A couple of years ago, I was seeing a personal trainer once a week, running several times a week, and walking the dog for hours. Admittedly I was still built for comfort rather than speed, and would never have won the Miss World swimsuit competition, but I could run 10km in under an hour, which was good enough for me.
Two years later, however, it’s a different story. Due to various changes in circumstances, one of which being simply laziness, I am badly unfit and lazy, so when a thing popped up on Facebook offering a free taster session on Nordic Walking, I jumped at the chance.
I know that getting fit is simply stepping out of your door and carrying on moving, and shouldn’t require any kit, money, organisation or fuss, but if life was that simple, we’d all be slim, healthy, wealthy and sane, so I fancied a go at something new, and this sounded perfect.
The weather today has been less than inspiring – wet, cold, dark and downright dismal, in fact, and we met in a large, empty car park in Lyme Regis which didn’t look too scenic, but Gillian Butcher’s cheery welcome was a good start, and my fellow trainees were very friendly. Gillian introduced us to the basic idea of Nordic walking, and gave us the poles, and we got started straight away with some easy warm-ups as it was so cold!
She explained that Nordic Walking was devised by the Finnish Olympic ski team as a way of keeping up their fitness in the summer, and if done correctly is a whole-body workout, which has the double benefit of making walking feel more efficient whilst giving you more cardio-vascular and general fitness benefits. It’s low-impact, so good for all abilities, and sociable, which is great for motivation and sustainability – no solo slogging on a treadmill here!
She took us through some basic techniques; now, I have been walking since I was about one year old, and would like to think I am pretty good at it, but as soon as someone makes you think about it, it’s amazing how little you think about walking technique in daily life! The aim is efficient, smooth walking, using the arms and therefore the poles for added forward propulsion.
The poles are lightweight carbon-fibre, with a very sharp tip for off-road and a rubberised tip for asphalt, and are used with a built-in glove, which is where the power is transferred through to the pole. It took a bit of walking backwards and forwards to get the hang of the pole technique, and it is a technique which can takes years to perfect, but it’s surprising how quickly you feel a distinct ‘turbo’ effect compared to ordinary walking.
I can see how it could be good fun, and it’s as gentle or vigorous as you want it to be, so as you get fitter it needn’t get easier. I would like to sign up for the three-part course to learn the technique properly, as I can see it being something I could quite get into. I love walking anyway, and if it offers an upper-body and core workout as well as legs & heart, it’s got to be good news.
I’d thoroughly recommend taking a taster session with Gillian if you see one on offer: she’s only been Nordic Walking for a couple of years, and is newly qualified as an instructor, but is obviously a natural, with a clear, concise delivery and very easy to follow, well-explained lessons. She will be running short courses, and once enough people are converted, regular walks, of varying lengths and intensities.
Although I’m generally anti ‘kit’, and have often looked askance at people walking with poles etc when we’re just out rambling about in wellies, I can see that Nordic Walking has real health benefits, could be a nice sociable hobby, and, if you get carried away, there is a sports side, and even Nordic Walking festivals etc for meeting like-minded folks.
Give it a try, and you’ll be speeding up those coastal hills in no time! (Hopefully).