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A guide to outdoor coaching: the benefits of walking and talking

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What is outdoor coaching?

Outdoor coaching is a coaching session that takes place on a walk.

For the most part we’re walking somewhere nice, a big park or somewhere in nature. The aim is to be among as much greenery, water and fresh air as possible, while having a coaching conversation about whatever challenges or obstacles the client wants to discuss. Sometimes this might involve stopping and looking at something, or sitting on a bench for a while.

Is outdoor coaching new?

Yes and no. People have always walked and talked, that’s nothing new. I’m sure you can remember a conversation while walking with someone and, even though you weren’t thinking of it as a coaching discussion, it proved to be a really useful chat about a difficult issue that one of you was experiencing. People have known forever that walking journeys are good for going deep into problems.

But now it has a name and people are talking and writing much more about the benefits of outdoor coaching. You’ll find links to some great examples of what is being said at the end of this blog.

What sort of coaching can you do outdoors?

Pretty much any sort. Any kind of coaching that just involves two people talking can be done outdoors. All you need is to agree it’s a good idea to be outside for this conversation, some shoes that are good for walking and, preferably, decent weather. I have coached people outdoors on all sorts of topics, including: decluttering, problems with family members and how to get out of a miserable job.

Why outside? What are the benefits?

  • Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to talk to someone when you’re not face to face? Walking side by side makes talking less intense and more comfortable.
  • Clients say that they think more clearly and creatively about their issues when they’re outside. Some even say they think faster.
  • The motion of walking connects mind and body, enhancing the thinking process.
  • Silences aren’t a problem with outdoor coaching. When you’re talking face to face, someone wants to fill the silence – we’re taught from earliest childhood that silences are bad manners. But if you’re walking or looking at a view or sitting by a lake, silences don’t have to be filled, and often that’s when the best thinking happens.
  • Being outdoors is relaxing and restorative, and more liberating for many people than four walls or a screen environment. An hour outside is good for everyone’s physical and mental health.

So, it’s just like coaching indoors… but outdoors?

The outdoor coaching process isn’t very different, but most clients agree that the experience and the results are. Clients say:

  • The process feels more collaborative because walking side by side creates less of a feeling that the coach is the ‘expert’. The greater sense of equality promotes a more positive experience overall.
  • Due to the of the lack of intensity that comes from not being face-to-face, with outdoor coaching they feel less scrutinised and somehow freer in their thinking and talking.
  • Whatever the outcome of the outdoor coaching session, they feel better about their situation after an hour in nature.
  • Being in nature allows them to stop being stuck in their own heads. The increased awareness of how they are feeling that comes from being in nature allows them to think more clearly and results in more creative breakthroughs in their thinking.

Where do you hold outdoor coaching sessions?

I’m based in North London and happy to go anywhere in that area. I love discovering new walking places, so if clients have a favourite place they like to walk, we meet there. For example, many have chosen to walk in Trent Park, Forty Hall or Hampstead Heath but there are so many other potential spots for outdoor coaching.

Practical considerations: what about bad weather?

Always have a backup plan! Preferably a quiet café or some other fairly private sheltering place. Or else postpone. Part of planning outdoor coaching with a client is agreeing what kind of weather you will walk in. Clients vary; some only want to do outdoors between April and October, others are happy to do it with mud and umbrellas. But I am always client-led here; we only do what the client feels comfortable with.

Wind is the biggest weather enemy. It makes it hard to hear, which defeats the purpose of coaching outside, so a very breezy day would require a plan B.

Get in touch with me

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in finding out more about, let’s talk. We can have a free preliminary chat about how outdoor coaching with me works, the issue or challenge you’d like to discuss in the coaching session, and you can ask questions about any aspect of the process. We can walk in one of the places I’ve already mentioned or, if you have a favourite spot where you like to walk, I can meet you anywhere in North London.

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Here's what one of my clients has to say about her positive experiences of outdoor coaching:

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