The chilly mornings can easily mean you start your Nordic walk tensing against the cold. I certainly want to ‘hunch up’ my shoulders and I have to make a concerted effort to relax. If you’re the same, I recommend you try the following – I’ve found it really helps me get into my stride and I warm up fast:
- Punch the pole into the ground firmly (aka ‘angry poles’). You want to see the shaft of the pole vibrating.
- Constantly remind yourself to drop your shoulders and relax them. Your shoulders want to sneak up/ tense up at every opportunity. For some reason they think this is protection against the cold; it isn’t.
- Be super active with your hands and feet and get a good arm swing going. The degree with which you open and close your hands is a hotly debated topic among Nordic walking instructors. From experience I have noticed that the colder the weather the more I need to actively splay my hands open and squeeze them closed round the pole handle if I am going to get my circulation going. This has been extremely important to me as I used to suffer from Raynaud’s (where my fingers turned white and painful) during the winter months; Nordic walking regularly and using my hands actively has been transformative.
- Concentrate on using the correct muscles and you will find the tension in the rest of your body releases. This is another empirical observation. The more I focus on the correct heel/toe roll, squeezing the muscles up the back of my legs right up to my glutes (bottom); and the more I engage my triceps to power the pole backwards; the more my whole body relaxes in the Nordic walking rhythm and the quicker I warm up.
- Get the rotation going. The final piece in my cold mornings warm-up jigsaw. Utterly brilliant if you have a stiff back.
I was fascinated to read last week that staff in many American psychiatric hospitals prepare themselves for a busy shift whenever there’s a full-moon. The moon’s gravitational pull on the Earth is of course the main cause of the rise and fall of ocean tides. Our bodies are 70 per cent water (co-incidentally about 70 per cent of the Earth is covered in water) so it would seem to be possible, objectively speaking, for the moon to affect us as well.
The reason that I am so interested (and there is a Nordic walking connection eventually – trust me!) is that our black cocker spaniel, Oscar, howls sometimes and goes slightly crazy when there’s a full moon. The most recent one earlier this month was the worst ever – he howled non stop (even though inside with the curtains closed) and only calmed down when I took a pile of bedding downstairs and slept on the sofa in the kitchen with him. Most bizarre. But it made me ponder on one of the benefits I have come to appreciate about Nordic walking: how it has enabled me to become more ‘connected’ with my body.
According to the Alexander technique teacher, Patrick Macdonald, many people have little sense of what goes on inside their own bodies. In addition, he says that trying to concentrate on how we move usually raises muscles tension and hinders awareness. For me, understanding the Nordic walking technique has given me great insight into how my body moves and I now feel I can help myself relieve stress and improve posture in a way I wasn’t able to before. I know that those of you who have been Nordic walking for a while would agree with me and it is why, if you’re new to Nordic walking, there is so much more to this activity than increased fitness and a toned body (although I love those benefits as well!). I really hope, though, that this deeper understanding doesn’t develop to the extent that I will want to howl when there’s a full moon…
Our new Nordic walking magazine
I want to finish with a brief comment about our new Nordic walking magazine, Nordic Walking World. Nordic walking is becoming more and more popular and there are so many things all of us at Bristol Nordic Walking - walkers and instructors alike - would like to share with the rest of Bristol and beyond. There's currently no publication to do this though so we have taken matters into our own hands and produced this magazine. It covers technique, kit, walker stories, local walks and much much more. I hope you enjoy it!