Walking Club strives through joint interest

By Ellen Siefke
Editor-in-Chief Walking club route map
Average temperatures hovered around 10 degrees this past winter. Consequently, many  chose to stay warm indoors, out of the bitter cold.
However, occasionally one might have peered out a window and seen several figures bundled from head to toe, walking down the street. No, they weren’t the ice harvesters of “Frozen”; they were the members of the teachers’ walking club.
According to health teacher and walking club sponsor Michelle Burnett, as they met in the fieldhouse foyer for one last breath of warm air before their walk, students would often question them and give them strange looks. However, they did not feel discouraged as they ventured out to brave the frigid temperatures.
“It was kind of funny because people looked at us like we were crazy, but it wasn’t in a mean way,” Burnett said. “It was more that they were curious, as anyone watching a bunch of people bundled up would be.”
Although relatively unknown, the teachers’ walking club has become well-established over the past year and plans to continue into the future.
Burnett created the club out of loneliness; she enjoyed walking but wanted to be able to do so with other people. She decided to reach out to the staff.
Right before the year began, she sent out an email to all staff members explaining that she was creating a walking club. She also distributed flyers in the faculty mailboxes, which is how English teacher Karen Kruse learned about the club.
Kruse joined because she saw it as not just a way to get exercise in addition to her own running regimen but also as a social opportunity.
“You’re more likely to exercise when there’s people to go with,” Kruse said.
Fortunately for Burnett, 15 people responded and expressed interest in joining. She said the first meeting during the second week of school was exciting and that the seven attendees were eager to go out. During this time, they discussed schedules, meeting times and possible routes.
After the initial meeting, the members continued to gather over the course of the year on Tuesdays and Thursdays right after school for the first half of the year and Mondays and Thursdays starting after Christmas break due to changes in everyone’s schedules.
Every week, Burnett sends out an email to gauge the number of attendees, and normally eight or nine people come per day.
During each session, the group walks a variety of different routes; members can opt to walk two and a half, three or four miles, all following different versions of the basic route.
They walk together for around two and a half miles and then diverge depending on their mileage that day. Kruse normally walks two and a half miles but says many members walk a 5K, or 3.1 miles.
Their primary route starts in the parking lot and takes them down Grove Street and loops through the different neighborhoods toward Arlington Heights. They also have a similar route through the neighborhoods on the Mt. Prospect side, but since they encounter more traffic that way, they tend to stay in Arlington Heights.
According to Kruse, service club sponsor Dave Jacobson uses his phone and watch to keep track of their pace and maintain it, which varies depending on who’s walking.
For Burnett, the club signifies a fun way to exercise and get healthy with the added bonus of becoming closer with other staff members.
“It’s cool that we can bond over a common goal of health,” Burnett said. “I’ve actually learned a lot more about some of my colleagues, and I would never have had that opportunity before.”
Kruse, too, likes talking to some of her colleagues whom she normally doesn’t see during day. She even discovered that she and P.E. teacher Cristen Sprenger go to the same church after seeing a baptismal announcement for Sprenger’s son, Timmy. She recognized the name because they had walked together.
Next year, Burnett plans to continue the club and looks to generate more staff interest by having “bring a friend to Walking Club” days.
Overall, Burnett attributes the club’s success because it allows teachers to exercise without too much of an effort.
“Not everyone likes to run, but everyone can walk,” Burnett said.