Walking is simple. We were born to walk and we’ve done it all our lives - some better than others! Nordic walking is merely an enhanced form of ordinary walking, using two poles to improve the way we walk and to accelerate us forwards.
It looks deceptively simple when you see people Nordic walking properly, almost as if you could do it yourself without the need to work on the specifics of the technique. Please don’t make this mistake. If you don't get to grips with the correct Nordic walking technique you won’t feel or see it's endless benefits. There is so much to be gained from first learning, then embedding the correct technique. Here’s just a few things to remember:
- You won't benefit from the 46% extra calories over ordinary walking burned or total body toning unless you Nordic walk with the correct technique.
- The fuller your arm swing, the greater the strength and range of motion in your shoulders. Coupled with the kayaking warm-up exercises and the cool-down stretches, your shoulders are fully mobilised during our classes. The benefits? You will never struggle to reach behind you to put your seat belt on in the car, nor will anyone ever have to help you on with your coat or jacket. Ladies, you will continue to be able to do the zips up the back of your dresses and fasten any hooks or clips that do up at the back. Plus of course you will have beautifully toned arms and shoulders, improved circulation and a better functioning lymphatic system.
- The greater your understanding and application of the heel/toe roll, the healthier your foot, and indeed the rest of your body, as pushing off correctly with your toe activates the muscles up the back of your leg and your buttock. Nordic walkers will never become shufflers (we remember the importance of lifting our toes up and striking the ground with our heel) and our ankles will remain strong and flexible. We can also stretch out tight hips whilst we walk, easing back pain and improving our posture.
- Learning to push properly through the pole, rotating our torso and ‘leaning’ as we walk will switch on and strengthen our deep core stabilising muscles so we will not be among those struggling with poor balance or sore lower backs. And if your balance is poor at the moment or you have a bad back Nordic walking can and will help, provided you learn and practice the correct technique.
During our classes we always talk about an aspect of technique. We have a four week rolling programme concentrating on different areas of the body to ensure that whichever class you attend, over a four week period you will have touched on some of the technique points for the whole body.
It takes about 12 weeks of walking at least twice a week to feel fluent in Nordic walking, but as I’m constantly discovering, there’s always more to be gleaned. It’s absolutely the case that through Nordic walking I’m gaining a better understanding and relationship with my body.
De-cluttering, de-stressing and Nordic walking
I think I’m arriving a little late to this particular party, but I have just discovered Marie Kondo’s book The life-changing magic of tidying. Apparently it was topping the New York Times bestseller list a year or so ago but I only bought it last week. I don’t really know why I have half the stuff that I do. I read somewhere that clutter is a manifestation of holding onto the past (memories of people, places, events etc) and fear of what might happen in the future (things we hold on to just in case).
It sounds very Zen, very profound. The more practical side of me views it as the product of a busy life. De-cluttering is only now reaching the top of my ‘to do’ list because my children are older and I’m not chasing around after them so much! I suspect, as ever, the truth lies somewhere between the two.
What I have noticed is that when my home begins to get messy, my mind does too. There is a relationship between the level of organisation in my house and in my head. I also find that it’s hard to press the ‘off’ switch in my head. This is immensely frustrating. I do not believe my brain is the sole and absolute ruler of my body, and another utterly fascinating book that I’ve been reading (Giulia Enders Gut) has reinforced that, but it is distinctly Big Brother-like.
Luckily for me I have Nordic walking. Tapping into the rhythmic nature of walking and using my whole body seems to de-clutter my head and bring me into an awareness of the present. It is a powerful de-stressor and immensely soothing. I know I’m not alone in using Nordic walking for mindfulness, many of you do too. Interestingly it is one of the workshops at a national Nordic walking conference I am attending in a couple of weeks. I have put my name down for it and will let you know how I get on.