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How you can be a supportive walking partner

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By Amy Taylor

Now that we’re getting an occasional balmy day, it may be good to start some outdoor walking. The best way for many people to do that is with a partner. If you follow some common-sense guidelines, you and your walking partner can offer support to each other.
For starters, be on time. If you are always late, it may cut into your walking partner’s day or shorten your walking time. If you are late once in a while, call your partner before you are actually late to let him or her know you are still coming. Give your estimated arrival time.
Agree on speed and hills. Are you going to walk together and match pace? You will need to see if your speed is compatible. You may be good for each other in all other ways, but if your speeds are markedly different, you won’t be able to walk together. If your partner hates hills and you love the challenge, discuss this and adjust your routes as needed.
Mind your conversation topics. Keep your conversation on the same level as polite dinner conversation. Don’t talk religion or politics until you are sure such topics are welcome. Don’t unload all of your personal problems onto your walking partner unless you are very close friends. Don’t assume that your partner is happy to share all the details of your problems with your spouse, money, or medical bills.
Share important, relevant medical information. If you have a chronic condition that might require medical attention while walking, let your walking partner know about it and any drugs you carry to help with symptoms. Asthma, angina, epilepsy, diabetes and allergic reactions to bee stings might require your partner to help you or call for medical help. You don’t have to make this a common part of conversation, but let your partner know up front if problems might occur.
Ask before bringing a friend or a dog. Adding a dog adds complexity to walking with somebody else. Ask first. Give your walking partner warning if you are bringing another walker along, too. It’s just common courtesy.
Agree on MP3 players or silent times. Some walking partners like to listen to music and walk together for safety and to maintain pace, but not for conversation. Others may want to limit their conversation when they are getting tired or tackling a hill. Discuss this in advance.
Limit phone calls. Don’t break off your conversation with your walking partner to take non-emergency calls.
Follow these simple rules, and you and your partner will be able to lend vital support to each other.