At Your Own Pace
Fitness TikToker Brianna Joye Kohn shares how wanting to make new friends as an adult inspired her t...

I Set Up Walking Groups To Make New Friends As An Adult

TikToker Brianna Joye shares how City Girls Who Walk helped her step out of her comfort zone.

Interview by Lara Walsh
Elite Daily; Brianna Joye

Forget dating and managing money — making friends might be one of the hardest parts of adulting. Whether you’ve moved to a new city or your besties are no longer living nearby, it can be lonely not having the support system you once had. Like many others, Brianna Joye Kohn, 29, found herself in this situation after many of her friends left New York City during the pandemic. Not like others, the fitness influencer had 1 million TikTok followers at the time and decided to harness the power of social media to do something about it. In this as-told-to, Kohn, aka @briannajoye_fitness, shares how she started walking groups to make new friends as an adult, and how City Girls Who Walk went viral.

One Sunday in February of 2022, I was sitting in my apartment with my fiancé and feeling lonely, thinking about how most of my close friends had moved out of the city or back home during the pandemic. My fiancé likes to chill on Sundays, and the friends that left were the ones I’d call up to get coffee or go for a walk with just to get out of my apartment.

I was feeling lonelier than usual and on a whim, I posted to my TikTok asking, “Is anybody interested in going for a walk with me? Like, I know this is weird, but I would love to grab coffee and just walk the West Side Highway.” I was hoping to get 10 girls to respond, but when I looked back just minutes later, I was surprised I had about 100 comments and so many shares, even girls who weren’t in NYC saying they wanted to plan a walking meet-up in their city.

That day, I walked to the West Side Highway and found a meeting point that seemed safe with lots of people around. I created an Instagram account for the group and posted, “I saw many of you were interested, so here’s the time and place we’ll be meeting.” The first City Girls Who Walk post was a pic of the girls from Clueless, because I imagined we would kind of look like that when we were walking. I wanted it to be more fashion-y and fun with some girl power. I also responded to comments on the TikTok letting people know where and what time we were meeting.

On the day of the first walk, I was so nervous. I made my fiancé come with me to make sure it was safe and also to help take photos. One of my friends also came with her husband, and we went to Pier 45 to wait. I had a lot of nerves because I had no idea what to expect. Honestly, I thought maybe 20 girls would come.

The word must have gotten out, because I was surprised when we had 250 girls show up. After the initial nervousness, I started feeling a lot better when I saw that they came alone. We introduced ourselves, got comfortable with each other, and those nerves went away as we started talking. We ended up walking for 40 minutes to Brookfield Place and then back to Pier 45 that day.

Brianna Joye Kohn

Talking to the other girls, it felt like everybody was in the same boat as me. Everyone was mentioning how it was hard to meet others because people weren’t going out as much. Some of them told me that they were grateful for the excuse to get out of their apartment and socialize with new people.

I originally thought about planning a walk maybe once a month, but because of the turnout at the first one, I realized that it needed to be a weekly thing. I thought, if this many people want this, I can only imagine how many more this could help if we did it more frequently. The hardest part was coming up with the name for the group, which I did after that first walk. I brainstormed so many different options with my fiancé. I was thinking about New York Girls or just City Girls before we landed on City Girls Who Walk and made it official.

After that first walk, I started sharing the City Girls Who Walk Instagram posts on my own Instagram so that people could follow it and stay up to date on all of the walks that we’d be doing. I posted them on my TikTok about four times before it started taking off by itself. Having a following on TikTok definitely helped reach more people, so I’m grateful for that.

It took a little bit to figure out what worked best for everyone. I would post stories with polls asking for everyone’s input, which is how we switched to noon from 2 p.m.

The walks have really taken me out of my comfort zone. I’ve lost track of how many I’ve done, but we’ve done it every single Sunday since it started. I try to put myself out there and meet new girls every single time I walk, and I’ve gained a lot of different friendships that I never expected. I’ve literally met hundreds of girls at this point.

So many girls have told me it’s so hard to meet new people nowadays. They don’t go up to each other as much, and not as many people are going out to fitness classes anymore since the pandemic. I think meeting girls on a walk is more approachable because you don’t have to sign up, you’re not swiping on an app, and you’re not having to message beforehand — you just show up. “Hot girl walks” also became popular during the pandemic, and I think it’s less intimidating than running.

A lot of people come alone and talk with other people, and after the walk, they’ll go get coffee or go to brunch and just hang out. You just automatically join a little circle who’s talking — nobody is ever going to leave anyone out because everyone is kind of in the same boat. Some of the girls have mentioned they’re going through a breakup, their mental health is being tested, or they are just feeling lonely. These walks are a way for them to forget about it and talk to other girls who can kind of help them get their minds off whatever they're going through. One of the most memorable conversations I had with someone was about how she’d been depressed for a long time, and having this outlet was something she looked forward to every week.

We usually get between 50 to 300 girls, but sometimes it’s up to 700 if we’re doing a walk with a partnership. After the first meetup, we started meeting on Sundays at noon at 72nd Street West in Central Park and walk for 20 minutes.

Brianna Joye Kohn

Since we started City Girls Who Walk in New York, it’s hard to believe how much it’s grown. People contacted me asking if they can start their own City Girls groups, and there are now sister groups in 150 different cities going all the way to Germany, Dubai, and Barcelona. Sometimes I’ll help them get started, but they pretty much do their own thing.

I feel like I have a ton of new friends now, but I’m also really branching out. I usually stick to girls who are my own age, but I’m meeting and connecting with those in their 40s, their 50s, and finding out about different people’s experiences. It’s weird that about a year ago, I felt so lonely, and now I have so many new friends. I feel like this is the best way to meet other girls and also get those recommended 10,000 steps a day in.