Posts Tagged ‘Nordic Walking’

Nordic Walking: Getting Started

I maintain that Nordic Walking is the best exercise, bar none.  Now, if you’re training to be an Olympic Weightlifting champion, then you’ll need some pure strength training over and above Nordic Walking, but for general health and fitness, it can’t be beaten, whatever your level.

I recently realised that I wasn’t getting the “whatever your level” message across, so I wrote this blog post: “Nordic Walking: from Unfit to Superfit“; if you haven’t read it, you might want to head over there now.  If you’re not sure whether you fit into the “Unfit to Super Fit” bracket, at one end of the scale we have a group of 13 seniors, average age 87, learning Nordic Walking in their sheltered accommodation.  At the other end of the scale we have champion alpine skiers running up mountains using NW poles “in the dry season” as part of their fitness regime.

I have been researching nutrition a lot recently, and am very interested in the Ketogenic Diet (don’t know what a ketogenic diet is?  Try “What is Nordic Walking, in a nutshell?“)  I have some blog posts of my own:

The last one is a guide to someone else’s encyclopedic guide, and the relevance here is that he recommends certain sorts of exercise.

3J. Aerobic Exercise

 The body burns primarily glycogen when the heart rate is above 70% of its max. Therefore, aerobic exercises such as HIIT are good for burning liver-glycogen stores during induction, but such high-intensity exercise is not recommended once under ketosis as once muscle-glycogen stores are depleted, the body will begin catabolizing mainly muscle-mass under any high-intensity activity.

The ideal aerobic exercises to perform when under ketosis are MISS (medium intensity steady state) and LISS (low intensity steady state).

HIIT = Periods of high-intensity activity followed by an abrupt switch to low-intensity activity.

MISS = Maintained medium-intensity activity (lightly jogging).

LISS = Maintained low-intensity activity (walking).

I maintain that Nordic Walking can actually supply all three types.  Gentle Nordic Walking will give you LISS, but better than just walking.  If you are obese (“a person of size”) then your weight will put stress on your skeleton and your joints.  When I began all of this even a medium walk made my back ache more than anything else because of the strain on my back muscles from carrying my belly fat around (any woman who has been pregnant will be able to relate to this!)  The Nordic Walking poles support your upper body as well as your lower body and take part of that strain off of your muscles as well has giving your hips and knees an easier time.

At the same time, Nordic Walking is exercising all of your major muscle groups (legs, arms and core muscles), not just your legs, so you are burning more calories for less apparent effort.

When you have got a little fitter you can crank up the Nordic Walking a bit (check out ”Nordic Walking: from Unfit to Superfit“).  And if you need to do HIIT, you can do that through Nordic Walking, too (again, check out that other blog post).

Getting Started

Amazon ImageAmazon ImageYou will need a set of Nordic Walking poles.  Susan and I started with Leki Spins, which you can get from Amazon.  The link on the left is to Amazon UK, that on the right to  The UK site says “stick” … but they are a pair!  If anything I think the American site offers a slightly better deal, but it depends where you live.

Don’t mistake trekking poles for Nordic Walking poles, they are NOT the same thing.  Our current favourite poles are Gabel Fusion.  As far as I can tell they aren’t available in the USA (unless you know differently) and in the UK are only available through Nordic Walking UK.  As Susan is a registered instructor with NWUK, I believe that we can get them at a discount, so talk to us!

What we like about them are that they are three section and will break down small enough to go even in an Easyjet-approved cabin bag!  Also, they come with a variety of accessories, like different hand grips so that you can use them as NW poles or trekking poles, and various tips for hard surface, soft surface, mud and even snow (although I had left the snow baskets at home when I encountered soft, waist-deep snow in Aspen in March 2013!)

If you are in the USA, particularly if you’re in Colorado, consider getting Boomyah Tone & Trek (I have recently discovered that Boomyah are going out of business and have stopped manufacturing!  But, for the moment, their videos still work). They are a little easier than others to use, and they do have a great set of videos on their site to teach you how to use them.  Here’s their intro video (but all the benefits they mention apply to any set of NW poles):

I have recently discovered a new Nordic Walking pole manufacturer in Estonia.  When I come back to Florida in the winter I may well bring a stock of their poles: they are excellent, and inexpensive.

OK, great!  Now, how do we actually do it?  Here are four videos of Susan, showing the basics:

These four videos give you 80% of everything you need to know, in about 20% of the time (or less!)

Here Susan demonstrates good walking technique:

Here’s the proper grip on the poles:

The proper angle of the poles:

And lastly, Susan puts it all together:

… and here are the Boomyah videos covering pretty much the same stuff.  First, Getting Ready”

The basics:

Warm up and cool down stretches:

There are other videos: see them all on the Boomyah site.

That’s it: you’re Nordic Walking!

Amazon ImageAmazon ImageOther kit that you need.  If you are taking your health seriously, and especially if you’re on a ketogenic diet, you need to be drinking water.  If you are walking anywhere that the temperature is anything above chilly, you need to be drinking extra water, especially if the exercise is increasing your breathing rate.  And you might have noticed that both of your hands are strapped in to your Nordic Walking poles, making it difficult to access your drink bottle without poking your eye out!  Which is why you need something like a Camelbak or other hydration-ready back pack, complete with drinking bladder and tube.

Amazon ImageThe type of backpack you get is completely up to you and how much you want to spend.  But I can’t recommend highly enough that you get a Platypus Hoser bladder and tube.  They have the stunning advantage of not tasting like hospitals smell!  Again, UK on the left, USA on the right.  Those illustrated are two-liter.  The hotter the area where you walk (I’m thinking Florida here!) the more likely you need to go with the three-liter version.

The picture here is of a Camelbak back pack, but it doesn’t have to be Camelbak.  As much as I’d like you to use our Amazon affiliate links, you’d probably do better to go to your local outdoors store, and talk to the folk there.  You want a day pack that is “hydration ready” (that just means it’s got a place to put the bladder and a hole for the tube to come through).  Then you can drink and walk without even stopping, which means you can take frequent sips, rather than waiting until your mouth is like the Sahara desert!

Amazon ImageAmazon ImageThe next thing that you might need is a heart-rate monitor.  Remember, once you are into ketosis you are aiming for low to moderate intensity exercise.  The temptation is to go too far, too fast.  A good heart rate monitor will have a strap round your chest with a transmitter, and a watch/monitor combined.  You can pay a fortune for these, but the ones illustrated here are perfectly adequate.

When they arrive, read the instructions and when you don’t understand them, get your nephew or the kid next door to help!  You have to program in your age, gender, height, weight, etc.  It will then tell you when you’re in the “fat-burning zone”.  Basically, it tells you to stop or slow down if you’re going too fast, which is really important.  The alternative is that you get very tired to no good effect!

Lastly, you need something on your feet.  Here I would NOT ask the guy in the shop, because he will start talking about pronation and supination and have you walking up and down the shop, and out the door and down the street to visit with your bank to get a loan for the huge amount of money that they will want to charge you.  But here’s the thing.  Foot injuries and ankle injuries and leg injuries only started to really get bad after Nike.  All that support means that the muscles of your legs and feet don’t have to do anything, and they get soft and floppy.  As long as your soles are protected from sharp stones and your feet are kept reasonable dry, and the shoes feel comfortable, that should do.  Vibram soles are good (they grip and don’t wear out too soon) … but I have recently taken to wearing soft Crocs, and they seem to be fine.  It’s what suits you best, is comfortable, and doesn’t cost the earth.  The first man to run a four-minute mile did it in a pair of thin leather slippers.  Think what native Americans used to wear: moccasins. They make your feet work and keep the muscles strong.

Where Should I walk, and How Far?

I have a simple pedometer: cost me about £10 or $15.  You can pick them up in a sports store or from Amazon or eBay.  Wear one for a week, without doing anything new.  At the end of the week see how many steps you have taken.  If you have taken 70,000 steps in a week then you don’t need any advice from me!

But let’s say you only walked 10,000 steps in a week.  That means you are 60,000 short of a healthy goal.  So, over 26 weeks you are going to increase from 10,000 to 70,000 steps in a week, by doing three short walks and one long walk (where the long is three times longer than the short) each week.  Each week you are going to do 2,400 steps more than the week before, but in six “units”.  So your short walk the first week will be 2400/6 = 400 steps, and your long will be 1200 steps.  Each week your short walks will be 400 steps longer than the previous week, and your long walk 1200 steps longer.  That does mean that in week two you’ll walk twice as far as week one, but the walks in week one were so trivially short it doesn’t matter!

But by week 26 your short walks will be about 2.5 miles and your long walks a little over 6 miles, and you’ll never look back!

Happy walking!

Oh, and, where should you walk?  Anywhere that pleases you, but if it were me it would have grass and trees and sky!

It’s been a long time …

… since we last ran a WfH mini-expedition, but we’re starting again this Saturday!

Details here, signup here.

It’s also listed on the Outdoor Adventure and Recreation Meetup Group.

Nordic Walking for Osteoporosis

I was recently asked if Nordic Walking is goof for people with osteoporosis, and I went searching through my blog entries to see where I had written it up, and was shocked to discover that I hadn’t!

So let me redress that.  It is.

All physical exercise can help promote improved bone density (as long as it is, at least to some extent, load bearing).  The trouble is, if the bones are already osteoporotic, then you need to avoid too much impact.

Nordic Walking is ideal, as it distributes the loads over more of the skeleton, and helps ameliorate impact.


But don’t just believe me,  here is Margaret Martin, a world expert on exercise for osteoporosis:

Nordic Walking integrates the upper and lower body and allows the client to achieve the next level of fitness.

“Consider Nordic Walking for Your Clients, Margaret Martin”

And Nordic Walking UK have a whole raft of research on the health benefits of Nordic Walking, here.

Congratulations to Susan!

Susan is now a qualified Nordic Walking Instructor, with Nordic Walking UK, and will soon be a qualified fitness instructor, too!

The Angler’s Retreat, Marsworth, Hertfordshire

Just back from our Icknield Way walk; it was fantastic!

And made more so because JP and I went up on Saturday, check out the area, discovered the Grand Union Canal and the Tring Reservoirs, and stayed at the Angler’s Retreat, which we fell in love with.

A great, old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness, English Country Pub, doing really well,even in these times. And the reason is, Pauline Payne:

Full details of the Angler’s Retreat here.

Best Nordic Walking Video

This gets my prize for the best Nordic Walking video I’ve seen so far!

It inspires me as an instructor, walk-leader, and walker. And it inspires me as a film-maker!

I think I might translate the title as “Nordic Walking: Marching to a Different Drum”

A Welsh Walk

My friend Uzma asked for suggestions of possible walks and places to stay in Wales, and I’ve got a million of ‘em, but here’s a great possibility for a fab walk, and a lovely night’s stay.

Photos of Gwesty Gwernan Hotel, Dolgellau

This photo of Gwesty Gwernan Hotel is courtesy of TripAdvisor.

For a whole walking holiday, I’d suggest some self-catering cottages elsewhere, but for a night, you couldn’t find a nicer place than the Gwernan Lake Hotel, Gwesty Gwernan. At the time of writing (April 4 2011) they are quoting £42 / night B&B based on two people sharing.

Foxes Path Scree Slope

One of the most popular routes up Cader, the Foxes path, starts right in front of the hotel.  Foxes is a nice walk, up past two lakes, but I wouldn’t recommend it for summitting Cader due to the scree scramble.

Most people drive west from the hotel a half mile or so, to the car park at Ty Nant, and go up the Pony Path.  Whether this is exciting can, maybe, be judged from how the Pony Path got it’s name. They used to take Victorian Ladies up Cader, sitting side-saddle on a pony.

Today you will find HOARDS of trips: scouts, school trips, all in multi-coloured anoraks, swarming in the car park at Ty Nant, ready to go up Cader.

Most of the way the path is so eroded, especially from the saddle to the top, that it’s been reinforced with bouncy rubber matting!

Nope, I wouldn’t do either of those.  If I wanted to summit, I might go round the other side and go up the Mynffordd Path, but even then I think I’d probably only do that as far as Llyn Cau (that’s a lovely walk).  Actually I’ll keep my favourite for another day.

Here’s what I recommend:

This is easier to see if you change to 720pHD, and watch it in full screen.

And here’s a map of the two walk possibilities:

var latlng = new google.maps.LatLng(0, 0); var myOptions = { zoom: 12, center: latlng, scrollwheel: true, scaleControl: false, disableDefaultUI: false, mapTypeId: google.maps.MapTypeId.SATELLITE }; var wfhCaderRidge = new google.maps.Map(document.getElementById("wfhCaderRidge"), myOptions); var kmlLayerOptions = {preserveViewport:false}; var kmllayer = new google.maps.KmlLayer('',kmlLayerOptions); kmllayer.setMap(wfhCaderRidge); Zoom right in on the map to make more sense of it.

Things to do with the Kids While the Walkers Walk!

Visit the Fairbourne Railway.

Walk across the Barmouth Railway bridge, and get the train back.

Visit Barmouth (small Victorian sea-side town.  Cracking beach (chilly in April!)

Go gold mining!  The gold for the Royal Wedding ring comes from North Wales.  I’m not sure if you can still visit the Clogau mine at Bontddu, but it might be worth some research!

Stuff to Take With You Widgets

Join the forum discussion on this post

Photo Guide to the St Catherine’s Hill Walk

There's a photo guide to the walk, here.  Other details are on the web page for the walk.

This information will only be available to Walking For Happiness members in the future (as soon as we've got the membership scheme going!)

Nordic Walking: Frequently Asked Questions

I have been meaning to add an FAQ about Nordic Walking for ages; until I do, here’s an excellent one from Kati Salmon:

Kati Salmon's I Love Nordic Walking


World Nordic Walking Day 2011 in the South of England

For more information, check out the Press Release, and see the website for NW Instructors.

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