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‘Inspiration of the year’ nominee features on latest GOGA podcast

A volunteer nominated for a Community Sport and Recreation Award appears on the latest Active Together podcast, sharing the joys of Nordic Walking.

Allyson Irvine with Helen Derby celebrating Allyson winning an award for This Girl Can in Nottingham.

Nordic Walking isn’t an activity you may have heard of, but across the UK there are groups of people enjoying the ‘ultimate green exercise' throughout the year.

Catherine Hughes has been a Nordic Walking instructor since 2006. She is the CEO at British Nordic Walking CIC, a social enterprise that trains people to be Nordic Walking instructors and helps communities set up their own groups.

She met Allyson Irvine after her interest peaked by trying out Nordic Walking, thanks to the charity LimbPower. Catherine was giving a demonstration when she first met Allyson, who was then invited to join a course to learn more.

The two join host Sam Lloyd on the latest Active Together podcast to share a hidden gem of an activity session. Allyson, a double amputee below the knee, admits she was hesitant before her first attempt:

“I thought there is no way I’m going to be able to do this, but they encouraged me to do it. I went down the hall thinking I was great, and after a few times I loved it. From the moment I knew I could do it, that’s when I got interested.”

Listen to the Active Together podcasts wherever you get your podcasts, (Apple, Google, Amazon, Spotify etc.). Or find it on YouTube here.

Nordic Walking is an activity that is suitable for all. Specialised poles are used to engage up to 90% of your skeletal muscles and tones the upper and lower body.

It's great for the heart and lungs and the use of the poles will reduce pressure on the joints and help improve your posture. Research has also shown that compared with ordinary walking Nordic Walking burns 20% more calories and has a lower rate of perceived effort.

It is a perfect example of a Get Out Get Active session, designed to support disabled and non-disabled people to enjoy being active together.

Allyson’s passion and commitment is highlighted throughout, and it’s easy to see why she has made the shortlist for Inspiration of the Year at the Community Sport and Recreation Awards. She not only leads the Nordic Walking group, she volunteers at LimbPower, a local hospital limb centre, and has taken part in the Ripple Effect project for Swim England.

“We would love to have somebody like Allyson at every limb centre in the UK, that’s our aim to get more people out” says Catherine.

“Because it is so good for their mental health, opening up. When you’re walking side by side it’s much easier to talk. And what’s interesting about the poles is, there’s something about the tactile nature of the pole that’s reassuring.

“So people with mild anxiety have said that they find the pole very soothing, the rhythm of pushing into the ground, getting rid of any frustrations and the feeling on the strap using your fingers a bit like a worry bead.”

The sessions have gone from strength to strength following a dip in participation following the pandemic. Get Out Get Active has supported sessions like these across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Since 2016 it has reached more than 160,000 people, recruited more than 3,200 volunteers, and supported more than 2,600 people in training.

About Get Out Get Active 

Get Out Get Active (GOGA) is a programme that supports disabled and non-disabled people to enjoy being active together. Activity Alliance is the creator and lead partner. The programme is funded by Spirit of 2012, Sport England and London Marathon Foundation.  

Find out more about Get Out Get Active here.