Nordic what-now?

Exercise anywhere for anyone? Where can we get us some of that?

Working with a gaggle of climbers, runners, mountain bikers, and swimmers; it's not uncommon to see the occasional bit of deskercise at Alpkit HQ (AKA AlpKinetics). Aches and pains just seem to come with the territory of weekend warriorship.

But a few weeks ago, during super exciting Big Shakeout planning, we heard a rumour. It turns out that there's a sport that you can do anywhere, that helps heals those aches and pains, opens out your posture and that's recommended by physios. "What is this wizardry?" we asked. Well this wizardry is Nordic walking;  and you can get an introduction to this magical sport at the Big Shakeout School of Adventure.

As far as adventure sports go, Nordic walking doesn't have a reputation for being the most gnarly. All the same, it has grown in popularity for people of all ages and fitness levels as a way to improve health, rehab from injury, tone up, Go Nice Places, and Do Good Things.

Can't believe that such a thing exists? We were a little surprised too; we realised that despite its popularity, very little is known about Nordic walking. We discovered that there's actually a lot to learn, and a lot of myths to unlearn too…

Myth #1: "Nordic walking is too easy for an athlete like me!"

When you think about Nordic walking, it generally doesn't bring top athletes to mind. It probably should though as the story of this sport is actually deeply routed in athleticism. Initially practiced as an off-season training aid for Finnish cross-country skiers, Nordic walking  was first developed as a way of maintaining cardiovascular fitness and endurance, upper body strength, and heart and lung capacity in the times before snow machines and cheap flights. It can be done anywhere, is as challenging as you want it to be, and is still practiced by Olympic Athletes as summer training.

Nice Places? Good Things? Great People? Count us in!

Myth #2: "Nordic walking is the same as using trekking poles"

Hmm, you'd think wouldn't you? But look a little closer and you'll find some key differences. The poles themselves give a hint of the differences between the two sports. Nordic walking poles are designed to be used for propulsion; the paws are designed to facilitate the action of planting the poles behind you to help you glide forward in a ski-like motion; hand straps and gloves allow you to achieve this motion without gripping tightly, so that the upper body is engaged in the motion.

You may think it's easy, but bad technique and poor pole sizing can reduce the benefit and do more harm than good. Walkers can also adapt their technique according to ability and goals, whether it be health improvement, fitness development, or sports specific cross training. The Big Shakeout Introduction to Nordic Walking course, run by Mark Richardson of West Norfolk Nordic Walking,  is aimed at developing your technique to ensure that what you're doing is right for you.

Myth #3: "Nordic walking can't be that for you"

It seems like Nordic walking is the answer that we were all looking for, that magic activity that counteracts the harm that hunching over computers does to our backs and necks, and that fits into our day-to-day lives. Using  90% of your skeletal muscles, Nordic walking tones your upper and lower body, improves your posture and opens up your shoulders. The poles also take the pressure off of your knees on hilly terrain.

Maybe there's something to this Nordic walking business after all. The best way to find out is to sign up for the Introduction to Nordic walking course on the Big Shakeout School ticket page. Better be quick though, we might get there first! 

19 05 2017

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