Retirement to Nordic Walking

Phill Alcock is a Nordic Walking instructor. His new passion for inspiring communities to become more active came about after he took semi-retirement from working in public health in 2012.

Thanks to funding from shift and British Nordic Walking, Phill was able to train as a Nordic Walking Instructor and buy the equipment needed to start his first group.

He’s enabled people who would not ordinarily be able to or want to take part in physical activity to be active. From older people to younger people, from the able-bodied to people with mobility or mental health issues. As a result, people who were struggling with mobility are now getting out, exercising and socialising with others. Young people who were disengaged with physical activity at school have become more engaged.

Phill tells his story…

Phill said: “I used to do a lot of long distance running but as I got older I began to suffer from various injuries and arthritis. I originally heard about Nordic Walking as a way of helping me recover from injuries and as a lower impact alternative to running. I started out as a Walking for Health walk leader and when I was asked if I wanted to train as a Nordic Walking instructor I jumped at the chance.

“I started practicing around Buxton and got more enthusiastic about it as I went on. I realised how easy it was to cover distance over different ground. I started off by recruiting my Walking for Health group in Buxton to try Nordic Walking. People were really enthusiastic about it and so I extended the activity to include Walking for Health participants in Darley Dale.”

Increasing participation

Phill’s initial training gave him the catapult he needed to increase participation in Nordic Walking across the county and the success of his initial sessions have helped him win further funding. The benefits for communities across Derbyshire are now far reaching.

Through his volunteer work as an England Athletics mental health ambassador he has been able to make Nordic Walking available to groups of mental health patients. Whilst funding from the Bingham Trust enabled him to buy children’s adjustable poles to introduce Nordic Walking into schools and a grant from Better Derbyshire Dales funded more adult adjustable poles for him to run sessions in Whitworth Park, Darley Dale. Here he has formed the Derbyshire Nordic Walking Club and people are also able to borrow poles left in the café to practise outside of paid sessions.

Appealing to everyone

Phill said: “Nordic Walking can be enjoyed by so many people. It’s an activity you can do both as a team and individual which is quite rare. It appeals to children who lack confidence, have image issues and don’t see themselves as sporty. It’s helping to influence children to become more active which is so important and builds healthy habits they can take into adulthood.

“I’m really passionate about Nordic Walking. When I retired I suddenly lost my purpose. Becoming a Nordic Walking instructor has allowed me to continue with a career. It enables me to do what I really enjoy – using physical activity to help improve people’s physical and mental health.

“The benefits of this are endless and I have lots more planned for the future. I’m researching its use as a therapy, using people as a catalyst to get others involved. I’m also looking to blend it with orienteering and hoping to expand it into the workplace too.”

How it’s helped people

Elizabeth first met Phill in February 2017. She had limited breathing capacity and was becoming increasingly housebound.

She said: “Phill introduced me to Nordic Walking to improve my fitness and enable me to walk independently. I can now walk independently to the local library and park despite the hilly terrain and hope to do more in the future. As a coach Phill combines a pleasant, friendly manner with an enthusiasm and sense of purpose. Each session he sets realistic by challenging goals, carrying the walk so you appreciate the scenery and see somewhere new. You finish the session with a sense of achievement and look forward to doing even more. I am very grateful to him for teaching me Nordic Walking with all its health benefits.”

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