, bike rides and swims to, in some regions, cross-country skiing. Participants choose their own start-time—within the start/finish “window”—and participate in the sport at their own pace. The volkssport philosophy recognizes that timed, competitive events aren’t for everyone.
“For people in Pennsylvania trying to become fit, walking is good for your health—and volkssporting is even better,” explains Joan Lampart, president, Keystone State Volkssport Association (KSVA). “You meet new people, see beautiful sights and it’s fun!”
Everyone is a star
The term Volkssport—literally “folk” sport—means sport of the people. Volkssport events are noncompetitive. Participants don’t have to join a group or club to participate; the only requirement is showing up.
The public quickly lost interest in competitive volkssporting events originally held in Europe. However, when the focus changed to noncompetitive events, volkssporting became so popular an international group was founded by West Germany, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Austria, as a union of nonprofit sports organizations, with the intention of promoting volkssporting throughout the world. Since then, many other countries have joined, including the United States, Canada and Japan. The first non-competitive event was held near Augsburg, Germany, in 1968.
Five types of Volkssport events are featured: walking, biking, swimming, skiing and snowshoeing (or, for areas with little or no snow, roller skating). The most popular type are Volksmarches—organized walks or hikes—five to ten kilometers (3.1 to 6.2 miles) in length. Volksmarch participants can walk, jog or run. Some walks can be undertaken by persons in wheelchairs and by families with children in strollers. Others are more challenging and planned around nature trails. Event brochures describe the trails, including their difficulty and location, as well as the date and time of particular events.
Volksbikes are rides of 25 kilometers (about 15.5 miles) or longer, and usually held in conjunction with a walk. Courses are chosen for bicyclists of average ability. Volksswims are 300 meters or longer. Participants choose their own combination of swimming strokes.
By whatever means you choose to participate, volkssporting is an adventure in health, recreation, fellowship and fun. Each event has a pre-marked course on which to enjoy the company of family, friends and fellow volkssporters.
Breaking it down
There are two categories of Volkssporting events. A Traditional Event is hosted for one day or weekend with a set start time, and a Year Round or Seasonal Event may be open daily, January through December. A Seasonal Event is similar to a Year-Round Event but is open less than a full calendar year. All Volkssport events are open to the public. Participation is free.
Volkssports in this country began in Fredericksburg, Texas, in 1976. In 1979 the American Volkssport Association (AVA) was formally organized. Today the AVA has more than 300 clubs; its primary purpose is to promote physical fitness activity for Americans as an essential component of overall health.
In Pennsylvania, Volkssporting began with the founding of the first walking club in 1981. There are Volkssporting clubs in most regions of the state. KSVA is the state representative to the AVA.
The AVA’s bi-monthly newspaper, The American Wanderer, contains information about association activities, articles from Volkssporting clubs, a list of active clubs and a list of weekend Volkssporting events taking place across the United States.
Take the challenge
KSVA is sponsoring a program to encourage members to participate in the state club’s AVA-sponsored volkssport events. Qualifying events may be traditional, year-round or seasonal. Pennsylvania residents who complete 20 volkssport events in the Commonwealth during the 2016 calendar year will receive an award—a 1 ½-inch hat pin with a blue state and yellow keystone. More information is available from Marcy Lucas (717) 979-3960 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All you need to get started is a sturdy pair of shoes, loose-fitting clothes and a safe route to follow. Walks are conducted in all kinds of weather, year round.
For a list of upcoming events, volkssporting clubs in Pennsylvania, and volkssporting facts and figures, visit SusquehannaLife.com/WebExtras.
Mary Syrett, a freelance writer for more than 30 years, writes for regional and national magazines.