2021 Nordic Walking Season – and what a season it was!

Summer of 2021 actually began in December with the article in the Star Tribune by Kevyn Burger touting Nordic Walking as the perfect pandemic fitness activity. Even tho it came out in the winter, in Minnesota, it sparked off a huge interest in Nordic walking and all the benefits of the poles – It’s a full body workout, it takes you outside, connects you with other people and it’s safe!

My website, my email and my text messages blew up with questions and comments. I got phone calls from all over the US and even one from Ireland. It seemed that perhaps Nordic walking was finally going mainstream!

It was a walking season full of meeting so many amazing people, both in person and virtually. I walked with over 300 walkers and there were other’s leading classes and programs that I can’t even count. Here’s a quick recap of what went on.

We have 3 free community walking groups in the St Cloud area, Monday eve-Sauk Rapids, Wednesday-Cold Spring and Thursday-Lake George, mornings. We averaged 12-18 walkers on Wednesday mornings and 20-24 on Thursdays. The evening group is just getting going but we look forward to it growing in the spring.

I taught 25 classes including introductory and 3 part programs,”Beyond the Basics” for experienced walkers, private classes, Parkinson’s Support Groups, Senior Living Facilities, Community groups, Corporate Lunch and Learns, the random “can you just show me how to do it?” and one Instructor Training with 7 new Instructors.

Initiated POP Up Walks – Power of Poles – in a variety of settings all over the Twin Cities. Free Nordic walks with a quick intro and a walk in the park.

Organized Adventure Walks where we got off the beaten path and walked a trail outside the cities. Also dabbled with Wonder Walking with the poles and that was really fun.

There have been other community classes taught by Instructors all over the Twin Cities and even at the Hudson, WI YMCA. Thank you to Kay Okey (St Paul area), Donna Tilsner (Edina), Sandy Werts (Hopkins and Minnetonka), Julie Turnbull ( Edina, POP Ups), Sher Monfore (Maple Grove). I know that other communities also had programs so if you know of any please share locations and names so we can include them on the FB page.

Struthers Parkinson’s Center continues to use poles in their physical therapy programs to help Persons with Parkinson’s keep moving with balance and confidence.

Created the NordicwalkingMN Facebook page, a private group all about Nordic Walking. To date there are 170 members. We have been sharing lots of information about Nordic Walking.

It does feel like Nordic walking is getting the attention it deserves. So put on your walking shoes, grab your poles and step out proudly! I can’t wait to see what we do next summer!

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Tips for Walking in the Dark

I love walking outdoors all year long. The cool, crisp mornings are invigorating and the perfect way to wake up. But as the days get shorter and we find ourselves walking in the dark it’s important to be safe out there! Never assume that cars can see you, drivers are distracted and mornings and evenings they are not thinking about walkers. You need to be visible and take extra precautions. Here’s a few suggestions.

*A reflective vest is your first line of defense. Buy one you can wear over a jacket. *Lights! Find ones that are colorful and blink, put them on an arm, on your poles, wear a head lamp. Pretend you’re a Christmas Tree! *Running stores and bike stores will have good choices.
*Bring your phone in case of an accident but keep it in your pocket to avoid an accident.
*Consider not listening to your music so you can hear what’s going on around you.
*Find a walking partner or if you walk alone make sure someone knows you are out on a walk and let them know when you get back.

Remember that your daily dose of nature is important all year long, we just have to make adjustments to the seasons.

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Technique Tip – Poles bouncing or “reverberating on contact”

Walkers often complain that the tips of their poles are bouncing or “reverberating” on contact with the ground. Remember that you’re learning a new activity and it takes time and a few miles of walking to settle into the rhythm and flow of the poles. In the meantime there are several reasons why this might be happening to you.

First check the height of your poles. Too long or too short and you will miss your sweet spot where the tips land and engage with the ground. How do you set your height? This LEKI Quick Start will help. The walker stands tall, elbow bent at the waist, neutral wrist with the hand on the grip. With the pole unlocked shorten the pole until the hand is below the elbow at about a 100 degree angle. Lock in the length.

Next check your grip. Your hands should be cupped around the handle of the pole and the pole tip should “land like a butterfly and sting like a bee”. If you have a tight grip the tip will “plant” or stab the ground instead of landing and engaging. Remember the “catch and release” – catch the grip as the tip lands and immediately release or relax your hand as you finish the back stroke of the arm swing. This allows the tip to stay on that sweet spot for maximum pressure. The strap is designed to bring the grip back into your hand as your arm swings forward.

Check your arm swing. Does it swing forward to belly button height allowing the pole tip to land ahead of your toe and behind your heel? or do you bend your elbow at the end of the arm swing bringing the pole more vertical? Again the landing effect, if you’re bending your elbow at the end of the arm swing and bringing the pole more vertical it will “plant” not land. If it’s landing ahead of your front foot you’ve broken your triangle of power. (the long angles from shoulder to grip to tip and back up)

Is the pole only bouncing on one side? We all have a dominant side, one arm may be swinging more freely, moving from belly button height to just past your hip. Your pole height is set to accommodate this range of motion. The other arm may not be swinging with the same amount of energy, thus the tip does not find the sweet spot where it can engage and begin the pressure down and back.

How is your posture? If you’re leaning forward, ahead of your hips, it can cause the bouncing of the tips as they land. Chin up, shoulders down and back, engage your core to set yourself in an upright walking position before your first step.

Suggestions for 1. Unclip from your poles and hold the poles mid shaft – hands cupped gently. Walk and swing your arms with an eye on the poles being level to the ground swinging for and aft. Check to see if they are swinging equal distance for and aft.

2. Go back to the walk, swing, drag to reset your arm swing and range of motion. Relax and get into your rhythm and flow to find your sweet spot where the pole engages.

3. Walk without gripping the pole at all, hands cupped around the handle but not hanging on, use the strap only for the pressure.

4. Check to see that you see your hands coming into your lower peripheral vision, both at the same range of motion. 

5. Shorten your poles about an inch to make it easier for the pole to land and engage.

I’m happy to do a movement analysis of your technique. Just have someone do a short video on your phone and send it to me either by text or email. It will help me figure out just what you’re doing that’s causing the problem.

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Walking on Air – Nordic Walking Podcast

According to the UK “Nordic Walking is Brilliant! It takes you outdoors, it connects you with other people, it’s a great all body workout and it’s safe. It’s simply Brilliant.”

Over the summer I’ve been enjoying Mary Tweed’s Walking on Air podcast. In her words it’s “A podcast for the Nordic Walking Community, both current members; those considering taking up this wonderful exercise; and people who want to learn more. Each week, I interview an expert in Nordic Walking and discuss the benefits of Nordic Walking on both physical and mental health. I am Mary Tweed, a British Nordic Walking instructor with Nordic Walking East Anglia.”

She completed 17 sessions in this first season and they are all outstanding. Topics range from the history of Nordic walking, the many benefits and even competitive Nordic walking. They are all fascinating and if you want to learn more about Nordic Walking and be inspired to give it a try just listen to a few of the interviews. If you’re currently a Nordic walker you’ll gain insight into how to maximize your workout and get the most out of your poles. It’s Brilliant!

Enjoy! and then come out for a class or POP Up walk to try it out for yourself!

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Nordic Walking for Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

We all need to be responsible for caring for our own and our family’s health in all ways. There is plenty of awareness of the need to move for physical health but perhaps we are not as aware of the mental health benefits of walking/moving outdoors and specifically why Nordic Walking is so beneficial.

Our world is extremely stressful these days and many of us suffer from anxiety and depression as a result. The isolation, the forced inactivity, the fear and uncertainty are very difficult to deal with day after day. As our quality of life suffers so does our mental health. The answer? Get moving and get outside! But how do we get out to exercise in a safe and effective way? Nordic Walking is the answer!

Studies show that simply being in a natural outdoor space lowers our stress levels and refreshes our brains. A walk outside increases the production of  “happy” chemicals like serotonin and endorphin which improve our sense of wellbeing. When we add the poles the natural rhythm of our bodies moving in one cadence is very soothing to our minds and spirits. As you move into the rhythm and flow of the poles, your mind is freed to become more creative and to see other possibilities. It’s a healing walk, you’ll be energized, relaxed, and feel better about yourself and the world around you after your Nordic walk. 

Here’s a great article about a man in Scotland prescribed “Ramblers” for his depression during Covid. He found relief with a hiking group.

So if you’re feeling a bit out of sorts, down, out of energy,  grab your poles and a friend and get outside!  You’re sure to feel better in all ways when you finish your walk!

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Nordic Walking MN Facebook Page launched!

Over the past 5 months I’ve received more than 4000 visits to my website with questions about Nordic walking, classes, poles, walking groups and just how does one get started. When I started Nordic Walking in 2005 this energy is what I anticipated would happen, it just took a little longer than I envisioned. Today it has become clear to me that we need a gathering place for all things Nordic Walking in Minnesota. Facebook seemed like the obvious choice so it is with great pleasure that I invite you to become a member of the Nordic Walking MN Facebook group.

Whether you’re an experienced Nordic walker or just curious about “what’s up with the poles?” this group is open to everyone. It will take me a while to sort it all out but I hope that this can be where folks can come for information on classes and walking groups, ask questions about technique and equipment, connect with other Nordic walkers and share their Nordic walking joy. Any suggestions for developing the page are most welcome!

I’ve chosen to make it a private group but you only need to answer 2 quick questions and you’re in. If you’re a friend of mine on Facebook and ask to join, you will be automatically be added. and no you don’t have to live in Minnesota but we will be focusing our discussions and information on what’s going on in Minnesota.

Please join me in this new adventure in Nordic Walking!

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Investing in Nordic Walking Poles

So you’re ready to purchase your own Nordic Walking Poles, here’s what you need to know.

The most important thing is to make sure you invest in Nordic Walking poles and not Trekking, Hiking, Snowshoe, or Ski poles. There really is a difference. If you want to go mountain biking you wouldn’t buy a road bike, or a badminton racket for tennis, or cross-country skis for downhill skiing. If you want to Nordic walk it’s in your best interest to invest in a pair of quality Nordic Walking poles.

Your Nordic Walking poles are an investment in your health and wellbeing. Poles are equipment, designed to be safe and effective for a specific activity. A quality pair will serve you well for many years and miles of walking.

Does it really matter?

A common question in class is “Can you use trekking poles for Nordic Walking?”

In a word? Yes, if it’s your only option. But your Nordic walking experience will be different. With some practice, you can adapt the technique and learn to make the grip and strap work for you. You will likely find that trekking poles won’t have a “swing weight” that allows them to move with your arm stroke, and they will make it more difficult to match the Nordic walking technique you see on videos and classes. Trekking poles used with Nordic walking technique are also likely to be louder on the trail.

I like this visual for Nordic Walking vs Hiking technique. Notice the difference in the arm and the position of the poles. The Hiker could be using 2 poles as well as one but the position of the poles would not change.

There are a lot of considerations in the design of Nordic Walking poles, and, a lot of expectations in their performance.

Nordic walking poles are designed to facilitate effective Nordic Walking technique. The pole straps ergonomically place the pole at the correct angle and make it easy for the poles to move in and out of your hand (note that Exerstriders have a specially designed grip that allows for the same action). This position allows the walker to apply pressure down and back to activate the muscles in the upper body. Nordic Walking poles used correctly increase the cardio, and, energy workout of your walk, along with many other benefits.

Quality Nordic walking poles will be made of materials capable of absorbing the impact and pressure of repetitive action against the ground. These materials may include aluminum as well as a mixture of other metals or carbon that will make the poles lighter. The rubber boot or tip allows maximum surface area to grip on hard surfaces ( the metal tip is for soft surfaces). Lock outs on adjustable poles need to be safe, effective and reliable relative to the amount of pressure you will put directly on the tip. Typically poles come with a warranty and replaceable parts.

As walkers we haven’t always invested in equipment for sports before so it can be daunting to consider spending $100 dollars on a pair of poles. But remember that this is a one-time purchase, you’re buying equipment for your health and fitness, and it will be a long term relationship. There are aluminum poles available for a modest price. For example the LEKI SPIN Shark SL is $99.95. Exerstrider, Urban Poling, OS2 is $89.95. (and comes in 4 different colors!) Both options come with warranty, replaceable parts and will provide many years of Nordic Walking pleasure. You can certainly spend more, but there is no performance level built into the poles. You may find them on sale, just be sure that you are ordering Nordic Walking poles with all the specific features.

My recommendation would be to do your best to understand the investment you’re making, and, then make the best choice for you, your budget, and, your overall interest in Nordic Walking. You won’t be sorry that you purchased equipment to make Nordic walking more enjoyable and effective in your quest for health and fitness.

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Spring 2021 Classes Posted

Spring has Sprung and it’s time to pull out those poles and get outside!

I love turning the season over from winter to spring. By now I feel like I’ve used up all of my winter time and I’m ready to do something different. That’s why we live where we can enjoy all four seasons to the max. So put away those snowshoes and shovels and let’s step out in style with our Nordic Walking Poles!

The Spring Schedule is now available on my website calendar. I’m so excited to be able to offer community walking groups, introductory classes and even Beyond the Basics Clinics this season. So whether you’re a seasoned Nordic Walker or looking for your first chance to try the poles we’ve got you covered. As most of the Community Ed brochures don’t come out until early April there are links for registration that are missing but will be added as soon as they are available. In the meantime you can get the date on your calendar and look forward to Nordic Walking, The Best Walk!!!!

I am committed to offering safe and fun classes so group size will be limited, social distancing will be observed and masks will be worn as required by the rules in place during the class schedule.

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Is Nordic Walking for You?

You’ve heard the great news about Nordic Walking. Less stress, more energy, better posture, higher heart rate, easy to learn, fun to share…and you wonder, is this for me? Could I do it?

Since December 12 when the StarTribune article came out I’ve had daily emails, texts, phone calls and even people stopping me on my walk, “I think I could do this, tell me more!” The stories touch my heart: “I’ve had back surgery, 2 bad knees, very overweight, been on the couch since Covid happened, don’t walk but would like to, used to run but can’t anymore, I’m 82 or 57 or 68, my spouse and I, my neighbor and I, I think my mom could, I just think maybe I could do this”

The simple answer is yes! From couch potato to retired runner and everyone in between, Nordic walking is for you! Poles will provide balance and stability, reduce your pain while walking, help you to walk tall and strong, create a better workout for fitness and health, and the rhythm of the walk will lower your stress and improve your mood.

The simple addition of poles with an introduction to the basic technique and you’re on your way. It’s not about how fast or far you walk, the poles will offer you the confidence and strength to do more the next day. Have fun!

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What keeps you from your walk?

How often do you find yourself with no time for your walk and so you wait until tomorrow or the next day or next week before getting outside again? Whether you’re a new walker or a walker in a rut here are some suggestions for setting yourself up for success.

First and most important, a buddy and a plan. Set your time for walking, put it on your calendar and try to find someone to join you. Gail and I walked at 5:30am for 30 years together. Yes it was hard to get up, yes it was dark and cold in the winter, yes it was easier to roll over and say sorry I’m not coming. But we were committed to the time, the activity and each other and it was always worth the effort to get out of bed, put on our shoes and grab our poles.

Set the stage. The anticipatory set – I put my walking clothes in the bathroom, jacket and other outdoor clothing by the door and my poles are in the corner. I’m set for getting up and out the door. No excuses, do not stop and think, just get dressed and go.

Don’t let weather get in your way. There is no such thing as bad weather just the wrong choice of clothing. Although Gail and I will put off a walk when there’s heavy rain or lightning. Dig deep in your closet, maybe buy something special just for walking, but commit to having what you need to get outdoors.

Imagine the walk. I go to bed knowing I’m going to get up and walk. I see myself stepping out into the early morning and greeting the day. I can imagine how good it’s going to feel. Talk about motivation!

Take what you can get. There are days or mornings that finding 45 minutes for a 3.5 mile walk is hard to fit in. But the answer is not “I can’t do my walk today”, the question is how far can I go if I only have 20 minutes. It’s better than nothing even if it’s just a walk around the block. Tomorrow is another walk.

Find the joy in every walk so it will help you repeat it again tomorrow.

and most important – don’t beat yourself up when the going gets tough and it’s hard. Tomorrow is another chance to give yourself the gift of moving your body, breathing fresh air and knowing you’ll be better for the effort.

Nordic Walking – More Energy, Less Stress!

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