When I am out Nordic walking, I generally get the following responses from people:

Staring.  I think there are a large number of people who have never seen Nordic walkers out
Heckling.  From this group of people that I normally hear, “Hey, where’s the snow?”
Stopping.  Many people stop me to ask me questions about Nordic walking as they’re curious about it.

What is Nordic walking?

It is said that Nordic walking started sometime in the 1930s in Finland.  Serious skiers used their poles to maintain their fitness in the off-season, only to find that they were actually getting fitter than during the season!  But the first formulated Nordic Walking Poles were only developed around the late 90’s.  Since then it has been growing quickly and in the last decade has grown to over 10 million walkers worldwide.

The benefits of Nordic walking

Personally, I love Nordic walking because:

  • It gives you a very good full-body work-out.  Walking is of course very good for you, but unless you’re really going to pump your arms viciously and carry weights while walking, you generally work your lower body only.  When you’ve been out Nordic walking, your arms and shoulder muscles often ache when you return, as the upper body gets as good a work-out as the lower body.
  • It is cheap.  You have the cost of your Nordic walking poles at the start, some shoes … and that is it!  No membership fees and no expensive equipment.  The only extra is, every few months, you need to replace the little rubber ‘feet’ at the ends of your poles, but they only cost about £10 a pair. 
  • It is flexible and time efficient.  When I go out, I go straight from home.  As soon I am out the front door, I am exercising, so no time lost travelling to the gym or sports field.
  • It gives me time to catch up on my podcasts.  I don’t have too much time otherwise to catch up on the podcasts I love.  And as I normally go out very early in the morning, there is generally no-one to see me chuckle at “Rhod Gilbert’s Best Bits” or “Friday Night Comedy”!
  • People notice you.  It doesn’t sound like a benefit in itself, but from a security point of view, if the police asked someone whether they saw a runner, in black running gear and white shoes, people might say ‘no’.  However, if they were asked whether saw a lady running with poles that look a bit like broom sticks, they might very well answer ‘yes’!  And that gives me some comfort when I am out while not too many other people are about.

How to get started

There is a technique to Nordic walking, and at first it is quite difficult to find the rhythm required.  It has one of those, “the more I concentrate, the worse I do” effects when you’re starting out.  So I would suggest the following:
  • Go for lessons.  You’ll probably need about 3-10 lessons.
  • Get online instruction.  If you can’t afford lessons, watch some instructional videos online.
  • Join a group.  There are many groups who regularly walk in many areas around the world.  Find a local group by searching online.
  • Rent the poles.  While you’re trying it out, you can often rent poles instead of buying them.

What equipment you will need

You don’t need much in the line of equipment:  
  • Nordic walking poles.  They cost anything between £30 and £300, but you can get a good pair for under £100.  I have a pair of telescopic Leki’s (see picture above), which I love because they can collapse and fit in my suitcase.  This means I can take them on holiday with me.
  • Shoes.  You now get proper Nordic walking shoes, but I have always walked in my Asics running shoes, and they have done me proud.  I have just bought a new replacement pair online which cost me £70
  • Replacement rubber tips.  These are the little feet that fit onto the end of your poles.  I prefer these 4×4 looking ones as they have better grip, and I don’t have to pull them off when I am off-road, as you do with the others.
I am thinking about becoming a Nordic Walking instructor – perhaps I can make some pocket money from it sometime in the future!  But I don’t think I will do that right now.
Well, let’s hope I have inspired someone out there to take up Nordic walking – the easiest exercise regime to stick to!