First Steps with Nordic Walking Poles

I first heard about Nordic Walking in 2004 in Mürren, Switzerland, where Nordic Walking was coaching was available. I’d been hiking with trekking poles for a while, but I wasn’t sure why Nordic Walking was different. With my trekking poles and a small pack, I went on a two-night hike deep into the mountains and stayed in rustic mountain huts. When I returned to the comfortable hotel in Mürren, I listened to a group of newly minted Nordic Walking enthusiasts. They had been Nordic Walking near Mürren while I and others hiked. They praised the great workout, and that sounding enticing. However, that visit was coming to an end, was too late for me to try. I was leaving the mountains early the next morning to catch a train.

Nordic Walking stuck in my mind, however, and just this past summer, I was able to sample it at Colorado’s Devil’s Thumb Ranch. The photo above shows Lang Hedman, Devil’s Thumb’s hiking guide and Nordic Walking instructor, and Holly Johnson of Sarasota, FL, powering across a meadow with Nordic Walking poles, moving quickly along an old ranch road. I was captivated enough to write a feature story about Nordic Walking for my local newspaper.

I was also sufficiently to captivated loom into Nordic Walking online and to think about drafting a book proposal based on my initial research. I see Nordic Walking as an activity that’s perfect for the 21st century. It appeals to baby boomers, whose knees are shot from too much running but still are geared to a high level of aerobic fitness. Many of their contemporaries and even younger people are often overweight and out of shape, but they’ve gotten the word that they need a change in lifestyle. Older people trying to stave off infirmity understand the use-it-or-lose-it principle. Nordic Walking is a low-impact, do-anywhere activity that is fun to do and has numerous health benefits — as I noted, perfect for all of those populations in our time.

Fast forward to November 2006, and with the ink still wet on my contract to write a Nordic Walking book, I attended a Nordic Walking workshop at Fleet Feet, a local running store. Seventy or 80 fitness walkers and runners jammed into the small store, eager to hear about Nordic Walking from Annette Tennander Bank, former Olympian and personal trainer, and Mark Muggleton, five-time NCAA All-American in Track and Field and a member of the U.S. International Cross Country Team. Annette and Mark demonstrated the rudiments of Nordic Walking technique — very simple, really — and took people out into the parking lot and a nearby hill. Everyone got it! Fleet Feet had not yet received its order of Nordic Walking poles, but after people tried the poles that Annette and Mark brought with them (and got tips on how to use them), many put in special orders on the spot.

I’ll add posts to this blog as the research for my book progresses, and I’d like to hear from you as well.