Category Archives: Finland

World Original Nordic Walking Federation, An Introduction

New (or at least new-to-me) organization based in Finland. Thank you, Facebook, for the introduction

I vowed to myself (and to you too) that I would post more frequently to this blog, and I’ve fallen behind again. I vowed to myself (but maybe not to you) that I would try to focus more of my posts to happenings in North America, even though Europe and the U.K. continue to produce more Nordic Walking news. So much for vows, at least as far as this bloe is concerned. Here goes, after another too-long lapse, with word of yet another new-to-me Nordic Walking organization that began in Europe. I found it on Facebook (where else?), and from a glance it the archive on its website, it appears to have launched in January of this year, making it the new kid on the Nordic Walking block.

I am not clear on how the World Original Nordic Walking Federation fits in with or stands out from the rest of the alphabet soup of Nordic Walking organizations on both sides of the Atlantic. I do know that it is based in Finland, and that it sells products under imprimateur of Marko Kantaneva, the Finn who now lives in Estonia and is generally acknowledged as the father of Nordic Walking. In fact, the MARKO – MARKO KANTANEVA® trademark label seems to have developed to support the federation and further research into and promotion of Nordic Walking.  Or perhaps the Federation was developed to support and promote the brand. Like the chicken and egg, I don’t know which came first.

The ONWF (the initials different in other languages) website has pages dedicated its vision, its values, its “five statements” (which seem to be mission statements), the ONW Club that manages the federations education programs and an org chart.  The website is extensive, as is the Facebook profile.   ONWF believes there are 14 million Nordic Walkers in the world, and it aims to reach 10 percent of them within five years. Take it from there, folks.

The ONWF office adress is Ravikuja 4b A 10, 57710 Savonlinna, Finland; the E-mail addres is, and the phone number is +358 41 707 8916.

Canadian Outdoor Company Closing Out NW Poles

DayTripping, a New Brunswick-based outdoor recreation company that sells and gear and runs programs, is closing out its inventory of Gymstick Nordic Walking poles. If you’re interested, call 506-657-8747 or E-mail for more information. Like Exel, the first Europen brand-name pole, Gymstick is a Finnish company, with fitness products that include walking poles and more. Their products include poles that incorporate bands that make it easy to add resistance training intervals to a walk.

Nordic Walking Community Conjunction

June 12, 2010, was a landmark day in Nordic Walking cooperative efforts

Two significant Nordic Walking events occurred yesterday — not the introduction of a new kind of pole or the unveiling of yet another technique tweak, but one event and news of a new grassroots organization that underscore the commonality of different aspects of the Nordic Walking community. As I often say in conversation with people involved in Nordic Walking, whether instructors/trainers/educators or pole suppliers, I have no horse in this race. I don’t care which technique new Nordic Walkers learn or which poles they use. I have an ardent belief that Nordic Walking presents an opportunity to get outside and that poles add a fitness/cardio/upper body bonus to any walk. This is true for elderly people who gain stability and confidence from using poles to competitive walkers who are capable of marathon distance Nordic Walks and for the big bell curve of Nordic Walkers in between. It encourages me advocates of one particular technique or sellers of one particular pole brand find ways to work together to elevate the entire activity. That happened twice on June 12, 2010.

Nordic Walking Expo

Hyland Park in Bloomington, Minnesota, was the site of the second annual Nordic Walking Expo, an exposition — free and open to the public — to introduce Nordic Walking to a new constituency, to include Nordic Walking enthusiasts in the Twin Cities area and to underscore the social aspects of Nordic Walking as a small-group activity. I was unable to attend this year, but reports are that the weather, which started out clear and dry, unfortunately deteriorated as the day went on, but enthusiasm did not wane among those who stayed.

The Expo was both national and local in nature. Great Lakes Nordic Walkers, formed as a small pod of Twin Cities instructors, planned a local promotion. Nordic Walking North America, a US-Canadian group that started last year and put on the first annual Expo, was seeking a site for the second one. The local event became a national one, using the name Nordic Walking Expo, and the pattern is now established for future events.  NWNA president Malin Swenson and vice president Gary Johnson are already beginning to look at locations for 2011. If you have any suggestions, click here and submit your ideas via the comment form.

Equipment manufacturers and distributors, and Nordic Walking educators were on hand to present workshops and lead Nordic Walking classes. I was unable to attend this year, but I did participate by phone in a debriefing of sorts. I believe it was Suzanne Nottingham, a veteran fitness instructor and founder of Nordic Walking Now, who observed, “People were really smart and asked good questions. It was the first time at an event that people could pull me aside to talk. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Speaking from the local perspective, Linda “Nordic Walking Queen” Lemke, called the Expo a “thrilling event” and was enthusiastic about the presence of national leaders on the Nordic Walking scene. She also went on to describe some of the various programs she is involved with in the Twin Cities. Working with Hoigaard’s, a major outdoor sporting goods retailer, has provided a Lemke with a platform to work from and support for even modest individual outreach efforts. The concepts of some of the programs were fodder for thought among others at the meeting.

I don’t have attendance guesstimates or even any images, but when I receive some that I may share, I’ll do another post.

World Nordic Walking Federation

Also on June 12, the announcement came via the UK-based Nordic Walking eCommunity about a new grassroots organization called the World Nordic Walking Federation. The three well-known names spearheading this effort Marko Kantenev from Finland who first codified what has come to be called European-style Nordic Walking, Mike “Walking Wizard” Gates from Australia and America’s own pioneer, Tom Rutlin who developed Exerstrider poles and the  Exerstrider Method.

These big names from the Nordic Walking world  brainstormed this but Say they are minimally interested in “leading” anything and mostly interested in growing world-wide interest in Nordic Walking as a recreation, fitness and public-health activity.To that end, there will not be a board of directors but rather a board of servers who served the Nordic Walking community. Idealistic, perhaps, but hopefully also effective in bridging the Nordic Walking turf wars that in many ways retard the growth of the activity, especially in this country.There is no website yet, but it will be web-based organization.

The mission statement and other founding principle are as follows (this from the eCommunity site and presumably available for sites like this):


“The mission of the World Nordic Walking Federation is to unite member individuals, organizations and industry partners in educational, research and promotional projects aimed at increasing participation in Nordic Walking and thus creating a critically needed positive impact on public health on every continent around the globe. Our central focus will be on educating, empowering and encouraging people of all ages, abilities and means to enjoy a more active life, and in doing so prevent the onset of many of the epidemic diseases of sedentary living through regular enjoyment of the body, mind and spirit-nurturing benefits of Nordic Walking”. (end of statement)
Since service to the expanding Nordic Walking community is the mission of the WNWF, it is proposed that there be created a Board of Servers (as opposed to Board of Directors). While this board will by necessity help direct the early course of the Federation it is intended that a board consisting of those committed to serving the community would underscore the mission of the Federation on the premise that the power of the Federation is derived from serving the grass roots community. To this end, each Server will be expected to make a pledge to the community, as follows:


“As a member (of the Board of Servers ) of the World Nordic Walking Federation, I pledge to place the organization’s mission of service to the Nordic Walking community ahead of my personal and/or professional goals with a full understanding that a united effort fully committed to serving — rather than exploiting — the Nordic Walking community through the Federation’s stated mission is what is absolutely essential in order to bring about the maximum life-changing public health impact and participation in this fun, healthy, life-enriching physical activity on a global scale”. (end of pledge)

Work is currently ongoing to develop the mechanics of the organisation. A domain name has been allocated and a web site is under construction to serve as the focal point for information. At the same time, this forum will also provide updates on development and will facilitate discussion.

There will surely continue to be bumps in the Nordic Walking road, but I am greatly encouraged by two conduits for cooperation and communication regarding Nordic Walking,

Shore Excursion in Helsinki — With Poles

Cruise passengers up for an energetic Nordic Walk get locals’ perspective on Helsinki

I’ve always thought that cruise vacations and Nordic Walking coule have a symbiotic relationship: work off a bit of the caloric intake with a bit of a workout. Crystal Cruises’ Baltic itineries now include the option of a Nordic Walking shore excursion in Helsinki, capital of Finland where Euopean Nordic Walking was born.

A Nordic Walking Through Helsinki” is a seven-mile, 2 1/2-hour excurion. The guide meets participants right at the cruise ship pier, outfits them with poles, gives a bit of instruction and leads a bit of warmup and then, according to the description:

“Your approximately seven-mile walk will take you into the heart of
Helsinki, using mainly dedicated walking paths. Stride past a marina and
residential area before picking up the pace along the scenic traffic-free
waterfront that leads to Helsinki’s main city beach, Hietaranta.

“After taking a minute to rest, follow your guide through the recreational
area of Hesperia Park to the waterfront of Töölö Bay. Take in wonderful views of
the Helsinki skyline, enjoy a close-up look at the new Opera House and admire
the decorative wooden villas dating from the 19th century. Glimpse Finlandia
Hall, the National Museum, the Parliament and the Contemporary Art Museum in the distance as you enter the downtown area and wind down your Nordic walk.”

The caveats include: “The distance covered is dependent on the fitness and speed of the participants. There is no minimum age requirement. However, children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent. Guests must be a minimum of 4’9″ feet tall to participate. It is recommended that guests wear comfortable clothing and footwear intended for fitness activities. Nordic walking poles will be provided. This tour will operate in all weather conditions.”

It is possible to return to the pier by shuttle bus or spend a bit of time in town. The Nordic Walkling shore excursion costs $75.

August 9 addendum: Two days ago, I posted information about this Helsinki shore excursion. Today, I read a post about exactly that excursion on a blog called Jigsaw Travel Journal written by a couple from Oregon. Part of what blogger Claudia, a piano teacher and grandmother of eight, wrote:

“…We are taught the technique for using the nordic walking poles.
They are very lightweight but strong because they are made of carbon fiber.
Their use definitely makes a big difference – the whole upper body, shoulders,
triceps, abs are all affected. Your breathing changes and your stride gets
longer but you don’t feel the change in stride.Seven miles is a long way, but we
stop several times during the walk to talk about the area of the city we are in,
the buildings, the history, future community plans, and even discuss the
economics of the country. We have a great guide….

“…I was worried that I might have trouble doing seven miles. I
was actually the one who was the most capable. I was up front most of the time
and only dropped back so someone could stay next to the instructor. They would
just as soon have me up front. I didn’t mind; it gave me more time to chat with
the guide about all sorts of topics – Finland, economics, power (wind in the
west, water in the north, coal in the south, and their movement toward nuclear),
urban renewal, nordic walking history and popularity. When we finished I wasn’t
even winded and felt I could have done another seven miles without needing to
stop. It was great exercise.”

Exel Brand Sold to Nordic Ski Firm

Pioneering pole brand remains in Finnish hands

In a major Finnish business development, the Exel Group has sold what some reports call “its troubled outdoor sports division” to Karhu Sports, a major presence in cross-country skiing equipment. Exel makes poles for trekking, Nordic walking and blading, and for Alpine and Nordic skiing, so the fit is a good one. In fact, it made and marketed the original Nordic Walking pole and was key to growing the sport. The company hired Marko Kantaneva to develop and codify Nordic Walking technique in Europe — and in fact, even introduced the name “Nordic Walking.”

An Exel press release stated: “Karhu Sports, one of the leading Finnish sports equipment manufacturers, will take over the outdoor business, acquire the inventory and order backlog related to the outdoor business through an asset deal. Karhu Sports has a strategic interest in developing the business. The transaction also includes a long-term licensing agreement related to the use of the Exel brand together with other brands such as Nordic Walker and Nordic Blader for selected product groups.”

It is not clear what, if anything, this will mean for Nordic Walking and Nordic Walkers on this side of the pond. Karhu USA once distributed Exel products in this country, but Alpina Sports has been doing so since the first of this year.

Exel’s core business is light and corrosion-free carbon and fiberglass reinforced composites that are used not just for Nordic Walking and other sports poles but as masts and tubes in industrial applications. The sales price was not disclosed. A British trade magazine that covers the plastics and rubber industries reported that the sale “will see Exel write down €7m in its 2008 accounts, taking the business into the red for the year. It is a setback for the company, which was a pioneer in these fields.” Even though the pole division was reportedly operating at a loss, Exel was hardly on the financial ropes, with 2007 sales of €113 million and a €4.2 million profit.

Visiting Finland: Where Europe’s Nordic Walking Craze Began

Given the fact that I am a travel writer, I probably should have posted information earlier this year about Nordic Walking opportunities in Finland, Europe’s first center of fitness walking with poles. But I subscribe to the better-late-in-2007-than-never-in-2007 theory. There’s also the reality that since the dollar is on the skids now, anyone planning a 2008 European vacation might want to start saving and planning now. Therefore, I present the following programs, all of which are also conducted in English, as assembled by the Finnish Tourist Board:

If Helsinki is your destination and you want to Nordic Walk where it started, check out the year-round program put on by a local company called See Finland that caters to incentive groups and VIP individual travelers. The 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-hour program costs 130 Euros for a minimum of four participants, including poles, beverage and snack.

Other destinations are in Lapland in northern Finland and are therefore summer Nordic Walking destinations. The new Ylläs Nordic Walking Park near the traditional Lappish village Äkäslompolo in the fells forest offers varying terrain. It is accessed from Lapland Hotels Ylläskaltio, which this past season offered a Nordic Walking package with lodging, meals, poles and sauna access for 34.50 Euros nightly per person. A three-hour introductory course cost 39 Euros, including equipment. last year.

Elsewhere in Lapland, the Levi Ski Resort near the town of Sirkka provides daily 1 1/2-hour introductory classes. the cost in 2007 was 36 Euros, including instruction, poles and what is described as a “wriststop computer.” The Finns are high-tech people, so I’m wondering whether it’s a heart-rate monitor , a stopwatch or some kind pedometer worn on the wrist — or something else entirely. The ski resort also conducts 1 1/2 guided Nordic Walks through a nearby reindeer preserve. The regular routes are 2.8 or 3.4 kilometers, ending at the top terminal of the resort’s gondola with views toward fells Aakenustunturi, Kätkätunturi and Yllästunturi, followed by a lift ride down. An optional 10.1-kilometer walk can be requested. The 40 Euro price includes guide, admission fees and use of equipment; rental can be extended after the Nordic Walking hikes.

Located in the northerly town of Rukatunturi, Ruka Safaris gives a one-hour leg stretcher for just 10 Euros per person. Primarily designed as an add-on activity to meetings, it also works for anyone who happens to be the region.

Some would say that if you’re traveling to Lapland, you ought to make it worthwhile and tarry a week. The Hotel Jeris in Munoio has an eight-day package incorporating Nordic and such other activities as . It includes Kittilä Airport transfers, lodging, meals, canoeing, biking, hiking and visiting PallasYlläs National Park and the Arctic Sleddog Centre. Price in 2007 was 995 Euros per person.

Finland Celebrates Nordic Walking’s 10th Anniversary

Although the roots of what would become Nordic Walking can be traced back to cross-country ski racers’ inventiveness in the 1930s, and although it is still in its infancy in North America, Finland has set 1997 as the birth of the fitness activity as we know it. According to a report in Helsingin Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper, there was even a birthday celebration yesterday.

“The tenth anniversary of the outdoor activity pioneered in Finland and known as ‘Nordic walking’ was celebrated at the Paloheinä recreational area in the north of Helsinki on Sunday…A group braved the rain to mark ten years of organised Nordic walking at Paloheinä. The Finnish outdoor recreation association Suomen Latu estimates that 720,000 Finns regularly practice Nordic walking. Last year 1.5 million Finns tried it at least once. The group has organised collective Nordic walking events Tuesdays and Sundays for ten years. At first there were about 300 people taking part in the [twice-weekly] events [at Paloheinä]. It has since tapered off to about 50….The first public event was organised by Suomen Latu in 1988. However, it did not take wind at that time.”

I have no idea why it took so long from the first organized event until the first one was actually held, but it would thrill most Nordic Walking leaders in the US if 50 people showed up for a group walk. The concept of “tapering off” is still in the realm of fantasy here.

Nordic Walking: An Alternate History

I had previously read that what is now Nordic Walking began as a dryland training regimen for Finnish cross-country ski racers. Now, the international edition of a Finnish newspaper called Helsingen Sanomat presents another story of the sport’s origins. The paper’s English edition ran an article called “When Finland ‘Nordic Walked’ Its Way Onto the World Map”. It traces Nordic Walking to January 1988 as an ad hoc part of a tribute to Finnish sports legend, one Professor Lauri “TahkoPihkala. The good professor’s accomplishments included competing in the discus at the 1908 Olympics, inventing several sports including Finnish-rules summer baseball (called pesäpallo) and founding the nation’s sports institute. He also was an ardent proponent of cross-country skiing — as befits a Finn.

Because Pihkala was born in January, the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of his birth was to feature cross-country skiing. The plan was for a ski procession from the Manula ski lodge in a park in the middle of Helsinki to the Olympic stadium, built for the 1952 Winter Olympics. Problem was that in 1988, as in 2007, there just was not a lot of snow on the ground.

Tuomo Jantunen, executive director of the national federation for sports and recreation, decided to haul a load of cross-country poles to Manula anyway. The skiers grabbed the poles and strode down the procession’s route., where a statue commissioned by the Tahko Pihkala Assocation statue (right) was unveiled. It stands atop a pedestal with Pihkala’s name, date of birth and death, and the quote: “Urheilun avulla kansamme parhaaksi.” (“With sport for the best of our people.”).

The paper noted, “The Nordic Walking pioneers recognised pretty soon that they had invented an exercise discipline that was eminently well suited to the autumn and to the snow-starved winters of Southern Finland.

“Nordic Walking found a potent lobby-group in the country’s sports institutes, who advocated heavily on its behalf. However, the real breakthrough only came when technology and business caught up, and when Exel — a leading player in the manufacturing and development of carbon composite poles for alpine skiers and the cross-country crowd — came up with specialised poles just for this fitness sport. “

The article concluded with a startling statistic about participation in Nordic Walking, citing participation in what it calls “the Nordic Walking superpowers”: Germany (2.7 million), Finland (1.5 million), Austria (900,000), Switzerland (500,000), Norway (400,000), and Holland, Sweden, and Denmark (300,000 each).