Category Archives: Benefits

Polin’ with Paley

Jayah Faye Paley came to Boulder — and we went for a walk

The other day, I wrote a post called “Jayah Faye Paley Coming to Boulder” about the well-known and highly regarding pole advocate, personal trainer and mobility coach  presentations in at REI in Boulder on Thuraday and group hike with poles in Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday morning. I couldn’t attend on Thursday because I had a previous commitment but I understand it was SRO in the store, and Saturday morning is out, because the Paley-led “Waterfall Hike with Poles” to Ouzel Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park for the Rocky Mountain Nature Association is sold out.

Jayah adjusting poles in my front hall.

I was able to spend higher quality time with Jayah. She had been planning to meet Randy from Lafayette and Charee from Parker on Thursday morning for a walk somewhere in Boulder. My house was a good, central place, so we rendezvoused here on a misty, gray morning with clouds hanging low on the foothills. After some tea and chat, the four of us set off for Eben Fine Park with a plan to walk into Boulder Canyon on the Boulder Creek Trail at least to the end of the pavement, but the city is working on the footbridge, so we had to detour and in the end, because Jayah had a schedule, we only walked through the park and a short distance into the canyon.

No hard-core instruction by Jayah, but rather gentle technical hints and stops hear and there to stretch.

The casual walk gave us a chance to chat, and I admire Jayah’s philosophy. She is keyed into different uses for different kinds of poles by people with different needs and desires, from hardcord hikers to people with balance or mobility issues. As we were entering the canyon, an older couple with poles was coming downhill toward us (sorry, I didn’t snap a photo). They both had old downhill ski poles. He was simply carrying his; she was rather randomly tapping the ground with hers. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes, commenting about how unusual it was for six people with poles to be on the same stretch of the path. The couple said they liked walking with their poles — but I could help but think how much more they would have liked them with a little basic coaching on what poles meet their needs and how to use them. We mentioned that Jayah was giving a free presentation about poles at REI just a few hours later. They looked baffled and politely went on their way.

The Boulder Creek Path on a misty, Shangri-La type of morning.

Jayah Faye Paley Coming to Boulder

California personal trainer and mobility expert at REI this evening

Boulder’s REI hosts a free talk this evening, 6:30p.m., on “Poles for Hiking, Walking & Exercise” with personal trainer and mobility expert Jayah Faye Paley. Through Adventure Buddies , she helps people get more enjoyment and fitness benefits from hiking and walking with poles, and through Poles for Mobility, she helps people address mobility and balance issues to help people stay as active as they can be as long as possible by improving gait, posture, strength and endurance — all quality of life aspects. 

What I like about Jayah’s approach of use of poles is adaptability, because poles really are suitable for people on a personal fitness quest and for people with health challenges who just want to extend their ability to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. She is one of a growing number of trainers and coaches who appreciate the multi-dimensional uses for poles.  Boulder being Boulder, poles are also great summer cross-training for Nordic skiers, an additional training tool for anyone wanting to increase upper body conditioning without weights or bands or for injured runners needing to take pressure off the knees, hips and ankles.

I have a previous commitment to judge a grilling cook-of this evening, so I’ll be packing in calories rather than tapping into Jayah’s wisdom about burning them, but for anyone withstriking distance of Boulder, this is a presentation worth attending.  This morning is cool, gray and foggy, so Jayah, who is here from California, should feel right at home when she arrives in a couple of hours. She, I and two of her other Boulder contacts are planning to go for a Nordic Walk, which I’m greatly looking forward to since I won’t be available to hear her presentation this evening. REI is at  1789 28th Street, Boulder; 303-583-9970.

Saturday is National Trails Day

Annual event showcases & honors America’s recreation trails

I have a quiver of walking poles. These include various brands of specific Nordic Walking poles and a pair of hiking poles that have hundreds of miles and many seasons on them. I keep the rubber booties on some of the Nordic Walking poles and grab those for my daily morning 2-miler right in town, and I leave the tips off others when I know I’m heading for an unpaved trail. For harder mountain treks, I take more rugged hiking/trekking poles. To me, trails are treasures — whether along a rushing stream, across a meadow, through the forest or up a mountain. I am fortunate to live in a state, a metropolitan area, a city and a county laced with trails. All are open for Nordic Walkers, runners and hikers, so I celebrate National Trails Day with gratitude.

The American Hiking Society’s 16th annual National Trails Day, which this year is on Saturday, June 4, adapts to each participating community’s needs: group hikes or bike ride, horseback ride, maintenance project, paddle trip, health fair, children’s event and more. To find your nearest event, click here and scroll down. Either enter your zip code in the appropriate box or click on you state on the U.S., and you’ll get a list of options. Join, donate and participate to make this day a national success.

Nordic Walking Notes from Colorado

Boulder County leads the way with programs for beginners & beyond

Is Nordic Walking finally getting a toehold in Colorado? I certainly hope so. I was delighted when I saw a front page story on May 23  in the Denver Post’s Fitness section called “Take Your Workout to the Great Outdoors.” There was a photo of Annette Tannander-Bank leading a Nordic Walking class — not walking in that particular shot but doing lunges with poles for stability as part of the warm-up, strengthening and cool-down exercises that instructors favor, and that people like me don’t bother with. I’m more of a grab-and-go walker. I grab my poles and I go.

Annette coaching a beginning Nordic Walker in proper arm position at North Boulder Park.

The Post piece was about outdoor workouts in general, and reporter Sheba K. Wheeler listed 20 in the metro area. Of those, several were walking programs including some specificially Nordic Walking. One was a one-day intro last Saturday, but the following are still available. 

  • Intermediate Nordic Walking, Annette leads two classes on Mondays at 12:00 noon at Boulder’s  Scott Carpenter Park and on Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. at North Boulder Park. Walk-in fee is $10 or a Rallysport Health & Fitness Club punch card., plus $5 for optional pole rentals. 303-449-4800.
  • Nordic Walking, introductory program offered the first and third Saturdays of every month. Meet at Fleet Feet Sports, 2624 Broadway (at Alpine), Boulder. $5 walk-in fee; participants may borrow poles from the store. 303-939-8000.
  • Nordic Walking, Tuesdays, 6-7 p.m. from June 14-July 5, and Thursdays, 8-9 a.m., June 16-July 7. No drop-ins. $42 for residents and $48 for non-residents, including use of poles. Broomfield Recreation Center, Broomfield County Commons, 13200 Sheridan Boulevard, Broomfield.

Paley’s Pole Presentations at REI

'Poles for Balance & Mobility' DVD.

On Wednesday, June 9, Jayah Faye Paley, creator of two DVDs on walking with poles, will be at Boulder’s REI giving two free presentations — one on each DVD. From 3:45-5:15 p.m., the topic is balance, mobility and functional walking showing people with with mobility issues can use poles to improve gait, posture, endurance, function and  strength. That class is full, indicating how much of a need there is for it. From 6:30-8:00 p.m., shedemonstrates how to expand hiking horizons and improve health with poles.

Paley is based in Pacifica, California, where she runs Adventure Buddies, which promotes use of the outdoors (including Nordic Walking) and creating a network of people who enjoy outdoor recreation for health and fitness. She is also a personal trainer and mobility coach , using poles to help people stay as active as they can as long as they can under a program called Poles for Mobility.

ANWA in Colorado

As part of its nationwide schedule, the American Nordic Walking Association presents three levels of training and certification to the Denver area in mid-July. The four-hour Nordic Walking Guide Workshop ($149) for people who want to lead primarily groups of social Nordic Walkers, July 16; eight-hour Basic Instructor Training & Certification Seminar ($236 for registration before June 16, $355 after, $284 for ANWA members); July 16-17, 12-hour Advanced Instructor Training & Certification Seminar for those holding Basic certification ($288 for registration before June 16, $45 after, $360 for ANWA members). Denver area location to be announced.

Walking Helps Combat Youth Diabetes

Walking is good, but Nordic Walking could be even better

On, an Arizona-based website devoted to “improving health and changing lives,” contributor Sandhya Reddy’s “The Many Benefits of Walking” told of her young teen’s son and his choice of activities when confronted either with diabetes or prediabetes (it wasn’t clear to me). She wrote:

“A few years ago I was warned by my youngest son’s pediatrician about his triglycerides and cholesterol levels. I realized being a diabetic was not just my battle anymore. It is going to be a part of my family for years to come. I remember discussing various options of exercise and food options with 13-year-old that day. I also realized that besides Kaplan classes that summer, he hadn’t been out of the house much for any physical activities as both my husband and I worked.

“Of all the options he chose to walk, which surprised me. I was happy with his decision to walk with me to start off since if gave us time to spend together which encouraging each other to stay fit. Up until he went off to college we shared many things while walking in the park or sidewalks. It gave me an opportunity to get to know my son on a personal level.”

Hooray for mother and son. Like adult friends or couples who walk for health and pleasure, they conversed and bonded during their walks. Reddy goes on to explain that many non-walkers who begin walking are surprised that eventually walking is pleasurable. She also lists variations on the theme of walking, that “include bush walking, race walking, weight walking, hill walking, Nordic walking, hiking (also called rambling or tramping), treadmill, etc.”  She describes some of these in a few additional words, “Power walking and race walking are among the most popular kinds of walking. Power walking is for people who do not have time to work out but want to keep up with physical activity. Race walking is often for Olympic competitors. And using a treadmill is a popular activity for people who tend to stay indoors for any reason.”

I don’t know where Reddy lives, but I was a little surprised that she used the veddy English terms “rambling” and “tramping” or the Aussie phrase “bush wallking” as synonyms for “hiking.” Alas, I was not surprised that Nordic Walking again got short shrift, despite its unsurpassed accessibility and bonus benefits for health, fitness and weight loss without any potential downsides. The inclusion of Nordic Walking in this piece begins and ends with those two words. If walking helped both of them with their health issues, imagine what a boost a pair of poles in each of their hands might have given to their time and effort.

Bad Knees + Walking Poles = Pain Relief

Pittsburgh blogger shares his maiden voyage with walking poles

An unidentified male from Pittsburgh whose blog, Navigating the Finite, just started using poles and enthused about the relief they offer to sore knees and back. In a post called “In Praise of Nordic Walking Poles,” he wrote:

“I have had my Nordic Walking Poles for week now and have not used them until tonight. Fantastic! My knees and back are shot, complete and total junk, and while I can get around, walking certainly is no pleasure.

“I left work in time to go to a small park nearby. While walking through the parking lot at work I was thinking to myself, this is crazy, my knees are killing me, what the hell do I want to go walking for? I had spent most of the day on my feet on the concrete shop floor. The trip to the car after work was painful. Well I decided to go and try it. What the hell, if my knees and back hurt I could always quit. I drove home got the poles and my walking spikes and headed off to the park.

“One small step for mankind, one huge step for a couch potato! I walked! I enjoyed it. I walked fast. I am not using the poles right, but I ACTUALLY WALKED WITH LITTLE PAIN IN MY KNEES AND BACK! It was fantastic! This is the first time that I have enjoyed walking in a long long time!”

His surprise and joy were palpable as he wrote that he had an a welcome aerobic workout and that with this new-found pleasure, he isn’t even sure how long he walked. Then, he thanked “Old Baguette” for introducing Nordic Walking poles, writing, “I had never heard of Nordic Walking Poles until the Old Baguette mentioned them in her blog. Thank you, my dear for introducing me to something that just may turn my life around.” 

Of course, I found  “old Baguette.” In a post called “Are Walking Poles Lutheran?” about a hospital stay, she wrote, “I’ve spent the last week schussing up and down the corridors of Abbott Northwestern Hospital here in Minneapolis. I was the first person to use Nordic Poles instead of a cane, crutches, or walker, and I wowed ’em all! Doctors muttered, ‘I think I’ll have my patients use those things!'” The title of the post could have been written by Garrison Keillor, but the sentiments expressed another Nordic Walker’s realization of the benefits.

What struck me about both Sextant and Old Baguette, as they call themelves,  is that they simply found walking with poles instantly beneficial. Were they actually Nordic Walking poles or hiking poles? I have no idea. What brand were they? I inititally had not a clue either, except later when I read Sextant’s comment on O.B’s post, Sextant wrote that his poles were made in “Lillyhammer,” which would be Lillehammer and would make them Swix.  Did he use “proper” technique as taught by any of the training and certifying organizations? He didn’t mention it, so I have no way of knowing that either. I do know that Sextant reveled in the thrill of discovery when his pain went away while walking with poles, and I hope he keeps it up, wherever walking with his poles leads him — and I hope that his Nordic Walking muse, Old Bagutette, continues as well.

And once again, I realized that the Midwest indeed is the epicenter of Nordic Walking in the US.

Nordic Walking Part of the President’s Challenge

National fitness initiative now includes fitness walking with poles

Five years ago, Suzanne Nottingham, a well-known fitness professional and early adopter of Nordic Walking in this country, connected with the President’s Council on Physical  Fitness, Sports & Nutrition to encourage them to incorporate fitness walk with poles into their recommendations. The Council-run President’s Challenge is is director to encourage all Americans to make being active part of their everyday lives, regardless of an individual’s activity and fitness level. The President’s Challenge can help motivate preople to start earning Presidential awards for aily physical activity and fitness efforts. There are age-appropriate categories (kids, teens, adults and seniors). For a time, fitness walking with poles has a spot in the President’s Council lexicon, and then for a time  it didn’t.

But it’s back, according to Nottingham, who runs California-based Nordic Walk Now.  She reports that Nordic Walking is now on the recommended list of fitness and sports activities. The Council has put out an educator’s manual with advice and activities for schools, recreational programs, wellness programs and senior centers.  And good news for the Nordic Walking world is that Suzanne Nottingham has been invited to become more involved and is writing (or will be writing) some of the Council’s material.

Nordic Walking Weekenders in Germany

Tour operator specializes in running and walking programs

 While wandering around one of the characteristic passages (shop-lined arcades linking one street with another) in Leipzig, Germany, I spotted a running store called Leipziger Laufladen and thought it would be a good opportunity to pick up some replacement paws for my Exel poles, which seem available noplace at home except online. (For the record, I have bought LEKI paws, however.)

The young salesman apologized for the small selection of poles and accessories on display (below), though even in October, this”” low” inventory is probably more poles than are available in  brick and mortar retail stores in the entire state of Colorado.

While he was writing up the sales receipt, I looked at the promotional material available in the register area. There was a simple yellow flyer announcing 14 running and 11 walking weekends put on by a company called Reisezeit, which organizes special-interest trips. (The image, above left, is theirs.) This is nothing new. They’ve been putting on runners’ weekends since 1997 and Nordic Walkers’ weekends since 2000.

The next Nordic Walking weekend takes place  October 22-24 in Bad Düben, a nearby wellness resort community. This dedicated weekend intensive promises all manner of  health, nutrition and wellness information for runners and walkers is registered as a certified health course whose €222 cost for workshops, lodging and food is reimbursible by German health insurance.

I admire the German proactivity when it comes to good health by getting people moving and keeping them moving. No wonder Nordic Walking is so popular here!

Health Care/Insurance Reform Should Include Prevention & Wellness

This open letter from the president of the American College of Sports Medicine reaffirms what Nordic Walking enthusiasts already know, but it is worth remembering for ourselves, reminding your Senators and passing on to family, friends and colleagues:

As the Senate debates how to bring health insurance to all Americans, let’s focus on keeping people healthy in the first place. Science continues to report evidence that exercise is medicine, shown to help prevent chronic diseases, from diabetes and depression to osteoporosis and cancer.

Some in Congress (such as members of the Fitness Caucus) get the message: By encouraging healthy lifestyles, we can save many Americans the heartbreak of debilitating illness. Individuals enjoy better quality of lives; employers gain from greater productivity; we all benefit from reduced health care costs.

Research has shown that exercise boosts the immune system, helping people shorten illness or avoid it altogether. Physicians who understand the power of prevention through healthy lifestyles may say “Eat well, walk more, and you may not have to call me in the morning.” It’s common sense, it’s based on science, and increasingly, it’s doctor’s orders.

The action steps are clear, for Congress and for all of us. House and Senate members must support programs to help Americans follow healthy lifestyles. Each of us should eat a balanced diet, avoid tobacco and stay physically active. It’s a simple prescription with a very big payoff.

James Pivarnik, Ph.D., FACSM
American College of Sports Medicine

Skechers Rocker-Sole Shoe

Skechers joins MBT and Foot Solutions’ Chung-Shi in the rocker-sole revolution

MBT (short for Masai Barefoot Technology) and then Chung-Shi, a Foot Solutions house brand, came onto the market with rocker soles said to provide a toning and calorie-burning boost to walking. In fact, Foot Solutions markets the combination of Chung-Shi footwear and walking poles as Balance Walking.

Skechers, known especially for kicky casual shoes, also has a rocker-sole design called the Skechers Shape Up. Unlike other brands, Skechers doesn’t specficially promote these walking workout shoes for use with poles, but some Nordic Walkers swear by the added benefit. The roll-through motion with every step engages additional muscles that is said to help tone the legs, strengthen the core and even help combat cellulite. Skechers has a YouTube video that extols the benefits of rocker-sole shoes, has some sensible suggestions on how to get accustomed to their unfamiliar feeling — and like Nordic Walking pole brands, suggests some pre- and post-walk exercises to derive additional benefit from them.

Because of the extra material in the built-up sole, rockers are heavier than many other kinds of walking/running/fitness footwear, and those extra ounces probably contribute to the weight-loss benefits that Skechers and other makers claim. Skechers proudly points out that the Shape Up is comfortably cushioned and shock-absorbing, but the company does suggest starting with a relatively short 20- 45-minute walking during the break-in period — the walker’s, not the shoes!
I have not tried Skechers, though I did buy a pair of Chung-Shi shoes that I frankly keep forgetting about. When I do remember to wear them, I kind of like them, though I have tended to put them on as I’m going about my daily routine and not specifically when I grab my poles for a fitness walk.

Wendy Bumgardner, who writes about walking for, did try them out and wrote a review. She suggests them as a cross-training shoe, perhaps to be worn every other day. She has this caveat, “I found these shoes to be extremely comfortable right out of the box. The toe box is wide enough for my wide feet. I think these would be great shoes for people who must stand for long periods each day, where cushioning and the slight instability would help prevent fatigue. However, these are heavy shoes, as are the Swiss MBT shoes. They are simply too heavy for me to wear comfortably. With a short stroll, I appreciated the cushioning but felt strain in my knees. I could immediately feel my quads working trying to pick up my feet. Some walkers will like that extra workout. But those of us with any knee, ankle or hip problems may have them stressed in ways we would rather protect them from. I am generally opposed to heavy shoes for this reason.”

When I have walked with them. the Chung-Shis haven’t bothered my hips or knees, but we’re all built differently. Reading more than 100 rave reviews on the Skechers Shape Up page, it seems that other users are ecstatic about them too. A number of them commented on the shoe’s light weight, so one walker’s heavy is another walker’s heaven. Bottom line is that each individual has to decide the benefits for herself. There seem to be five Shape Ups models with overlapping but slightly different purposes (or perhaps simply styling/color variations). They are called Metabolize, Action Packed, Jumpstart, Optimize and Stability. Available women’s sizes 6 to 10 and retailing for $110-$120 including an instructional DVD that may be the same as or similar to the YouTube video, Skechers are definitely the more wallet-friendly way to test the concept than other brands.

I don’t recommend buying footwear by mail, because I think it’s crucial to try shoes on before handing over the plastic. But if you do buy online (especially if you’ve worn Skechers are know how they fit your feet), join the VIP Club to save on shipping and also be alerted to new models and other product news.

Skechers’ Customer Service Department is at 228 Manhattan Beach Boulevard., Manhattan Beach, California 90266; 800-746-3411. Email is