Power to the Walkers

There are plenty of people who exercise alone.

Debbie Gunning is not one of them.

Running, biking or swimming by herself just doesn’t sound like that much fun.

But walking with friends? Now you’re talking.

“I love companionship,” she said Saturday morning. “We can talk 90 miles a minute, but it’s also keeping me in shape.”

Those talkers Gunning referred to are known as the Poipu Power Walkers. They’re a group of ladies, and even a few men, who power walk to stay sharp.

This isn’t your casually sauntering and admiring scenery or repeating the latest gossip from the entertainment channel.

These gals are serious about their training. Saturday, they tackled hill repeats. Other Saturdays, it’s been speed work (yes, speed work for power walking) distance or tempo pace that lands them somewhere in between fast and slow.

“It’s all the same things you do at running, only we do it walking,” said Sue Jonas, four-year member of the Poipu Power Walkers.

And like runners, they set goals and enter races.

They competed in the Haena to Hanalei 8 miler in June, and most recently the Koloa Plantation Days 10K.

These days, they’ve set their sights on the Kauai Half Marathon on Sept. 1.

So Saturday’s hill workout, while tiring, was part of the deal if you want to do well and finish the race, said three-year Power Walker Vicki Agor.

“We were ready for today. We worked really hard,” she added.

The Poipu Power Walkers formed about eight years ago. Gunning was one of the founding members, who initially were part of a fitness group that jogged.

“A few of us just got to the point where our backs weren’t happy about it anymore,” she said. “We just got together and said, ‘You know what? Let’s walk.’”

They haven’t stopped.

They meet Saturday mornings at the Shops at Kukui’ula for group training, and walk on their own during the week. Some push the pace to around 11 minutes per mile, while others are back around 15 minutes a mile. Though the pace varies, the goal is generally the same.

“We’re always trying to improve,” Gunning said.

Darlene Dolan is in her first year with the Power Walkers.

They’re more than exercise buddies, she said. They’ve become friends who share life’s ups and downs. They’ve offer each other encouragement, motivation and understanding.

“It’s just a really good group of people,” Dolan said. “It’s the camaraderie that really helps.”

Dolan has shed 60 pounds in the past year through walking and dieting. She credits fellow Poipu Power Walkers with providing strong, loving support that’s enabled her to push past the tough times.

Through the group, she’s about to walk 13.1 miles, a half marathon.

“It’s my first so I’m a little nervous,” she said.

Before the group walks, there’s a lot of hellos and banter, then they get down to stretching. Then, they’re off, quickly disappearing around corners and turns in the road.

Saturday’s hill drills, Dolan said, were “really tough.” Her goal is to cover 12 miles a week in the buildup to the half marathon.

“We’re try to get our long miles in to prep us for the marathon,” she said.

During the 13.1-mile half marathon, each will go their own pace, and finish at different times. Afterward all will celebrate together.

Jonas, a lifetime exerciser, joined the Power Walkers after hearing about “the group that walked.”

There’s technique to power walking. Like runners who train to run fast, Jonas is a walker who trains to walk fast.

And walking, Jonas adds, is good for you, easy on the knees, too. It’s good for the mind, spirit and body.

“It works on everything,” she said. “It obviously makes you healthier physically, but mentally it’s a big help.”

For instance, on those days she perhaps doesn’treally feel like venturing out to train, she goes because she knows others are counting on her.

“It’s motivation. It keeps you going,” she said.

It serves as a stress reliever, too. The walkers are teachers, real estate agents, and retirees. They are wives, sisters, moms and grandmothers.

“Everybody has responsibilities, and this is a really good outlet,” Jonas said.

Agor, owner of Poipu365, a vacation rental and real estate company, looks forward to her time with the Power Walkers.

Little, she says, beats walking, and talking, with some of your best friends.

“I have the kind of job where you will work, morning, noon and night,” she said.

“It gives you a reason and necessity to leave your computer and get up and go outside and get some fresh air.”

Anyone interested in being part of the Poipu Power Walkers can contact Dolan at dabeachnut@aol.com

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