Nordic Walking for Mental Health

So first I will introduce myself as I’m new to Nordic Walking.

My name is Ginny, let’s just say I’m over 40. I am a single parent to two daughters Madison who is 13 and Tiahna who is 11. I work as a nurse at Chorley hospital in the theatre department. I specialise in anaesthetics. I started with Walx Preston just a few weeks ago but I can tell I shall be here for the long term as it was exactly what I was looking for.

I had been passionate about long distance running for many years but had recently been struggling with one injury after another which made me reevaluate whether I was now doing more harm than good. Dodgy hips, shin splints and Achilles tendinopathy meant that it was now taking me longer and longer to recover from even a short run and I feared that it was no longer a sustainable way to keep healthy. When doing park run I had noticed these strange people with poles laughing and giggling as they trundled through Avenham park and I began to do a little research into who they were and what they were about. So I attended my first group session, which was awesome. I found the members to be welcoming and we had fun. It was exactly what I had with my running group and it was also pushing me more than just the walking pace I was doing on my own walks. So now you know my background I wanted to go a little deeper into telling my story as to why keeping fit and getting out in nature is so important to me.

So let me begin by acknowledging the current pandemic. This is a time of uncertainty. Fears for the future. But what if this…. But what if that….. Covid-19 has a lot of people anxious and fearing for themselves and their loved ones. But you see these thoughts are not uncommon to me. In fact, I live with a cycle of these thoughts repeating themselves over and over again in my mind. When I’m trying to work, when I’m trying to sleep, when I’m trying to eat a lovely meal. Each time I have one of these thoughts there also comes an emotional response. I have always been quite an emotional person. But only behind closed doors. Often appearing strong and together to outsiders only those close to me really know of the true struggle I have been through. I am telling this now not because I want sympathy but as I learn more and more about anxiety I realise that others to suffer in silence. So now it’s time to break that silence and release the stigma that is attached to mental health.

I think my anxiety started to get out of control during my teenage years. I also lost my Dad to a sudden heart attack during this time too. Making me too aware of my own mortality and that life can be taken away at any time. I remember going into hiding during my Communication studies A-level exam refusing to go into school as we had to give a presentation. My teacher rang my Mum but I still refused to go to school getting myself into such a state I couldn’t stop vomiting (I eventually did the presentation days later to a smaller audience and got a B for my A-Level result). I joined the British Army at 19 which strangely helped as there was lots of teamwork involved and we often had an ‘in it together’ approach to things. The
responsibility for keeping me safe was no longer mine, but ours. During my time in the Army we lost two soldiers on tour in Bosnia. Both had died in horrific circumstances which again lead to questioning about my own mortality. It was when I was due to leave the army that I started getting panic attacks and this carried on to my first full-time civilian job where I was having to stop what I was doing as I was having panic attacks on a daily basis. It wasn’t until I was in the thick of nurse training when I realised what these attacks were. First I thought I was coming into contact with something I was allergic to. I often had hot flushes. I felt dizzy and felt like I was going to pass out but this was usually when I was performing a task where I was doing it in front of people knowing I was being judged by them. It was my doctor that recognised them as panic attacks and put me on medication which significantly helped me control the physical symptoms and gave me a bit of space away from my own thoughts. I felt like I had got control of them and started to feel relieved.

When I was pregnant with my first child I came off the medication and felt really good until after my daughter was born. It was then that my anxiety really spiraled out of control. I began having panic attacks most days, I feared going out and even going to baby clinic to have her weighed was an effort as I felt really paranoid that people would think I was a bad mother. I went back to the GP when I could put up with it no longer I was given new medication which was more up to date than my usual prescription. This sent my anxiety through the roof and I began having really bad nightmares and was unable to function. I went back to the doctors to get my old
prescription but it took at least six months for me to feel better.

After the birth of my second daughter cracks started to appear in my marriage and by time the children were four and six I decided the marriage was over. This was the first time I really realised the importance of self-care and looking after myself in order for me to be able to look after others. I started to learn much more about mental health and realised that although it was a bit of a tabu, that one in four people will be touched by mental ill health at some time during their lifetime. When you consider your friendship groups there may be others who are struggling one way or another and keeping it to themselves out of shame. I began to become more open about my experience and realised the anxiety had less power over me that way as well.

I looked at my life and decided to make changes to it in order to try to keep me at my happiest and more in control. I realised the importance of getting outside and connecting with nature which was something I had really lost since leaving the army. I had tried many gyms for fitness but realised that although I enjoyed working out I believed a lot of the culture with gyms is about improving how you look rather than how you feel. I then started getting into running which really gave me a buzz and helped get my mind into flow. After doing long distance running for a few years (having done a few half marathons) I had picked myself up lots of injuries so I looked into nordic walking. This still gives me the buzz of being outdoors and pushing my body to go faster and further but it feels much less of an impact. It’s also a good whole body workout which helps improve posture.

These days I’m much more in tune with how I feel and take time to look after myself before I start struggling. I’m still on medication which I’ve had to come to terms with as I’ve tried to come off several times. Each time the panic attacks just come back. Maybe it just has to be one of the things I have to do to keep me healthy. After all mental health is just as important as physical health.

Updated: April 19, 2020 — 5:22 pm