On Friday 26th May, I attended my first Freshwalks, not really knowing what to expect or who I was going to meet, or even if I was going to be able to hold a conversation whilst walking up a hill… I was quite worried about that part actually…
The 13km walk was planned to set off from Disley at 9:30am, taking a route through Lyme Park, onto the surrounding moorland, taking us up to 402m for some stunning views across Manchester, Derbyshire and Cheshire, then through to the ancient Bowstones and back down to Disley, via the Gritstone Trail.
I met the bright eyed and bushy tailed (some of them literally, yes, you can take your dog!) Freshwalkers as they were coming downhill from the cage situated in the park at 264m , a little daunting seeing a group of 25 people don’t know hurtling down a hill towards you!
However as the group came nearer I could tell they were a friendly bunch with their welcoming smiles, this was followed by a huge welcome hug from Michael, what can I say, I’m a hugger too, so that was appreciated!
Immediately I felt very welcome to be part of the group, and suddenly all my worries about holding conversations whilst climbing hills eased (mostly because the park was flat, at this point anyway), and even more refreshing – there wasn’t a stale sausage, watery coffee or bleary eyed person in sight – not your usual networking situation!
Freshwalks mission is to reinvigorate both body and soul, and following on from the tragic event in Manchester on the Monday, I got the sense everyone in the group was looking to switch off and clear their minds via exercise and fresh air, even just for a few hours.
During the walk I had a variety of conversations with various people from the group, I found myself sharing both personal and business challenges, asking advice, giving advice, sharing my experiences in business, my biggest achievements, and mistakes, and laughing about them, completely naturally in magnificent settings – how absolutely refreshing!
What wasn’t refreshing however, was the heat, only I could choose to do a 13km walk, in 28 degrees, wearing all black, not my smartest move.
As my poor shoulders slowly started to turn a delightful shade of pink, I thought to myself how much I wish I had packed my suncream, so now I’m about to pass on some knowledge, from a mistake, and share my best tips for attending your first Freshwalks! Enjoy!
1.) Wear comfy shoes, obviously. This is not a fashion show, I’m yet to find any walking gear that is ‘bang on trend’ but you need to be comfy, seriously.
2.) Pack plasters. Only really relevant if you are not clever enough to take my first piece of advice.
3.) Wear suncream, probably not applicable in winter. Anyway, 28 degrees, no clouds, 3 hours later, despite applying suncream in the morning, I was a lovely shade of lobster, as Michael pointed out (thanks for that)
4.) Sweets. Not to bribe people to talk to you, there’s definitely no need for that, haribo, jelly babies, that kind of thing, will be just the little boost you need when you realise you’re only halfway.
5.) Fruit. If you’re healthy and don’t agree with point 4, take fruit, a natural sugar hit, or if you’re like me, just take both… balanced diet yes?
6.) Water! Another no brainer really, just don’t take 2 litres like I did as its not really much fun to carry around, and you end up carrying it either way… on a hot day pop the bottle of water in the freezer, it’ll stay lovely and cool for longer as it defrosts.
7.) Hip Flask. No? Ok, next point… (I was if you need something a little strong than water at the end of the walk!)
8.) Sunglasses. Again, only applicable really if you know, the suns out, don’t wear them as an attempt to make your walking gear look cool, its not happening.
9.) Map. Yes A MAP, a traditional paper map. Phone signals aren’t always reliable so a good old-fashioned map is very useful if our technology fails. (never!)
10.) Spare shoes. Usually its women who pack a spare pair of shoes in their handbag, but to my surprise, a couple of the prepared men popped spare trainers on at the pub – the relief on their faces looked similar to the one I pull when I take my heels off after a long day on my feet!
11.) Cows. I recommend you don’t moo at them, they’ll follow you. (again, speaking from a mistake I learnt en route!)
12.) Olives and avocado. Don’t order it, you’ll be teased for being too healthy whilst everyone else tucks into their steak sandwiches and pie and chips, pig out, you’ve earnt it.
In summary, what a fantastic idea and fresh approach to meeting new people and making more valuable connections, I found myself talking to someone for a while, then drifting off and having a completely different conversation with another person, the fresh air, sunshine and interesting conversation all rolled into one naturally, perfect.
I’ll most definitely be encouraging others from my network to try it, in addition to attending the next one!
Get your ticket booked. I’m confident you will not be disappointed!
Emma Gibson is a Business and Marketing Consultant with over 10 years digital marketing experience as an Account Director in both client and agency roles and commercial experience of growing and managing digital marketing teams. Connect with Emma here on Linked In and follow @emmagibson on Twitter.