From financial controller to Nordic walking

Liz Jolly went from being a financial controller to setting up her own businesses as a keep fit and a Nordic walking instructor.

Fish changing its bowl


Liz Jolly left her job as a financial controller for an electrical wholesale company in Darlington nearly two years ago when she was 62. She had been thinking about semi-retiring for years and had started her own businesses in Nordic walking and fitness on the side. “I felt like I needed to be outside after spending so much time inside,” she says.

Changing careers

Having started Jollyfit as a chair aerobics it eventually changed to a keep fit class using apparatus and upbeat music. She became a Nordic walking instructor after completing an intensive two-day course through the International Nordic Walking Association. She had been doing Nordic walking through her membership of a local hotel with a gym attached. They were offering a class in Nordic walking and Liz did it for a year before becoming a bit bored with walking the same route all the time.

She discussed the possibility of being a Nordic walking instructor with her partner while on holiday in Cornwall in 2015 and woke up the next day determined to do it. She found a Nordic Walking course through INWA (International Nordic Walking Association) and, a month after qualifying, she held a taster session with 10 people which went from strength to strength.

Helping others

Before Covid Liz did Nordic walking with people of all ages, including an 11 year old with Spondylitis (curvature of the spine), whose physiotherapist recommended Liz. Several other people have come to her on the recommendation of physiotherapists.

Liz has taken a course in working with people with Parkinson’s and now works with two people who have the condition. Nordic walking helps with posture and wellbeing. Another regular is a 71 year old who had a hip operation four years ago which went wrong, causing a brain injury. He had very painful hips after the operation, which a weekly session of Nordic walking and exercise with Liz has cleared. “It’s fantastic to see someone improve so much,” she says. “He’s not even taking paracetamol now.” Liz texts him every couple of days to motivate him to do his exercises and is planning a walk to a nearby village for Sunday lunch, with a return journey by taxi.

Another regular is the husband of a woman who is bi-polar. Nordic walking gives him a respite from his caring duties, something that has been particularly necessary during Covid.

Liz says she has had to scale back over the last year, but has been able to keep up her one to ones and Jollyfit sessions on Zoom during lockdowns, though she can’t wait to get back to face to face sessions next week. Over the last year she has also completed several training courses for Nordic walking, for instance, on mental health, safeguarding adults and inspiring positive behaviour in sport.

She says both the Nordic walking and the Jollyfit sessions with people aged 52 to 87 have kept her sane as well as helping others. She has not only built good friendships through Nordic walking, but has been able to explore the local area by varying her route every time.

Before Covid she was working with her local council to deliver chair aerobic sessions at residential homes. A few weeks ago she did one chair aerobic session in the garden of a residential home due to Covid, but it wasn’t the same.

Liz doesn’t regret leaving her office job at all. “It’s my own business and the pressure and stress of working for a company has been lifted. It’s so rewarding when I see the improvement in people’s health and wellbeing on a daily or weekly basis.”

*More information on Jollyfit and Liz’s Nordic walking classes here.

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