Where it started

A list going round on Facebook, February 2016: "which of these items have you experienced" etc. Some yes, some no, some didn't interest me. However, it put some ideas into my head, and I figured it was time I followed some of my friends in committing them to (virtual) paper. And then trying some of them out. The first challenge was undertaken on 1 March 2016, and I have no intention of ever completing the list: the more I tick off, the more I'll add.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Walking: the Nordic way

When I was on my sponsored Bridges walk, I saw quite a number of folks - of all ages - walking (usually much faster than me) with lightweight poles. I'd come across references to the technique several times recently, and having discovered that the lovely Barbara Ives occasionally leads walks and runs training sessions, I resolved to give it a go, booking myself in to one of those sessions for just after our return from holiday.

So, having arrived back in Norfolk on the Friday afternoon, I found myself setting out on the Saturday morning for the recreation ground near Catton Park, just to the north of Norwich. We were lucky to have a beautiful day for it, just a touch of autumnal cool and wonderful sunshine. Including Barbara, six of us were there.

Barbara started by passing out the lightweight poles and explaining how to adjust the length to suit our height. We warmed up with a few stretches (using the poles for balance), then moved on the walking technique.

The key words to remember were 'soldiers and lemons'... the 'soldier' reference being to keeping the arms as straight as possible in a marching action (while moving the poles and managing not to drag them on the ground); and the 'lemons' being ensuring that the front of the foot pushes fully down (as though squeezing a lemon under the sole), using the whole length of the foot. We all found quickly that these guidelines resulted in a much more upright posture and unusually rapid pace - and arms & shoulders that were unaccustomed to so much activity!

We then moved across the road into Catton Park for a circuit of around two miles. I found it quite difficult to keep the arms straight and the rhythm of the poles going at first, but this had improved by the end of the walk.

Here's the group pausing for breath and consultation - and selfies! - partway round.

It was easy to see why some of my walking colleagues on the Bridges Walk had kept up such a punishing pace. I think if I tried that I'd need to get some of the little rubber 'feet' to stop to clunking of the sticks on hard pavement! It would be interesting to see how differently the technique works if I try it on our beaches - always a challenge at the best of times, especially if the tide is high and the walking therefore on soft sand.

Finally, we returned to the car park after a very enjoyable couple of hours. I would definitely love to get some poles for myself - although they're not cheap (the version we were using are around £70). However, they'd be a great investment and would last for ages. Let's see how the post-holiday client bookings go...

This was another highly enjoyable new 'lifelist' experience - well worth trying for a new approach to a commonplace fitness activity, and one which may well become a more regular part of my life. Meantime, it was a lovely group, a great instructor and a beautiful day. What's not to like?

Click here for information on Nordic Walking, and click here for Barbara Ives' website.

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