Whilst you were enjoying yourselves in sunny Bristol last weekend I was having a similar experience in Barcelona.  I was there for the annual International Nordic Walking Federation (INWA) convention.

The setting was magnificent – it was based on Montjuic, in the grounds of the 1992 Olympic games stadium.  It was a gathering of Nordic walking national coaches and instructors from around the world.  I had a great time meeting other Nordic walking enthusiasts and discussing all things Nordic walking with them (yes I was a very happy bunny!).  We shared ideas, discussed technique and ruminated over the rugby world cup. The programme was varied and talks were given by instructors from Spain, Italy, Japan, Greece and the UK.  Most were very practical like the Nordic walking circuits and the UKK walk test (see how fast you can walk 2000m without poles)  however, I thought you might be particularly interested in these two topics:

Nordic walking for people with breast cancer

Cristina Gonzalez, head of educational development at INWA, gave a talk on Nordic walking for those with breast cancer. The use of Nordic walking as an exercise for people with cancer is well known and provides multiple benefits.  It helps with many of the most common side effects of treatment such as fatigue, lymphoedema, weight gain, osteoporosis, stress, anxiety and low self-esteem. In particular, Nordic walking improves circulation, range of movement, muscle toning, posture, co-ordination and balance. 

Two points particularly struck me.  The first is that cancer related fatigue does not improve with rest.  This is the case whatever the type of cancer you have.  So if you possibly can, get up, get out and try and get your body active.  In that way you will have genuine (healthy) exercise fatigue plus the many benefits listed above.  The second is that, just as the heart is the pump for the circulatory system, the diaphragm is the pump for the lymphatic system.  So the Nordic walking technique of keeping an open chest and breathing laterally is particularly important for those with breast cancer as it encourages lymphatic circulation. This in turn can help prevent or control lymphodoema.  But be careful not to overdo it, more is not necessarily better when it comes to lymphoedema, so listen to your body and do what feels right for it.

Movement with Myofascia

I have long been a fan of James Earls’ book Born to Walk, which is all about mayofascial efficiency and the body in movement.  I was delighted therefore, to see in the programme a presentation by a couple of the Spanish national Nordic walking coaches on this subject.

'What on earth is myofascia' I can hear you ask.  You would not be alone.  Although extremely important, this system has been overlooked until relatively recently.  I will explore this whole area in more detail in another blog but essentially, fascia or myofascia is the dense, tough tissue which surrounds and covers all our muscles and bones.   An example is the white filmy tissue that you see when you remove the skin from a chicken breast. Under a microscope, myofascia resembles a spider web or fish net.  This outer fascial covering is very strong and very flexible. In a healthy body fascia helps to maintain good posture, range of motion and flexibility. It also gives our bodies tremendous strength and helps us deal with stress and injuries. 

It is therefore well worth trying to look after our fascia.  We can do this by using things like foam rollers or having a myofascia release massage. We can also keep the fascia system active and healthy through the way we move.  Cue Nordic walking!

Nordic walking uses and enhances our natural bio-mechanical gait.  It therefore works with us not against us.  So our movements help hydrate the myofascia, keeping it supple and responsive to our walking pattern.  This, in conjunction to the way we activate our muscles and hold our skeleton is of powerful benefit to our bodies. It makes me want to get my poles out and go Nordic walking right now!

My visit to the beautiful city of Barcelona was sadly all too brief, I will use that as an excuse to revisit.  However, I met some lovely instructors from other countries and we might get a group together and visit them one day.  In the meantime, I am really pleased to welcome June and Paul Stevenson from New Zealand.  They happen to be in the UK at the moment (no guesses as to why) and I've persuaded them to visit us in Bristol.  So please give them a big smile and a warm welcome if they’re on one of your walks over the next few days.

Vicky

My poem this week kept popping into my head whilst I was in Barcelona.  It’s not sophisticated and it’s not even about Spain (well, I suppose it does mention the Pyrenees) it but it’s vibrant and full of energy. Enjoy!

Tarantella

Do you remember an Inn,
Miranda?
Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the spreading
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the wine that tasted of tar?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
(Under the vine of the dark veranda)?
Do you remember an Inn, Miranda,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
Who hadn’t got a penny,
And who weren’t paying any,
And the hammer at the doors and the din?
And the hip! hop! hap!
Of the clap
Of the hands to the swirl and the twirl
Of the girl gone chancing,
Glancing,
Dancing,
Backing and advancing,
Snapping of the clapper to the spin
Out and in —
And the ting, tong, tang of the guitar!
Do you remember an Inn,
Miranda?
Do you remember an Inn?

Never more;
Miranda,
Never more.
Only the high peaks hoar;
And Aragon a torrent at the door.
No sound
In the walls of the halls where falls
The tread
Of the feet of the dead to the ground,
No sound:
But the boom
Of the far waterfall like doom.

Hilaire Belloc

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