Are you bored with your current exercise routine and want to shake it up a little? Are you getting into that "hibernation" mode, but feel you need to get off that sofa and put down that remote? Are you looking to start an exercise regime, but don' t know where to begin or what exercises or sport to choose? Maybe you are a little arthritic and you believe that exercise will make things worse, maybe you enjoy being unhealthy and unfit, or maybe you just don't like the smell of rotting vegetation and the sight of colorful leaves falling to the ground.
Well, let me tell you something:
Somewhere in the 1960s a Phys Ed teacher in Helsinki saw the benefits of using ski poles when walking and introduced them to the students’ lessons. Behold, Nordic walking was born.
Nordic walking, also called urban poling, has been popular in Europe for many years. It is fairly new to North America, but is catching on fast, especially on the west coast. It’s a great form of exercise that works the entire body, mostly the upper body. It improves balance and stability, strengthens core muscles, and improves posture. It’s a great cardio workout and can be done just about anywhere. It’s a lot of fun and people of all ages can do it. Also, walking with poles helps to reduce the load on your knees, hips, and lower back, which may be helpful for people with arthritis or lower back problems.
I signed up for a class a few weeks ago and was quite excited. I love trying new ways to improve my health. I’m an avid walker/hiker, but I was looking for something to add to that routine. I got that and more.
The instructor explained that it was akin to marching in a military line. We practiced marching for a bit, just like I remember doing in Cadets. Then we marched along holding the poles for a bit. Then we started walking. I felt a little awkward in the beginning, like skiing without the skis. And I had no idea of how weak my arms and shoulders were; I was able to bring the right pole forward, but the left pole was dragging a little. I kept going and was soon correcting the mistakes I was making. The instructor was a great guy with many years’ experience in the sport. Pretty soon, I was putting downward pressure on the poles and getting that upper body workout that he was talking about. My pinky fingers got a little sore, as I was holding the handles too tight, but once again, the instructor corrected me and it felt better.
We walked along, going at a good pace, talking about the sport as we went along. The instructor kept checking our form and giving us good feedback. The trail we were taking was paved in some areas and bare in others. We’d have to cross a street or two on occasion, but otherwise, it was like walking in the forest, and the smell of rotting vegetation felt good in the nostrils. (I love fall.)
By the time we got back to the community center it had been a good hour, but it didn’t seem that long as we were focused on what we were doing and not so much where we were going. The instructor led us in some stretching exercises and then we were dismissed. It was an awesome workout.
When I got home, I passed out in the bed, and when I got back up, I was sore from having worked those different muscles; nothing that a hot shower wouldn’t fix. I felt tension in the neck, all across the front of the chest and in the sides and upper arms. It was great to feel that good pain.
My second class was better than the first, as I became more confident with the poles. My coordination was a lot better, and I was able to strut at a good pace. The instructor took us along a different path. It was another great workout. By the time the very cold weather comes, I’m hoping my triceps, chest, and latts will be more firm. I may even lose a few pounds as it is a very intense workout.
I encourage anyone who is looking for a different routine to get out there and find a class. I have a few classes left and will be buying my own poles after that. (I have to save a few dollars as they are a little costly.)
The poles are very lightweight. According to my instructor, the best poles are from Urban Poling. They are designed for use by anyone 4’2” to 6’2” in height. They are adjustable by turning, and then pulling the bottom part out of the top part to the length you want—the length is written on the pole. Then you turn again to tighten. There is a little booty on the bottom made of rubber, the booties point backwards when walking, and you can take these off when walking in the snow and ice, they have a carbide tip. The handles do not have straps, something to do with injury upon falling down.
Here are a few pics of the class walking along one of the trails. These pics are of my third class, and as we were a little stronger with our strides, the instructor took us along another great trail with a steep hill. I think it was called Dead Man's Hill. (I didn't ask why...lol.) The poles really helped with the climb, but by the time I got to the top I figured out why it was called Dead Man's Hill; my heart was pumping hard by the time I got to the top, but it was frikin' awesome!
You can also purchase the poles at Shoppers Drug Mart Home Health Care Center. If they don't have it in stock, ask to order.