Today, Nikki Elliot from Walk It Off NI shares about her passion for helping the good folk of Northern Ireland get out and about – read on below.
Nikki, tell me a bit about yourself.
I was educated in NI then studied Business Administration and Languages at UCLAN. Joined the world of full-time work becoming an Underwriter in film and television specialising in French business, worked in Lloyds of London and lived in South London for 11 years. I followed my husband and his work to Dublin, left the insurance industry and was lucky enough to become a mother, the best (and hardest) job in the world. As a parent, the lure of home was too strong and Belfast beckoned so we relocated here in 2004. Parenting was then a full-time job as hubby travels but health and wellbeing have always been massively important to me. I worked part-time and studied nutrition when my daughter was little. I read food labels avidly, practice Pilates regularly, am an aerial arts addict and walk every day.
Where did you grow up?
I lived in Sharry Drive, Lambeg, near Lisburn when I was tiny, after that, Essex for a while and when we returned, Derryadd near Lough Neagh, (during the troubles) in a big old family house with draughty windows, a huge garden and lots of pets. It was miles away from anywhere so I used to spend hours exploring the countryside with the dogs, cats (and sometimes the goat!). I look back and realise that that was where my love of nature and walking started.
Tell us a bit about Walk It Off NI – where did the idea for it come from?
I was already a regular walker, had walked the Inca trail and was planning to get back into full-time work when I listened to a podcast about a guy who simply walked alongside people and the positive impact it had. He called himself a #peoplewalker. The idea stayed in my mind and as I walked myself, I began to realise not only the effect it had on me but I also started to see online and on paper, the results of research into walking, long-term physical and mental health, loneliness and overall well-being. Although I knew deep down it was good exercise, common thought used to be that walking was a lesser form of activity but it is now proven that walking at a speed where you are out of breath, is classed as moderate, low-impact exercise! Science has also proven the capacity of a regular short walk outside to dramatically change health and well-being outcomes. It’s also very accessible and sustainable.
I realised that the biggest impediment for many people is just getting out the front door and that WalkItOffNI was the simple motivation to improve physical and mental well-being!
What sort of services do you offer?
I offer a bespoke one to one walking service. Your pace, your place, your time. I meet you at a place of your choice (your office, a park, somewhere you want to explore) and I walk beside you at your pace, at a time that suits you. I ask you to wear weather-appropriate shoes and clothing and carry water. Before we begin I advise a short warm up to get the muscles working. Walks last from half an hour upwards. I will also take small groups or families by prior arrangement.
Do you run it by yourself or do you have help?
At the moment I am running it on my own (I have a wonderful artist designer who designed the website and the fantastic logo which is based on a Belfast street map, have had sales consultancy supported by Lisburn City Council and attended the WIB Connect Course). All the photos, social media posts (unless they are reposts), blogs and content are all created by me using my trusty phone, research and creativity.
Do you have a favourite place to walk?
My current delight is the Minnowburn to Giant’s Ring walk. It’s long enough to walk briskly in 45 mins and offers enough uphill to increase heart beat to a decent rate. The colours have been absolutely phenomenal this season. It has a river, ancient history, beauty and wildlife and is only 10 mins from home.
I also have a huge soft spot for any seaside walk. I love the sea.
How important would you say fitness is in what you do?
It’s up to the client to put the emphasis where they want it. Walking improves physical health and fitness, is social, and offers the opportunity to pause and take a breath in the open air. My walks can be especially good for those under stress, recently divorced or bereaved, new parents, visitors here for business or pleasure, or even those with creative blocks.
How does walking promote wellbeing?
Scientific studies are repeatedly showing that a short walk of 30min 5 times a week has the potential to reduce cardiovascular disease and stroke by upwards of 15 per cent. Regular walking reduces the risk of diabetes, some cancers, osteoporosis, stroke and Alzheimers.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Sharing gorgeous NI with the people I walk with. How could I fail to enjoy that?!
Do you have any big plans in the pipeline?
Absolutely! I am currently in discussions with a couple of large academic institutions to provide a #Peoplewalker for students and staff and also several big businesses to support their employee health and wellbeing programmes. In an ideal world, every business should have a #Peoplewalker and everyone should walk.
‘Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.’ ~ Albert Camus
Many thanks, Nikki!
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