Often called urban poling, Nordic walking was developed in Europe as a method of off-season training for skiers. "It is as simple as walking, but you use poles to propel your body forward," says Gerry Faderbaue, founder of the Canadian Nordic Walking Association.
Nordic walking provides great exercise for just about anyone – from a conditioned athlete to someone who only walks to the refrigerator.
Read on for Faderbaue's tips on how to get started with Nordic walking.
"The best thing about Nordic walking is that it can be done almost anywhere, at any time," says Faderbaue. The activity, which is not limited to any specific season, can be done as long as you have the right equipment and technique.
Nordic walking poles are generally shorter than those used for cross-country skiing. They feature grips with special straps, which provide comfort by eliminating the need to squeeze. They're made from lightweight materials and usually have rubber tips for use on hard surfaces. Average pole prices range from $50 - $150. You can purchase poles on Faderbaue's site here, at www.urbanpoling.com or at www.mec.ca.
As for shoes, Faderbaue says that you can "use regular shoes, running shoes or training shoes, depending on the terrain and your desired intensity."
Once you have all the gear, go ahead and get Nordic walking! Here's how:
• Adjust your poles. They should be set at about 65-70 per cent of your body height. When holding them correctly, your elbow should be at a 90-degree angle.
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More tips for getting started
• Grab a hold. To hold your poles properly, place the loop attached to the handle over your hands and tighten the straps. Grab the middle of the handle so that your palm is facing you.
• Practice walking without the poles first to develop a rhythm that works for you.
• Use your arms to propel you forward. Poles should always remain behind you, as if you are cross-country skiing.
"The technique is easy to learn because it mimics the natural body movements performed during regular walking," says Faderbaue.
"Nordic walking is the most natural and healthy way to train yourself," says Faderbaue.
There are numerous physical benefits to the activity, explains Faderbaue, including increased calorie burning and upper body conditioning. It is an excellent alternative for those who do not like to run or who have been advised not to due to injury, but it is a much better workout than simple walking. Here are some of the additional benefits:
• Nordic walking involves using the upper body to apply force to the poles, therefore building stimulation in the chest, abdominals, arms and back.
• Faderbaue says it's one of the best cardio exercises for weight loss and management. "Because your upper body is engaged, the muscle involvement leads to a higher number of burned calories," he says. While regular walking burns about 280 calories per hour, Nordic walking burns 400.
• Nordic walking puts significantly less pressure on your hips, knees and ankles than regular walking or running.
• "The swinging motion is a natural motion when we walk to keep balance," says Faderbaue. He says this balance in Nordic walking makes it much easier to get your heart rate up by going up steep hills or walking at a quicker pace.
Many people enjoy wakling with others, as Nordic walking groups provide great company and motivation. Find a Nordic walking group in your area here.
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