Sea change pending at International Nordic Walking Association
The International Nordic Walking Association, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has a convention coming up September 23-26 in Riga, Latvia, and Otepaa, Estonia. From an interested observor’s point of view (that would be me), this convention for Nordic Walking trainers at all levels and other fitness professionals will see a shift in the small world of Nordic Walking. I think of this shift that has the potential to be as major as the early cracks in the Iron Curtain proved to be for the politics, identities and economies host nations. So by major, I mean MAJOR.
In addition to Exel, the Finnish pole company that pioneered Nordic Walking in Europe and is an expected sponsor of the convention, another is Gymstick, a newer conmpany that makes Nordic Walking poles, including aqua-fitness and other non-traditional applications. Equally significant, or perhaps even more so, INWA has invited Tom Rutlin, who pioneered fitness walking with his Exerstrider poles on this side of the pond, to be a keynoter at this convention. (Remember that Exerstriders are strapless poles, and Rutlin’s Exerstrider Method is somewhat different from the technique taught using poles with straps. But I have always felt that to people with a little distance from all this, the similarities are greater than the differences.)
The North American Nordic Walking Association, headed by president Malin Svensson who herself teaches Nordic Walking in the INWA mode, set an ecumenical model for European traditionalists by inviting Rutlin to participate and present at the first and second annual Nordic Walking Expos in North America. In fact, NWNA welcomed everyone who has a variation on teaching/training/technique and equipment. Rutlin was quick to accept, and to the credit of all pros who presented at both Expos, open-mindedness and mutual respect reigned.
INWA also promises that the convention will include the launch of their new INWA 10-step methodology, plus technical workshops, product clinics and networking — and it was networking that proved to be invaluable at the NWNA Expos in opening eyes and opening minds. I hope that the inclusion of Gymstick and Exerstrider (and perhaps other innovators) on the program is not just for show and that they signal a major move toward genuine inclusiveness, and I look forward to the reports that come out of the 2010 INWA convention.
To the average recreational Nordic Walker who goes out with a pair of poles and gets stronger, leaner and healthier, none of this is really of great importance. But to those who want to share their pleasure and find Nordic Walking companions, the significance is down the road a bit. IMHO, the greater the cooperation, the greater public acceptance of Nordic Walking of all stripes and the greater the number of participants, the better. So hats off to INWA for inviting Tom Rutlin and hats off to Tom for crossing the ocean to give a keynote address. I wish I could be there.