Of all the ways to get and stay fit, walking is the easiest, safest and cheapest. You don’t need a gym and you certainly don’t need lycra! Nordic walking notches it up that bit more and gets your upper body involved. It is to walking what the cross-trainer is to the treadmill, with two key differences- it’s fun and sociable.
Of course we can’t always be Nordic walking and some of you reading this article might not yet have your own poles. The following is a top six list of how you can turn an ordinary walk into a workout.
1. Get active with your feet
I bet most of us didn’t give much thought to how we walked and especially how we used our feet before we started Nordic walking. Never forget that getting active with your feet has huge benefits. Not only will you tone your legs, you will also:
- burn more calories
- give your butt a good workout
- walk faster
- improve your circulation
Next time you go outside try adopting the Nordic walking heel/toe roll - striking the ground with your heel then rolling through to your toes and pushing off energetically. Remember to keep your toes flat and wide, like a duck’s webbed feet.
2. Walk tall
If you have good posture you will be able to walk further, faster and longer without feeling the strain. You will also instantly look slimmer. Here’s my check list:
- Lengthen your spine
- Lift the weight of your head off your shoulders (think puppet on a string)
- Chin level
- Shoulders wide
- Max the gap between your hip bone and your rib cage
- Tummy engaged (but not over tightened)
- Weight evenly centred over your feet
3. Walk uphill
Your body has to work harder going uphill which means you’ll burn more calories. Don’t forget to keep your feet active (see above) and try to avoid the common mistake of bending over at your waist. Instead lean into the hill from your ankles. This way you’ll also give your legs a mega workout and sculpt your claves, thighs and bum.
4. Add intervals of faster walking
Interval training is a very effective way of increasing your fitness fast. You can build this into any walk. Choose markers (park bench, line of trees) and speed up until you reach them. Your aim is to feel out of breath and be aware of your heart pumping in your chest. It boosts your calorie burn big time, both during and after your walk. You can increase the length of these pace walks as your fitness improves.
5. Use your arms
Nothing beats Nordic walking for sculpting your arms and shoulders, but if you haven’t got your poles to hand, don’t worry. Just by swinging your arms actively you’ll work your upper body, increase your power and speed and burn more calories. Be careful not to swing them across the mid-line of your body though and remember to keep your shoulders relaxed.
6. Walk on different types of surface
You may be surprised how much difference changing the terrain that you are walking on makes to your walk. Hard, flat surfaces such as tarmac or well maintained tracks do not challenge your body in the same way or burn as many calories as softer ground. So if you want to up the ante on your walk to work, find softer surfaces such as grass or gravel. As those of us who tried beach Nordic walking during our Sand Bay walk discovered, soft sand is one of the best surfaces to walk on if you want to turn your walk into a workout. It increases calorie expenditure by almost 50%.
Wanting poles for Christmas? Here’s my top picks
Nordic walking pole design is ever improving and our choice expanding. This is great news for us Nordic walkers but it can be a little daunting when trying to decide which pole to buy. So if you (or a loved one) needs a bit of a steer, here are my recommendations this Christmas:
- Basic pole for under £60: The Leki Spin Speedlock. An adjustable alluminium pole made by a quality manufacturer. A great entry level pole which can be adjusted to different heights. Cost £59.95
- Our most popular fixed length quality pole: The Exel Straight Pro with the All Terrain tip. £124.95 (£112.45 for BNW members). Very reliable and 100% carbon, with a tip system which makes it easy to switch from soft to hard ground.
- A sporty pole for those to want to work harder/faster: It’s hard to beat the fixed length Exel Curve Pro for a sporty looking speedster, especially if you buy it with the race suspension tip system. 100% carbon. Cost: £135 (£121.50 for BNW members)
- My top adjustable pole: The Leki Speed Pacer Vario is the pole to buy if you want a light 100% carbon pole with some adjustment options. Perfect if you don’t quite know what’s the right height pole for you. It has the speed spike too. £125
- Going travelling? The Leki Traveller Carbon is my travel pole of choice. It’s 100% carbon and comes with the new speedlock system, which makes it quick and easy to adjust. Cost £125.
Contact email@example.com for details of where to buy or if you have any other questions.