We all like a top tip every now and then and with Nordic walking small things can make a big difference to your enjoyment and effectiveness. So here’s a list of some of our instructors’ top tips which will boost your workout and ensure you're getting the most out of our favourite exercise.
1. Always spend 5-10 minutes before each walk doing a good dynamic warm up. This will help to loosen off any achy muscles, warm up the fluid in your joints and start the blood flowing a little quicker so that when you start your walk your body and mind are ready to go.
2. Relax and let the arms swing naturally from the shoulder. Most of us have never actively used our arms when walking before so don’t worry if it all feels a bit alien at first or if your arm swing just won’t keep up with the pace your feet are moving at. You’re probably using upper body muscles you’ve not used for a while (if ever) so give them a few weeks to build up strength and stamina.
1. Listen to your instructor. You may see them once, twice or even three times a week so it’s easy to get complacent and switch off. But to make the most out of every class we want you to work it baby!
2. Squeeze your bum muscles for a good few minutes before you get to your walk to ensure they are 'firing' when you set off. You can squeeze in the car and squeeze when you’re waiting for the class to start. Strengthening the gluteal muscles can help ease lower back pain, reduce the stress on your knees and keep us from falling as we age. Please don’t squeeze anyone else’s bum, you may be arrested.
3. Please tell us if you have any ideas or feedback, good or bad. It really helps and we love it when you get involved.
1. To get the most out of your walk, when you arrive or park your car take a moment as you pick up your poles and consciously put all thoughts of your ‘to-do’ list out of your mind. Time spent Nordic walking is for your own physical and mental wellbeing, so look up to the sky with a smile (even if it’s raining) and enjoy your walk.
2. Before any long walk make sure you have trimmed your toe nails!
1. Spend time working on your posture – not only is this the first step for Nordic Walking in general, to me it is the number one step for any type of workout. Beginning anything from the neutral posture position is key to protecting your joints and muscles.
2. Be patient with yourself – getting the form right for Nordic walking, for most, takes a bit of time. From my own experience I can wholeheartedly say it’s the sticking with it and attending regular sessions that helps you relax and let your body find its way. This is truly a ‘practice makes perfect’ workout. The beauty is you get to develop your style at your own pace whilst enjoying the social aspects of the activity.
1. Be bold, start cold…especially when do more challenging walks (i.e. don’t start with too many layers on).
2. Always think about how you are planting your foot as it affects the whole biomechanics of the body. Remember: foot pointing forwards, toes spread wide, roll from the heel through the mid-foot and push off with your toes evenly.
1. In my mind the real game changer with the Nordic walking technique is maintaining a good A-shaped arm swing from the shoulder.
2. When you bend the arm from the elbow and keep the upper arm still you’re just working the arms but when you swing from the shoulder you engage the whole upper body - from the triceps into the shoulders down the back and engaging the core, making Nordic walking a full body workout.
1. Before you begin walking, tighten your straps with your hand in the correct position around the pole and keep your wrist straight. They will then fit more snugly, making the arm swing and hand control easier.
2. If you tend to round your shoulder forwards as you swing forwards, think ‘pin shoulder blades together’ and that will help you keep the width across your chest and your posture good. It also gives you a better arm swing and enables you to generate more power.
3. Imagery works well for me and to help my technique and speed I sometimes picture a swan when walking: graceful and relaxed from the shoulders up; lengthened neck; strong and powerful from the triceps down.
The Bristol and Bath Nordic Walking instructor team
You can find our favourite Nordic walking poles here and if you're looking for our advice on other walking kit here's our recommendations on the best:
walking socks (socks are an important but forgotten factor)