Today marks the start of National Walking Month, a notion to get the country moving through the power of walking. In light of the event we spoke to Jess Robson, founder of volunteer-led community, Walk Talk Walk. Born out of a need to make movement and mental health support more accessible for everyone, Jess Robson launched the initiative off the back of her faster-paced concept Run Talk Run. We sat Jess down and spoke with her about how she went from one planned run in the UK to a fully-fledged global movement.
“Walk Talk Walk exists for those who can’t run, or don’t want to run. I started the concept of running through my own experience of mental ill-health. I struggled to open up in therapy but found it easier to talk about my emotions and dark thoughts when I was moving”. The idea of Walk Talk Walk opens up a less intimidating space, for everybody to talk about how they’re feeling.
“For someone with self-esteem issues, going to therapy with someone’s eyes on you, it can be intimidating. I stopped going to therapy and focused on running. I pushed myself to run with other people which really helped with my social anxiety. I have now gone back to therapy and it feels a lot easier. I had to build up my confidence and self-esteem in other ways in order to feel comfortable in therapy”.
Jess explains the benefits of walking and movement on your mental health are endless such as; getting outside, connecting with your environment as well as a means for connecting with others, especially in the environment of Walk Talk Walk where the idea is to share the experience with others. “A feeling of belonging is crucial to our wellbeing. A huge part of it gives us perspective – when we’re stuck inside all day its very easy to get stuck in our minds. You have to pay attention to the world around you when you go outside which helps us to escape from our mind. It helps remind us we are more than our thoughts and there is more to the world than what goes on inside our head”.
The premise around Walk Talk Walk is to create an intimidation-free zone, “its always going to feel intimidating and scary when you join a walk for the first time. Acknowledging that you feel that way is ok. We like to remind attendees that you don’t need to come and be energetic and full of smiles – you can come and say very little at all. A lot of social fitness groups are full of energy and extroversion, which is great, but we wanted to create a different atmosphere, it’s more about being with one another rather than raising one another”.
The leaders of Walk Talk Walk are self selected leaders who have been on their own mental health journey, with their own level of understanding, “their journey might be different to yours but knowing others have faced their own challenges makes it less intimidating”.
How Does it Work?
Every walk has a volunteered leader who organises the session. Before you join your walk anyone requested to join will be able to see everyone who is attending that night. “There is a level of safety, you know the leader’s name and the attendees’ names and you can chat to them beforehand, which is useful for those who are concerned about turning up at the wrong location or that you might be late. Booking to join is like going to the cinema as scheduled self-care, you have a set time to arrive – knowing people are expecting you is a nice feeling, which acts as a good motivator”.
How Far is Each Walk?
“Between three and five kilometres”.
How Do You Select Your Leaders?
“They find us. Walk Talk Walk and Run Talk Run has grown organically.
For Someone Struggling To Put Their Shoes On And Walk What Can You Recommend?
“Start small. Commit yourself to stand at your front door to get some fresh air. Making the goal smaller makes it easier. Build on that habit then walk to the end of your street and back. Once you’re standing at your door you might find you’ll like the idea of going out for a walk. Another option is to invite a friend, this keeps us accountable”.
How Often Do I Have To Attend?
“It really varies. We have some attendees who come every week but others will come every few months. Some people will only come if they’re in a bad place, but on the flip side, some might only come if they’re in a good enough place. The walks run at the same time every week, which makes integrating it into your routine much easier”.
How Much Does It Cost?
“It’s free, we’re volunteer led”.
Where Can I Find A Local Walk?
“We have lots of locations in the UK, and globally and we’re always open to new locations for those who wish to become a leader”.
How Can You Explain The Expectations of Walk Talk Walk for Anyone Looking To Join?
“It’s not group therapy, it’s not competitive – it’s not about being fitter. It is a peer support group and a safe place to talk about your mental health, but you aren’t expected to talk if you don’t want to”.
For more information on Walk Talk Walk and to sign up, head here.