Everyday Heroes: Elizabeth Wallace

Elizabeth WallaceWhen Elizabeth went part-time at work prior to retiring, she wanted to find an activity that would help her maintain a good level of fitness as she aged. After attending a Nordic walking taster course delivered by the charity Sustrans, she was hooked.

Having participated in Nordic walking for a year, the instructor who was employed moved on. Following a replacement instructor who didn’t work out, Sustrans offered to pay for Elizabeth to train to be an instructor.

As she enjoyed it so much, and she could see the benefits of Nordic walking for people of all ages, especially as they got older, she wanted to keep the group going and took the opportunity to train with Nordic Walking UK. ‘Initially, I really got the bug myself, when I first learnt I really enjoyed doing it. I could see that it was something you could do well into your dotage. As long as you stayed fit, there was nothing that would stop you from carrying on doing this. I wouldn’t say that I have been inspired by another instructor actually, just me doing it has motivated me to want to pass those skills on to other people.’

Being appropriately qualified has helped to underpin Elizabeth’s confidence. She also strongly believes that it is the key to ensuring that you give people the right advice about whether it is a suitable activity for them. Also developing an understanding of the physiology and anatomical impact of the technique helps to avoid injuries.

Currently. Elizabeth runs three sessions per week, and each lasts up to two and a half hours, with participants varying in age, but she is mindful that she has ‘to be careful not to let it take over because you enjoy it. It would be very easy to just keep setting up more sessions.’

Elizabeth’s sessions have taken on a life of their own and can include anywhere from 15 to 20 people. Her no-pressure approach seems to be exactly what her participants are after. Elizabeth set up her session so that you never have to book, you can always just turn up and walk on a Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, which she believes has helped to make the sessions more viable. ‘I think it’s about making it accessible and removing any barriers that you can see. A lot of people don’t want to be in a position where they’re perceiving it to be competitive in any way. Yes, you can do Nordic walking competitively, but the groups that I run, that’s not what it’s about. It really is very much about everyone doing it at their own level and that they understand that, however they do it, they will get some benefit from it. They know that we train in all weathers so the sessions will always take place. It’s also important to mention the other volunteers who assist during these sessions. I couldn’t run the groups without them.’

Elizabeth cannot speak more highly of her involvement in Nordic walking as an instructor and says that the whole thing is her highlight. ‘The main thing is if you are coaching people to do something that you love yourself anyway, that you can genuinely see has positive outcomes in the long term, both physically, emotionally and socially, then it is extremely satisfying.’

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