Mastering Nordic Walking: Learning the Basic Technique with Walking Poles

Embrace the Journey: Why You Should Try Nordic Walking Today!

If you’re searching for a fresh, exciting way to stay active and experience the great outdoors, Nordic Walking may be the answer. This full-body workout enhances your walking routine and provides many benefits that can transform your fitness journey.

This comprehensive guide will explore the ins and outs, giving you all the tools you need to get started. It’s worth reading because it is a fun, low-impact workout suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

Nordic Walking Group in the Mourne Mountains Northern Ireland
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What is Nordic Walking?

Nordic walking is a form of fitness walking that incorporates the use of poles, which are similar to ski poles. These enhance the walking experience and engage the upper body. It involves planting the poles behind you with each stride, propelling yourself forward and using your upper body muscles for increased power.

What are the Benefits of Nordic Walking?

Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of Nordic walking for people of all ages. First and foremost, it engages more muscle groups than walking or hiking.

As such, it improves your muscle strength, cardiovascular health, and posture and burns more calories than traditional walking. Moreover, Nordic walking is low-impact, making it an ideal form of exercise for older adults or those recovering from injuries.

The use of poles provides several benefits. Firstly, it increases your overall calorie burn compared to walking, as the engagement of the upper body muscles requires more energy. It is estimated to burn up to 46% more calories than regular walking. This makes it a practical option for weight loss and cardiovascular fitness.

Nordic walking on Slieve Gullion
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Can you improve your posture with Nordic Walking?

Additionally, Nordic walking activates more muscle groups than traditional walking. The poles engage the muscles in your arms, shoulders, and core, leading to a full-body workout. This not only strengthens your muscles but also improves your posture and coordination.

People of all ages and fitness levels can enjoy this low-impact activity that is easy on the joints, making it a suitable option for those with arthritis or joint pain. The intensity of the workout can be adjusted based on individual fitness levels and goals, making it a versatile exercise option.

In summary, Nordic walking is a form of fitness incorporating specially designed poles to engage the upper body. It provides a holistic workout that activates more muscle groups than walking without the poles. 

How is Nordic Walking Different from Regular Walking?

In normal walking, your upper body remains relatively passive. However, Nordic walking involves the use of sticks to help propel you forward, engaging your arm, shoulder, and core muscles. This active arm swing, coupled with the stride of your walk, mimics the motion of cross-country skiing, giving you a more intense workout than a simple trek.

How to Start Nordic Walking: A Step-By-Step Guide?

Starting is simple, but there is a 10-step technique to ensure you get the most out of your walks. First, get your pair of Nordic walking poles and adjust them to the right height. Next, choose a flat and open area for your initial walks while you learn the technique. Start walking, letting your arms swing naturally. As you become comfortable, introduce the poles, focusing on maintaining a rhythm between your stride and arm swings. Remember, start slow and focus on form over speed.

  1. Get Your Equipment:  the poles are not the same as trekking ones used for hiking, as they are specifically designed for Nordic walking with features like comfortable grips, adjustable wrist straps, and interchangeable rubber tips. When you hold the poles with your arms by your sides, the angle at your elbow should be approximately 90 degrees.
  2. Select a Suitable Location: As a beginner, starting in a flat, open area is best. Parks or level trails are great places to start. As you gain more confidence and master the technique, you can venture into different terrains, including hillier and more challenging landscapes.
  3. Start Walking Without Poles: Begin by walking, letting your arms swing naturally at your sides. This helps you focus on your natural stride and rhythm. The goal is to warm your body and get accustomed to the walking pace.
  4. Introduce the Poles: Hold the poles with a relaxed grip, ensuring the straps are adjusted correctly around your wrists. Initially, carry them and continue walking as you normally would. As you get comfortable with them, plant them on the ground as you step with your opposite foot. The poles should be at an angle, pointing backwards, as if you’re reaching behind you.
  5. Synchronise Your Arm and Leg Movements: Nordic walking is all about coordination. As your left foot steps forward, your right arm should swing forward, and vice versa. This mimics the natural stride and arm swing you’d use while walking without poles.
  6. Maintain the Right Posture: Stand tall with your back straight, looking forward, not at your feet. This helps engage your core muscles and maintain balance. Your body should lean slightly forward from the ankles (not the waist) as you walk.
  7. Start Slow and Gradual: Focus on mastering the technique, not on speed or distance. Start slow, then gradually increase your speed and distance as you become more comfortable. Always prioritise maintaining the correct form and technique over speed.
  8. Warm-up and Cool Down: Like any other form of exercise, it’s essential to warm up before you start and cool down after your walk. This could include a slow walk, gentle stretching, or mobility exercises.
  9. Keep It Regular: Consistency is vital. Aim for at least three Nordic walks per week, and remember, even a short walk is better than no walk at all.
  10. Join a Group or Take a Class: If you feel unsure about the technique or want some company, consider joining a Nordic walking group or taking a class. Having an instructor can be incredibly helpful when starting out, and walking with others can be a great source of motivation.

Starting with these simple steps, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the art. Remember, the goal is to enjoy the process, so don’t rush – take your time to learn, and most importantly, have fun!

What are Nordic Walking poles?

Nordic walking poles are specialised walking sticks used in Nordic walking, a full-body exercise that originated in Finland. These poles have a specific design to enhance the benefits of walking, offering stability, improved posture, and increased upper-body engagement.

Nordic walking poles typically contain lightweight materials such as carbon or aluminium, making them easy to carry and manoeuvre. They have ergonomic handles with straps that allow users to secure their hands on the poles without holding them tightly. The poles also have rubber tips or metal spikes on the bottom for better traction on various surfaces.

The key feature of Nordic walking poles is a unique strap system known as the Nordic walking glove or Nordic walking strap. This strap is worn around the hand and connects the handle to the pole, allowing the user to push off the ground with each stride while maintaining a relaxed grip. It enables the engagement of the upper body muscles, including arms, shoulders, and core, making Nordic walking a more effective workout than regular walking.

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Poles typically come with adjustable lengths to accommodate different users’ heights and preferences. This adjustability ensures the poles are the correct length, allowing for proper technique and maximising the benefits.
Overall, the walking poles are purpose-built tools that aid in Nordic walking, offering increased stability, improved posture, and a more intense workout experience than regular walking.

How to use Nordic Walking poles?

To use the walking poles, follow these steps:

  1. Adjust the length: Make sure the poles are adjusted to the correct length for your height. Stand with your arm bent at a 90-degree angle when holding the poles with your hands on the grips. The pole tips should be touching the ground.
  2. Grip the poles: Hold the poles with your hands, allowing your thumbs to rest on top of the grip in a firm but relaxed fashion. 
  3. Start walking: Begin walking with your poles by swinging your arms naturally, allowing the poles to move in sync with your stride. As you walk, plant the pole into the ground with the opposite foot. For example, plant the left pole into the ground if you are stepping forward with your right foot.
  4. Use the push and pull technique: As you plant the pole into the ground, apply downward pressure to engage the strap around your wrist. Extend your arm backwards as your foot pushes off the ground, allowing the pole to propel you forward. This push-and-pull motion helps increase your pace and engages your upper body muscles.
  5. Maintain a rhythmic motion: Continue walking with a steady stride, keeping a consistent rhythm with your arms and legs. Focus on using the poles to support your natural walking motion rather than relying heavily on arm strength.
  6. Uphill and downhill walking: When walking uphill, adjust your grip higher on the poles to provide more leverage. Use your poles to push off the ground and propel yourself uphill.
  7. Shortening your Nordic poles slightly to provide better stability and control when going uphill. Place the poles slightly behind your body to help with balance and braking as you descend.
  8. Take breaks if needed: If you feel fatigued or need a break, use the poles to support yourself while standing or resting.
    Remember to start slowly if you are new to Nordic walking and gradually increase your pace and distance as you get comfortable.

How to Choose the Right Nordic Walking Poles?

Choosing the correct set of poles is vital for a successful walking experience. Poles should be sturdy, lightweight, and the right height. When holding the pole with your arm by your side, the angle at your elbow should be approximately 90 degrees.

Poles come with adjustable straps that should fit snugly around your hands, and the grip should be comfortable. Some poles also come with removable rubber tips for use on different surfaces.

What Makes Nordic Walking an International Phenomenon?

Nordic walking has gained international popularity due to its myriad benefits and accessibility. It’s become a favourite health and fitness activity from Finland to Ireland, with numerous clubs and organisations dedicated to the sport.

This outdoor activity, from city parks to country trails, can be done anywhere, making it versatile. Plus, it’s enjoyable in groups, adding a social element to the workout.

What is the Role of the International Nordic Walking Federation?

The International Nordic Walking Federation (INWF) plays a critical role in promoting and standardising Nordic walking worldwide. This organisation oversees Nordic walking instructor certification, conducts research, organises international events, and promotes best practices for the sport.

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Is There an American Nordic Walking Association?

Yes, the American Nordic Walking Association is dedicated to promoting it in the United States. It offers resources for beginners, organises group walks and events, and provides certified instruction to ensure. Nordic walkers have the support and knowledge they need to practice the sport safely and effectively.

How Can I Join a Nordic Walking Group?

Joining a group is a great way to stay motivated and enjoy the social aspect of the sport. Check out local fitness centres, outdoor stores, or online platforms to find a group near you. Many organisations, such as the INWF and the American Nordic Walking Association, also provide resources to find local groups.

Key Takeaways

  • Nordic walking, originating from Finland, is a full-body workout that engages more muscle groups than conventional walking.
  • Using specially designed poles makes it a more effective workout than regular walking, burning more calories and improving cardiovascular health.
  • Choosing suitable poles is vital, considering height, grip, strap, and weight.
  • The proper Nordic walking technique mimics cross-country skiing movements with synchronised arm and leg movements.
  • Getting started with Nordic Walking requires learning the technique, starting slow, and consistent practice.
  • It is an international phenomenon, with organisations like the International Nordic Walking Federation and the American Nordic Walking Association promoting and standardising the sport. Research shows that walking works!
  • Joining a Nordic walking group can provide social interaction, motivation, and guidance.

So, what are you waiting for? Book a walking holiday or take a day off, grab a pair of poles and try Nordic walking today!

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