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Hiking, Biking and Getting a Move-On

Posted by MamaJean , 23 January 2014 · 1,474 views

exercise social groups events fun friends
Over and over I hear "I need someone to keep me accountable" or "it's boring alone or I have no one to hike safely with." I have said it myself.

Here is my solution. Start a group.

Choose a site like Meetup, Big Tent, or start a Facebook group. You will quickly learn there are others out there with the same exact problem you have. They want to hike, bike, kayak, and more but just don't know where to find others to join them.

In less than 20 days, I had 30 ladies join up and we have already hiked, walked, and met up multiple times this month. Win!!!

Of course you can create book club groups or really a group for about ANYTHING if that is your focus, or expand your group to explore more than just "getting a move-on"

My walking group is my third group. I also have a camping group and ran a (now closed) stay-at-home mom's group for almost 3 years. (our kids grew up....we moved on...although many of us still hang out without a "group" now)

My keys to running an active, fun group:

1. Keep it casual. No strict rules. (Do be kindly firm with repeated no-shows) Encourage others to submit events and meetings, and be flexible. Encourage them to feel this is their group to share. Not "your group" for them to participate in.

2. Make sure your members seem legit. It is your group. If someone joins with a weird photo that isn't even of themselves and writes something like "l am like your cool group, please let me joining...." ditch that sucker or send them an email if you suspect something isn't just right....

3. Don't ask, just submit events. Typically do not ask "what day would you....or what time would you...." It only turns into drama and becomes stressful. Leave the event open to suggestions if the majority cannot make the event.

4. It may be slow in the beginning. Don't give up. Plan events which are extremely convenient to you. Think: 'I am going to be near this park next Tuesday....' In a group of 30 you will typically have about 6-10 really active members with a sprinkling of "every now and then" participants. This is totally okay. Don't fret about it. Over time, decide what is a good size for your group and keep it around that number. A group of 250 might not be necessary if 75% of your members aren't even participating.

5. You may want to leave your group public at first as this will encourage growth.** You may choose to make it private afterwards if you wish so everyone and their mother doesn't know what's what.

** Check your settings to insure added private venues are hidden from the public such as home addresses. The entire internet does NOT need to know where MamaJean lives.

6. Keep your calendar busy. Not crazy busy. But definitely do NOT let it get empty. They will give up on you. Invite members to submit events.

7. Be aware that in these groups typically people only RSVP if they ARE attending. Typical social manners differ here. People don't have time to respond to multiple events a month with "no". It is just plain annoying. This isn't a wedding or birthday or dinner party.

8. Don't feel the need to be at every event once people have met one another. Clearly request that new members be met by a current member if you are unable to attend and make them feel welcome at an event. New members being left out, ignored or not properly greeted is bad news. This will kill a group. Word of mouth can make or break it. Have a clear meeting point or sign or description. People hate to ask random groups of people "are you 'such-in-such?'"

9. Ditch your inactive members. Yes, casual is good. But if someone hasn't even said BOO in over 6 months, send them an interest email or remove them kindly with an invite to return when they would like to participate.** No need for random people to know where you are and what you are doing. Note: for seasonal groups with outdoor events, you could give them a year. Not many camp in the winter or sometimes in the most sweltering days of summer. ** modify this if they have paid dues.... you may need to give them a refund.

10. Be creative. The same old same old is boring. Try somewhere new. Walk to a particular art museum or coffee shop....or lunch.
Somewhere near. Somewhere far. Discuss with members where their favorite place to hike etc is. But, also have repeating events. Some like predictability.

Finally....... Be professional. Keep your site pretty. Edit typoes n stuff. dont look like a dujmbass. ;) AND......Even if you make close friendships over time, stay out of the gossip pools and drama lover conversations as much as possible. Set the example. Also consider asking someone to be an assistant organizer. You do go on vacation don't you?

Not sure what site to use?

Compare the pros and cons of running a group on a site which charges vs one which is free. Meetup charges the organizer fees. You in turn can ask for membership fees from your group members. Typically $3-$5 per year is plenty for a group membership fees. If there is a group charging tons more....personally I think they are scamming their members. Organizers can run more than one group for that one same organizer fee. BigTent advertises. Interface is not as nice, and options are limited. Facebook is limited to only those on Facebook. It lacks features of Meetup. Something to consider. Personally, I love the paid site. It cost me a little up front, but typically you can find or request a 50%off coupon before you begin. I covered my costs with dues. There are also options to have paid sponsors of your choice on your page.

Written out like this it seems like it is a great deal of work. Believe me, it isn't. It's fun! But, I have seen many groups fail. I have had others tell me why they feel a group was not good, and many love how I maintained our groups. So go out there and get moving, get active, and get social. You will love it.

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