Living

Volkssport veteran keeps ticking off the miles

It’s amazing the things you can accomplish by simply putting one foot in front of the other.

Preston Johnson, a 74-year-old Federal Way resident, started walking in volkssport events in 1982. Since then he’s used the activity to cover 6,800 miles, make friends, stay fit, travel the world and, recently, walk right into a hall of fame.

Last month Johnson became the 11th person in the 35-year history of the American Volkssport Association to be inducted into its hall of fame.

Today, the retired attorney walks in only about 10 10-kilometer events per year, but when he was in his 40s he’d walk in more than 200 per year and even walked 50 kilometers in a day.

“I knew if it was necessary, I could walk anywhere,” Johnson said.

Johnson did much more than walk. He encouraged others to do the same by helping found volkssport clubs and making Washington one of the country’s most active volkssport states with more than 30 clubs.

Volkssport, a German term meaning “sport of the people,” are noncompetitive walking, biking, swimming and cross-country skiing events open to anybody regardless of age or fitness level. Participants can earn credits they redeem for awards.

While Johnson doesn’t participate as often as he once did, he’s still eager to promote an activity he calls an easy and inexpensive way for people of all fitness levels to get exercise.

“Just getting outside and walking frees your mind,” Johnson said. “It helps with sleep and everything else. Your mind gets a chance to work in a different way.”

Johnson helped start the state associations for Washington and Oregon and served as the first president of the Washington association. He helped found the Sea-Tac Volkssport Club, the state’s second club and served four year with the AVA. He even walked in events in Canada and Japan to help promote the activity.

While he always had a busy schedule as an attorney, he says “I always made time for volkssport.”

He did most of his walks with his wife, Liz. Their three children came along for many of the walks.

“It’s something anybody can do,” Johnson said. “We have people who walk it fast then run back to finish walking with other people. And we have people with disabilities who can’t go very far at all. You can do it at all kinds of levels. It is up to you.”

For more information on volkssport and a list of local clubs visit blog.thenewstribune.com/ adventure.

LEARN PARKOUR

If you ever wanted to know how to scale walls like Spider-Man or leap safely from balconies like a stuntman, it might be worth making a trip to Seattle on Saturday morning.

Some of the country’s best parkour athletes – known as traceurs – will be at Gas Works Park on Saturday for the Washington Parkour Summit.

Parkour is a noncompetitive sport where participants use their agility and strength to overcome obstacles ranging from handrails to the exterior walls of buildings.

While the summit runs Friday through July 25, event organizer Tyson Cecka said Saturday morning is the best time to attend for those looking for an introduction to the sport.

The 10 a.m. warm-up session is free and will offer the opportunity to see experienced traceurs in action. Lessons will also be available throughout the day. A day of lessons costs $40.

While the sport might seem like an activity for teenagers, Cecka says parkour is for everybody and “is a great test of fitness.”

Cecka said he has coached everybody from children to a 68-year-old man.

For more information on the summit, visit parkour visions.org. Watch video of parkour at blog.thenewstribune.com/ adventure.

THE COWBELL GAMES

Graham CrossFit will hold its second Cowbell Games on Saturday.

Participants will compete in three workouts over the course of the day. Gym owner Diana Shaw said the events will range from beginner to advanced workouts.

The event raises money for the Community Care Food Pantry in Graham. The 2010 competition raised more than $800 and a truckload of food.

“We’re expecting this year’s event to be even bigger,” Shaw said.

Registration closed in June, but watching this event is an excellent way for those interested in CrossFit to get an idea of the breadth of the workouts.

For more information visit grahamcrossfit.com.

Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Please submit questions and comments via craig.hill@thenewstribune.com, facebook.com/adventureguys or twitter.com/adventureguys.

Get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure, thenewstribune.com/fitness

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