Author: Tracey McAlpine Category: Fitness, Walking, Workout

Joanna Hall spent three years as ITV’s This Morning diet and fitness expert, a role she is well qualified for, with a master’s degree in Sports Science from Loughborough University.


It’s with slight trepidation, that I am waiting on a grey evening in May to meet her. My exercise routine has been thrown aside now I spend most of my day in front of a computer, and I’m wondering if I will be able to keep up!

I have been invited to take part in Joanna’s latest Walkactive course Walk Firm.  As this is the first evening of a four week course, newcomers have been asked to arrive a little earlier than usual, so Joanna can explain her open ankle walking technique.

When Joanna arrives it’s like the sun coming out on a gloomy evening slim, toned and bubbly, I instantly like her.  The open smile, and radiant personality gave me a hint as to why half of our group are regular Walkactive members.

After a short introduction to the open ankle, leg lengthening and core engaging technique.

We are taught to use the whole of our foot, strike with our heel, roll onto the ball of our foot and push off, imagine squashing lemons under our splayed toes, strangely this makes sense, and with this in mind we are off practicing along the Southbank.

Our group are women of varying ages, shapes and sizes, all with the same goal to tone up, get fitter and have fun. If you’re wondering how exercise can be fun, you only have to spend a few minutes with Joanna Hall to realise her success is partly down to making women feel at ease, understanding their abilities and bringing the best out of them.

The Walk Firm course combines the Walkactive technique with clever abdominal exercises. Joanna explains how to engage your transverse abdominal muscles, by thinking about the letter J, start your J at the bottom, scoop in and up, mentally tightening your internal muscles, drawing your tummy button to your spine, and think about wringing out a damp tea towel as you do. Drop your shoulders and soften your facial expression. This is working your brain to firm your internal muscles, and it works!

Carefully placed between walking practice and abdominal J’s, are the tricep dips and stretches, using a bench to dip, then lengthening and stretching the body. Joanna manages to incorporate an overall workout without you really noticing you’re doing it.

The hour flies past and, looking around at the group of glowing women you can see the positive benefits as well as feel them. An hour of purposefully walking and exercising is mood lifting. Already I’m looking forward to my next session.

Although I’m not over weight and up until recently I had been exercising regularly.

The past few months I have let the routine go, so not only was I hoping these classes would kick start the exercise habit again, I was interested to see if I improved the overall tone of my body.

I attended the classes twice a week for a month and each lesson Joanna increased the intensity of the workouts, adding more abdominal work, tricep dips, stretching and incline work. You have to meet Joanna to fully appreciate how engaging she is; how she remembers everyone’s name and ability I will never know. The classes are full of fun, I think of it as serious fun, as you never forget why you are there, to get fit, tone up, lose weight and to learn a walking discipline that will stay with you for life.

We are all laughing as we are feeling the peel, squashing lemons under our feet, engaging our J’s, and squeezing water from our bums during bum bonanza. This routine has the feel good factor stamped all over it, energising and uplifting. There is never that moment when you feel I would rather be at home feet up with a cup of tea.

After only three lessons I started to notice an amazing difference in my posture, the way in which Joanna had taught me to walk had in fact improved this, not only when I was moving but also when I was sitting.

As I went into my fourth and final week, I found myself walking round Waitrose thinking lengthen your stride, feel the peel, whilst I had my abdominal J’s engaged. I noticed my tummy was flatter and firmer, legs and arms more toned and my posture vastly improved.

In only four weeks I had changed my body shape, toned and strengthened and gained a walking technique for life – a better life.

Here are Joanna’s tips for the Walkactive method. A donation has been made to Sport Relief; Joanna’s chosen charity, as a small thank you for the Walk Firm course.

Joanna Hall runs a range of courses throughout the year; spa breaks in the UK and training camps abroad. For full details check the website Joanna Hall