Category Archives: Cautions

Nordic Walking After Heart Surgery

Nordic Walker notes that clicking poles are in sync with the clicking of new mechanical heart valve

Under the subject line, “The Long Road Back,” Iain Leiper, a Nordic Walking stalwart from the UK, recently told other NW enthusiasts about an unexpected medical adventure (and permitted me to share his story here): 

“I’ve probably never been so appreciative of Nordic Walking and the range and scope of its ability to bring an individual back to fitness as I am right now. Seven days ago I underwent heart surgery having being diagnosed with what is known as a bicuspid aortic valve (apparently a birth defect which has only manifested itself in the last few months).

“For those who know me this was a severe body blow — it had never affected me during my time as a Marine Commando nor in my time thereafter when I undertook various types of Ironman events such as 70 Wild Miles. However what I did know for sure was that at 49 years of age suddenly any kind of exertion was out of the question. This has been the status quo for nearly 6 frustrating months.

“As I start my journey back to fitness however I know Nordic Walking is ideally suited for such a purpose – providing physical support by way of the poles and the option to undertake fairly gentle exertion at first without any particular strain on any part of my physique, with the option to gradually up the exertion level considerably as fitness increases.

“How I have longed during these 6 months to grab my poles and get out there and now at long long lasty the moment is upon me ! However the tick tick ticck of my poles has a new competitor to vouch with for the breaking of silence…the click click click of my new mechanical aortic valve !!!

“Walk Well, Iain”

Tom Rutlin, who developed Exerstrider poles and created the Exerstride Method of fitness walking with poles, responded with encouragement and this caution:

“I know that your indomitable spirit along with some regular, moderate, good use, Nordic walking will have you back living life to the fullest soon. As far as gradually upping the exertion level considerably, I’ll just suggest that life should never be looked at as being a race. More intensity is not necessarily better for your health and longevity. Life is not a race, it’s an endurance event, and my goal is to finish as far back in the pack as possible – while enjoying optimal functional health and every stride along the way!  Wishing you a short road back, Tom”

Distance Walkers Can Take Tips for Marathon Running

Runner’s advice to other runners useful for Nordic Walkers too

Steve Regenold, an authoritative writer about outdoor gear and a veteran of eight marathons, posted an article called “Marathon Running: 12 Unorthodox Tips” on “The Gear Junkie.” Many translate directly for long-distance walking competitions too. Since running and walking are both footraces, many of his experiences and tips apply to distance events for Nordic Walkers.

Examples? “I wear shoes about one size too large when I run. You can lace them tight enough to always feel like they fit fine. But the larger size allows your toes ample room to spread out and breathe. Your feet will swell after many miles on the run, so the extra room is needed.” Or “Beyond lube for my feet [which was also one of his tips] , I always slather some kind of lubricant under my arms and in my shorts. These natural hot spots, where arms swish repeatedly for hours and legs rub together, are potential places of pain. Avoid a bad rub by coating your skin with a thick layer of lube.”

Medications & Heat-Related Problems

I recently posted an item about about the signs of three heat-related conditions that can be brought on by exercising in hot weather. Richard Harkness wrote a piece published by Mississippi’s Sun-Herald called “Some Drugs Can Cause Overheating.” The writer, a consultant pharmacist, natural medicines specialist and author, provided further cautions when exercising in summer’s heat.

“Hot weather can cause the body to overheat, called hyperthermia. The evaporation of sweat is the body’s primary way of cooling off. Numerous medications impair the body’s ability to sweat and so boost the risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke, conditions covered in a recent column.
The chief culprits are drugs with anticholinergic effects, including antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, anti-Parkinson’s disease agents, anti-nausea/motion sickness agents, anti-diarrheal agents, antispasmodic agents, anti-asthma drugs and antiarrhythmic heart drugs,” he wrote.

The piece includes a list of drugs by generic names that are reason to heed the caution flag in summer.

Hot Weather Exercise Alert

Threat of hyperthermia, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke require summertime caution

Yesterday in Boulder, CO (elevation about 5,400 feet), temperatures spiked to 96 degrees. Boston hit 88; Atlanta and Washington DC, 89; Wilmington, DE; at 90; St. Louis and Little Rock, 93 (probably all with humidity match). Humidity was not a problem in Albuquerque, 89; Santa Fe, 90; Las Vegas, 99; or Phoenix, 104, but even so, that’s hot.

I go on a two-mile Nordic Walk every morning at 7:00, when it is still cool, but some people like to go out later in the day. In fact, some experts think that morning is not the best time to exercise. The Boulder Camera runs a health Q&A column from the Washington Post, and yesterday’s advice was, “After fasting all night and lying in one position, that’s ‘like asking your body to behave like a sports car without putting any gas in the tank, says Jonathan Ross of Aion Fitness, in Bowie, MD.”

If you do your walking in the heat of mid-day or late afternoon, be aware of the following heat-related problems:

  • Hyperthermia (overheating) – Perspiration is nature’s way of cooling the body, so it is important to replace the fluids that are lost to prevent dehydration. Keep drinking — and do so before you are thirsty. The need to replenish fluids before thirst sets in increases with age. Also remember that high humidity slow the evaporation of perspiration.
  • Heat cramp – Profuse perspiration can leach salt from the body causing a muscle spasm in the leg during or after intense exertion that can painful enough to be temporarily disabling. This is the time to consider a sports drink (Gatorade was the pioneer, but there are others), which replenishes electrolytes. Water and a salty snack is also an option. Think Saltines not potato chips, because it is better not to consume fatty foods at that time.
  • Heat exhaustion (or heat prostration or heat collapse) – Physiologically, this condition manifests itself with cool, sweaty skin; low blood pressure and perhaps dizziness, muscle weakness, nausea, headache or fatigue — even though the body temperature may be normal. Shade or other cool place and a replenishing sports drink help the body return to normal before heat stroke sets in
  • Heat stroke (sun stroke) – This is actually as much of a potentially life-threatening condition as severe hypothermia in winter. Heat stroke is similar to an extremely high fever. Soaring core temperature can defy the ability of sweating to mitigate it. The skin becomes dry, hot and perhaps red. Headache, numbness or tingling, rapid pulse and breathing are the first physical symptoms. Confusion, delirium and even loss of consciousness can follow. If a companion suffers from heat stroke (and this is a reason why it is advisable to exercise with a buddy in high-heat times), call 911 and then try to apply cool water or, if available ice, to wrists, neck, armpits or groin areas until emergency help arrives.

I don’t mean to be alarmist, but with temperatures hovering around the century mark, it is way better to know the signs and not to need them than to mistake a serious condition for a less serious one.