Category Archives: Dept of Misinformation

Department of Misinformation, XIII

A very well-intentioned but error-filled post called “Discover Nordic Walking” has appeared on an ooh-la-la-sounding blog called French Sensations. Writer Jane Smith’s words are in italics, and my attempts to set the record a bit straighter are in Roman type:

“As its name indicates, Nordic walking is an activity that comes from the far north. Developed in Scandinavian countries in the early 70s, this practice was initially limited to cross country skiers.”
Nordic Walking wasn’t developed in “the Scandinavian countries” but in one Scandinavian country (Finland) and more or less simultaneously in one US state (Wisconsin) — and the timeframe was the mid- to late ’80s, not the early ’70s. It spread from Finland and Wisconsin.

The secret of Nordic walking is pretty simple: it lies in the use of two poles, made from carbon fiber that you lean on while walking. This technique allows you to increase the natural balancing movement of your arms.”
Two sentences, three misleading phrases. Poles can be carbonfiber, composite or aluminum or a combination. You don’t lean on the poles but push back on them with every stride. And what is a “natural balancing movement of your arms” supposed to mean?

In terms of cardio-vascular activity, a two-hour Nordic walk is worth a short run.” What?

Nordic walking remains less tiring than running because the use of additional supports to lean on triggers a better oxygenation.”
Nordic Walkers don’t lean on their poles but use them for propulsion and take some of the stress off lower-body joints, but the poles are not “supports.” And what would leaning on anything have to do with oxygenation anyway?

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Department of Misinformation, XII

It’s no wonder that most people still thing that hiking/trekking poles and Nordic Walking poles are identical — those people who think about poles at all that is — when you consider the following announcement from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District near San Francisco (the red highlight is mine):

“Enjoy the benefits of Nordic walking in this beautiful Preserve. You will
burn more calories and reduce stress on your knees and hips using Nordic walking techniques. Bring your hiking poles for this activity…and join us even if you don’t.
Docents Suzanne Schleck and Rebecca Pickart will lead you on these vigorous,
fast-paced, strenuous aerobic (no stopping) treks of varying distances (from 4
to 6 miles) and elevation gains along a variety of scenic trails in a sampling
of preserves. Note: This hike will be approximately 4.7 miles.

“Where to meet:Meet at the Russian Ridge Preserve parking lot on the
northwest corner of the Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) and Page Mill/Alpine Road
intersection (across Skyline Blvd. on the right). Those driving from I-280 on
Page Mill Rd. should allow approximately 35 minutes travel time.”

The Nordic Walking (or whatever) excursion is scheduled for November 30 from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. Even if it’s not pure Nordic Walking, it will be good, vigorous exercise for all who participate.

Department of Misinformation, XI

In an eZine called Easy Fitness and Diet, whose contributors are “expert authors,” an article called “Why I Use Different Color Nordic Walking Poles,” a reprint of an article of the same name on an Israeli Nordic Walking site, contained the following advice about paws:

“The removable shock absorbing rubber paws fit over the metal tips, for use
on hard surfaces such as asphalt and pavements. The paws effectively absorbs the
poles impact when walking on hard surfaces. It is also recommended that you use
the rubber paws on the end of the poles, so there is no danger of damage to the
lawn and pathways. A hard bodied paw is not very good for Nordic walking, in
which more elastic paws are preferred.”

Chaim Golz is Israeli and English therefore is not his first language (or even his first alphabet), so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, languagewise, when it comes to such phrases as “hard bodied paw” or “more elastic paws.” It is likely that the word choice is more accurate in Hebrew, which might have been the original language in which he wrote it. However, no matter what the language, recommending the use of rubber paws in order not to damage a lawn is just plain silly. Grassy surfaces and unpaved paths are precisely when metal taps rather than rubber paws are supposed to be used.

Beyond that, Golz he writes about the kinds of poles he likes (appearing to advocate the simplest of poles) and where he buys poles and replacement paws. He concludes:

“I found out that naturally I am walking with poles when they are not
parallel to my body. The lower part with the rubber paws attached are more
away from my legs than the handles (this helps with the pushing ). This is
causing the rubber paws to be worn out unevenly: more in the part close to
the legs than the parts pointing away from my body. This will cause the paws
to be worn out much faster on one side.

“Now, if I will replace between the left hand pole and the right hand pole,
the paws will each day be worn on a different side. This will equalize the wear
and give a longer life to your Walking Poles-Paws. How will I know which pole
was yesterday in my left hand, and in the right hand ? Of course, by the
different colors of the poles. Another good reason not use Nordic walking poles with
special (left and right) gloves!”

All other issues aside, let’s hand it to him for creativity. That’s one I’ve never read before.

Korea Discovers Nordic Walking

Korea Health & Nordic Walking Association leads the way, promotes the sport

“Anyone for Nordic Walking?” in the English online edition of the Korea Times calls our favorite sport/fitness activity “a more sophisticated method of walking” that is a “trend” in Scandinavia and Japan. The technique description is charmingly translated as follows:

“Straighten up your body. Make your feet parallel as well as the pole to
form the number 11 shape. Push and pull the grip using the strap when moving forward. Do not push it too hard but try to straighten your arms when you pull them backwards. There you can feel the strained muscle. Do not bend your arms when pulling back and breathe with your abs. Try to land from the foot heel when
walking and let the step be around 75 to 80 centimeters. Once you get used to the walking, the step can widen to one meter. Try to walk for at least 40-45 minutes, 2-3 times a week. Walking more than 6 kilometers per session is the most effective.
/ Courtesy of Nordic Walking Association”

I have written tens of thousands (make that hundreds of thousands) of words about Nordic Walking, but I have never thought of the push/pull analogy, though perhaps some instructors or creative technical minds have done so.

The piece does also segue to the Department of Misinformation by explaining, “Unlike ordinary pole walking that originated in the United States that places the poles ahead of the body to help reduce the pain of moving, Nordic walking requires one to push the poles backward, as if walking on a ski slope.”

Reporter Bae J-sook quotes Hong Ki-il, spokesman for the Korea Health & Nordic Walking Association, who explained the full-body workout, the health benefits, the weight loss and the caloric-burn and cardio bonus that are familiar to the Euro-American Nordic Walking community. Hong also alerts new Nordic Walkers that “Just doing it for 15-20 minutes, you will feel some pain in the arm muscles that you were never aware of before. But with regular exercise, you will be able to train your body wholly. Also you can adapt the moves when hiking or even inline skating.”

The article, illustrated with a sequence of technique photographs taken in a stadium (the Olympic stadium perhaps?), indicates that “in Korea, the exercise was introduced relatively recently, but there are various clubs and classes that teach the basic posture. Poles are sold at several online stores.” China, where so many poles of varying degrees of quality are now manufactured, is right next door, but the KNWA is affiliated with Exel. That’s about all I could glean from the website, which is naturally in Korean. I pulled the image (above right) from a page linked from the website and hope that it is for promotional purposes and not copyrighted.

Boulder Newspaper Features Nordic Walking

Paper’s intro flawed, but better than nothing

I’m thrilled that today’s “Fit!” section in the Boulder Camera, my local newspaper, included a cover feature called “Sticking With It: Nordic Walking Amps Up Energy Expenditure.” I have subscribed to the Camera since I moved here nearly 20 years ago and view its attention as positive for Nordic Walking in this area, as evidenced by classes now offered at Broomfield’s Paul Derda Recreation Center, and I hope that Boulder Parks & Rec will eventually do so as well.

I’m sorry, however, that the there some misleading and some missing information is being perpetuated. I’m guessing that the reporter probably used a syndicated McClatchy Newspapers feature on Nordic Walking as part of her research, because the same flaws appear in both. Today’s Camera piece echoed the syndicated article with a big of misinformation, specifically “A walker drags the poles behind himself and then uses them to push off.” Pole dragging is actually a drill used only briefly at the very beginning of the first Nordic Walking class. Then, the pick up their pole tips and plant them in a very specific way. An instructor would correct that, but anyone buying his or own poles could just go on dragging them, uselessly and annoyingly. There is also some crucial missing information for anyone buying his or her own poles. She wrote, that “it’s important to buy adjustable poles,” neglecting to mention that there are two basic types of poles, one-piece and adjustable, each with advantages.

And, of course, I am disappointed that she didn’t find or cite this blog, which is certainly Boulder-based and Colorado-friendly, as well as continental and even global in scope. And not finding this blog, she did not mention my forthcoming book. Sigh!

Department of Misinformation, X

McClatchy Newspapers has syndicated a Nordic Walking article written largely with a question-and-answer format that has appeared in many newspapers throughout the country. The Department of Misinformation part comes from the answer to the question: “How do I use the poles?”

The answer: “It’s a learned skill. You drag the poles behind you and push off with them, the same as in cross-country skiing. Rather than bend your elbows and pump your arms with each step, as in power walking, you reach out straight in front of you, keeping your hands slightly lower than your elbows. The tip of the pole stays behind your body. (Poles come with instructions, and some include a video.) ‘You drag the poles, plant and push off and get a good stride going. Plant and push,’ says Amy Kalb, 34, of Fort Worth, who has been using Nordic walking poles since last fall.”

Nordic Walkers know that dragging poles is an entry-level exercise. This piece does not make the transition from dragging to planting clear. It also relates the position of the pole tip to the body rather than to the feet, which can be difficult for some new Nordic Walkers to visualize.

Department of Misformation, IX

Retired running coach’s useful walking tips unfortunately blurthe line between kinds of poles, misstate NW pole length

The South Bend Tribune ran walking tips from Ron Gunn, retired running coach at Southwestern Michigan College. About Nordic Walking, reporter Joseph Dits said that the coach counsels, “You can try walking with walking poles, or trekking poles as they’re sometimes called. They look like cross-country ski poles, except they hit the ground with flat, rubbery tips that are supported by a small spring action. These are good for supporting weak knees or ankles by stabilizing the body, Gunn says.”

The report continued, “They’re also good for burning extra calories because the arms work more. The poles should come up to your armpits. Alternate planting each one as the opposite foot steps forward. They sell for $40 to $200 per pair at local sporting goods stores.

“By the way, a new sport has evolved out of this called “Nordic walking” or “ski walking,” and you can find out much about it on the Internet. Some health clubs even loan out the walking poles to folks walking a track. Colorado writer Claire Walter has the blog http://nordic-walking-usa.blogspot.com/, with many links, or you can try http://skiwalking.com/.”

Other than erroneously erasing the line between walking and trekking poles and the part about the poles coming up “to your armpits,” it’s nice that Nordic Walking is getting recognition, even from a running coach. And of course, I love the citation of this blog.

Balance Walking?

Yet another name for fitness walking with poles

RunnersWeb.com, a site for runners and triathletes included the following:

“Balance Walking, sometimes referred to as Nordic Pole Walking and
described as cross-country skiing without the skis, exercises the entire body
encouraging an upright posture and balance without placing unnecessary stress on
the muscles, ligaments and tendons. Participants use their arms to push off from
their poles, engaging the entire range of upper-body muscles. The poles relieve
lower body strain and tone the shoulders, arms, and back. The sport, which got
its start 10 years ago in Europe, is enjoyed by more than 4 million people
worldwide. It is just recently gaining popularity in the U.S.

“[Georgia Marathon Winner Alena] Vinitskaya further enhances her Pole
workout by wearing Chung Shi shoes during her workouts. The shoes, exclusively
available at Foot Solutions, have a uniquely patented angled sole that allows the body to stand and walk in a more aligned position. The combination of the Nordic Poles and the Chung Shi shoes increase calorie burning 50 percent over walking or jogging alone.”

I was tempted to add this in my Department of Misinformation category, because the phrase “balance walking” is totally new to me. It might be misinformation, or it might be yet another new brand name. After all, we’ve got Nordic Walking, Exerstriding, Ski Walking, Pole Walking and Nordic Pole Walking, so what’s one more name for essentially the same activity. The most important thing is to get out and do it, whether you’re Alice Average or Alena Vinitskaya.

Department of Misinformation VIII

Two factual errors mar one short Nordic Walking alert in Florida newspaper.

“If Southwest Florida has a hockey team, how much stranger can it be for a cold-weather pastime like Nordic Walking to be a popular sport here?” is the rhetorical lead-in to a short “Things to Do” item announcing an upcoming Nordic Walking workshop in the Fort Myers News-Press. Hockey in Florida indeed seems strange to me to, but even stranger is the mistakes in this very short item.

The unnamed writer of this informational snippet didn’t understand that while Nordic Walking might have its roots in Scandinavia and in the Nordic skiing realm, it started as a summer activity. Then again, I suppose that warm weather in Scandinavia, where Nordic Walking started in Europe, or in the upper Midwest, where fitness walking with poles developed in the US, would be a pleasant winter day in southwest Florida.

The piece goes on to explain, “Nordic Walking — fitness walking with bamboo poles — offers a very efficient aerobic workout. Initiates say it can improve your physical condition regardless of your age or ability.” Bamboo? The shafts of real Nordic Walking poles — the kind that are necessary to learn anywhere near effective technique are made of carbon-fiber or lightweight aluminum, with metal tips, rubber caps or paws to fit over those tips and a decent grip and strap system.

The News-Press did alert readers to a Nordic Walking workshop on March 15, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at North Fort Myers Community Park (2021 North Tamiami Trail, behind the North Fort Myers Library). The workshop costs $28, including poles that are “yours to keep.” I called Libby Olive in Fort Myers to ask about keeper poles at that price. She said that instructor Hilmar Fuchs does provide bamboo poles without straps from Home Depot “just so people can get the idea of Nordic Walking.” IMO, participants will get a very bad idea about Nordic Walking if they use junky, unsuitable poles.

She added that Fuchs, who is contracted to conduct these workshops, himself uses real Nordic Walking poles. I Googled Hilmar Fuchs and found that he has been teaching tai chi in the area for several years. Perhaps he needs to brush up on Nordic Walking before he sets about introducing other people to it.

“Wear tennis shoes and comfy clothes, you will be outdoors,” the paper advises. For information, call Libby Olive at 239-652-6002. Should you wish to register, call 239-533-7275 (registration code: 2008R34017).

Dept of Misinformation VIII

Noted travel “authority” misunderstands Nordic Walking.

I didn’t think I’d come across two items for the Department of Misinformation within just a couple of days of each other, but this is a doozy. In a piece called “What If Your Don’t Ski? Cool Winter Alternatives,” high-profile travel “expert” Peter Greenberg (The Today Show, msnbc.com, etc.), wrote: “At Stoweflake in Stowe, Vermont, up in the Green Mountains, they get back to basics with a nordic walking program — a great outdoor snow activity which works out the entire body. A three night program that includes breakfasts and dinner, some spa activities and the nordic walking program, starts at $1446.” Nordic Walking — a great snow activity. Huh?

Not only did he get Nordic Walking totally turned around seasonally, but he used every negative cliche he could dredge up about skiing itself. I am a long-time skier, even his lead gets my hackles up, “Each year, almost all ski resorts boast the best powder, the best runs, the infamous black diamonds with thrill-seeking turns and extra fast downhill speeds. That’s great if you’re a skier — or you have strange hopes of orthopedic surgery.”

No, folks. “Almost all” ski resorts do not boast about the best powder. A few do, but most boast of their powerful snowmaking systems and best grooming. No, most don’t boast about their infamous black diamonds. Most boast about their outstanding intermediate runs, great learn-to-ski and snowboard programs and excellent family-friendly terrain. What are “thrill-seeking turns.” I didn’t know that a turn could seek anything. The orthopedic surgery line is a cheap shot at snowsport that Greenberg clearly knows nothing about.

Although this blog is primarily about Nordic Walking and secondarily about snowmaking, I am disturbed when someone viewed as such an authority as Peter Greenberg spouts such nonsense — online, in print or in the other. There are other tidbits of misiniformation and false implications as well, but I’ve ranted enough here.