By Gill Stewart at
When Steph. Ashton first came across WALX on Facebook, she was suffering from long covid and struggling to breathe. As somebody who had previously been relatively fit, she was gasping when she did try to walk any distance and felt she had to do something but needed help.
Steph. was not an outdoorsy type at all so walking was not something she had ever considered as a regular activity. She told us……
I had no outdoor shoes, no suitable coat and would not have considered leaving the pavements to explore any further, 2 miles would seem like a REALLY long walk even before I contracted Covid to be honest!
Now Steph. pictured here in the green t shirt is not only a regular walker but she has achieved several distance challenges, climbed Blencathra and even quit her job to be part of the team who helped her change so dramatically. Steph. says
I actually can’t believe it’s me! I mean, bring on the mud, the more the merrier – I love it! I have gone from gasping as I even attempted a slight incline to walking 27 miles in one go and climbing a mountain with the support of the group.
This transformation came about after Steph. made contact with her local WALX group and began to take her first steps with the support of the qualified Instructor and the other walkers. Walking soon became easier and she started to enjoy it, managing to go further and faster week on week. However Steph. feels she would never have achieved this alone and that the key ingredient was that from day one she was made to feel welcome and supported by the whole group.
It was incredible, it was obvious that they ‘cared’ – they are a bunch of amazing people who want to support and encourage each other. There are leaders and hosts who make sure you are included and feel comfortable with the pace and I have never heard anyone say a bad thing about anyone else in the group – which in itself is refreshing. I have never felt part of something so positive, non judgemental, inclusive and rewarding. For instance, I am now one of those who support newcomers and I have recently been helping a Lady who was very nervous about leaving her house. I pick her up if she needs a lift and I even managed to get her to come along when I organised a GO Ape experience to overcome my own fear of heights! In return she is teaching me how to cook delicious vegetarian Indian food – it’s a win win!
Steph. feels that in one year so has not only made friends, discovered her love of walking and improved her mental health, Physically there have been big changes too. Initially it was the breathing and the fact her legs did not ache but she soon also lost a stone in weight without even trying and noticed how her upper body strength improved dud to using poles too. Above all, she believes the biggest change is in her confidence levels and optimism. She mentioned that she has heaps more energy and has noticed that stress and anxiety are forgotten when being outdoors walking
Steph. now feels ready to make life changing decisions, one of which is to leave her job at a local college and help Matt her Instructor to grow the group so they can encourage more people to experience the power of walking .
It’s been great to see Steph flourish through the past year. Long Covid has been difficult for many people across the country, so it’s inspiring to see how significantly she has changed through regularly walking with our group of sociable members (pictured). Steph missed some of the 27 Miler training sessions but was determined to do at least the 16 Miler. Yet, on the day of the Virtual Challenge she felt so energised by the whole experience that at the end of the 16 miles she decided to continue with her walking buddy Anne to complete the whole 27 Miles. That’s no mean feat and is testament to what consistent, regular walking, a positive outlook and a supportive community can do for you. What’s even better is Steph has been inspired herself to join our team to support others gain confidence, build fitness, and grow a whole new bunch of friends. Well done Steph!
Thanks Steph. for sharing your story and let’s hope it inspired more people to take their first steps