Is Nordic walking for you?

If there was a low impact activity that could burn 20-46% more calories than walking, utilise 90% of skeletal muscles, keep you social and get you into the great outdoors, would you do it?

This was the question posed by Bath Nordic walking instructor Yvonne Bignall during her Somer Valley FM radio show last week (Yvonne is a multi-talented lady).

She asked two of her Bath walkers, Alison and Lindsay, what led them to Nordic walking, what benefits they’ve seen so far, and their top tips for anyone thinking about trying this sport.  Here are their stories.

Lindsay

“I’ve always been into fitness and enjoyed high intensity exercises like circuit training and boxercise.  But as I’ve got older I’ve tried to focus on things that are lower impact, such as yoga.  I discovered Nordic walking because of a frozen shoulder injury which I’d had for over two years.  It was extremely frustrating and I wasn’t able to do my usual activities.  Nordic walking looked like something I could do (I’d heard it was good for shoulders) and I was attracted to the fact that it’s outdoors.

I’ve been Nordic walking walking for about 8 months now, my shoulder has improved and I’m back enjoying yoga again.  It’s the only exercise I’ve ever been able to do and have a good chat at the same time.  I love that plus that it’s outdoors and always runs, even in the rain and (with headtorches) in the dark.

We laugh every week, every class.  I’ve made some good friends and really enjoyed watching the changing seasons.  I’ve also been challenging myself by going on longer walks, mostly 6-8 miles but I signed up for the Bath Beat 21 mile challenge which was last weekend.  It was amazing.”

Alison

“I’ve always done activities at the gym.  I’d go to a class for 2/3 months but always dropped out and tried something different.  I heard about Nordic walking from a friend and I liked the sound of it.  So I went along to see what it was like – and loved it.

The first thing I noticed (which really surprised me) was when I did the beginner’s workshop I was slightly exhausted at the end.  It’s a whole-body workout – much more than just walking with poles – and I hadn’t realised that.

After the beginner’s workshop I joined the regular one-hour classes.  There’s quite a steep hill which we often go up.  The first time I had to stop twice and was wheezing when I got to the top.  Although I play golf and do pilates neither are aerobic so this fitness challenge was new to me.  However, within 3-4 weeks of going twice a week to Nordic walking I’d conquered the hill – and it was a fantastic feeling.  I don’t even really notice it any more.

There’s been a huge, huge increase in my fitness.  In the 8 months I’ve been Nordic walking I’ve lost over half a stone in weight, my golf has improved and so has my back.  I’ve had a bad back for years and was always aware of it but it very rarely bothers me now and I put that down to Nordic walking and improved posture.

The Nordic walking technique at the beginning was tricky but it’s much easier now and that’s very satisfying.  I’ve done several longer walks (6-8 miles) and loved it, especially meeting different people from other groups.  After every walk I get a real buzz.  You don’t feel that you’re doing exercise.  It’s a real workout without realising what your doing.  It is truly magic.  The icing on the cake is that I can do it with my husband.”

As Yvonne explained on the show, whilst walking is about lower body only, Nordic walking is about getting the whole body engaged.  It is designed to help you build all over body fitness but the fitness classes that we run in Bath and Bristol feel more like having fun with really good people.  It’s a wonderful sport if you feel isolated or don’t like doing things on your own.  Plus it’s low impact which is very useful if you’ve injuries or joint issues.  Other benefits include:

  • Weight loss. With Nordic walking you’re burning 20-46% more calories than ordinary walking so the potential for weight loss is there provided you look after your nutrition of course.
  • Sculpting your arms and shoulders
  • Trimming your waist
  • Improved posture and releasing tension and aching.

Top tips if you’re thinking about Nordic walking

Finally, here are Lindsay, Alison and Yvonne’s top tips if you’re thinking about Nordic walking.

Lindsay – Don’t worry about the fitness of others in the group.  Their level of fitness will be different from yours.  You have to start somewhere.  Do your own thing and work at your fitness and you’ll really improve.  Plus it’s very social, and Nordic walkers are kind people who take time to have conversations and ensure anyone new is enjoying themselves.

Alison – Remember how much you’ve improved as it happens really quickly.  Understand wherever you start from you will see fitness improvements.  It’s a personal journey and everybody there will be supporting you.

Yvonne – Nordic walking is about self care – doing something for you – your health and wellbeing.  No-one is there to compete.   Just to get fit in a very social way.  There are so many different reasons to Nordic walking the reality is that it will impact your health in a positive way. You can’t beat that.

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