Laying differences aside and picking up poles to advance Nordic Walking
A week ago, I was in Santa Monica, bearing witness to the new cooperation and collegiality among Nordic Walking training organizations, and I’ve been thinking about it (and smiling about it) ever since. Earlier this week, I posted some captioned photos of the Walking & Nordic Walking Health Expo, a public event for members of the public to take their first Nordic Walking steps guided by leading coaches, listen to free lectures and test-drive various brands of poles. I also posted a brief report about goals these leading Nordic Walking educators set in order to stress common interests despite very different backgrounds and somewhat different techniques.
Nordic Walking coaches and trainers came from the US, Canada (both English-speaking provinces and Francophone Quebec) and Australia, and three of the participants (one from Canada and two from the US) are originally from Sweden, so this pioneering event had a distinct international flair. Below from left are Malin Swensson (Nordic Walking USA), Tom Rutlin (Exerstrider) and Suzanne Nottingham (Nordic Walk Now), the trio who spearheaded the event and who gave targeted half-hour lectures to an attentive public on various aspects of Nordic Walking.
Nottingham, who came to Nordic Walking from the fitness world, is aware of the gap between the fitness industry’s ongoing efforts to get Americans off the couch and on the move, she recognizes that the majority of the country’s population is too sedentary, too heavy and often unhealthy. She has been a personal trainer, fitness instructor and program developer, and she believes Nordic Walking to be a practical, approachable way to help people change their lives. She packs a lot of cred. As an award-winning program developer, she hatched Outdoor Cross Training, Winter Sport Training, Adult Play Fitness and Balance Awareness & Conditioning programs and now Nordic Walking. Her personality is ebullient and her enthusiasm inflectious.
Rutlin is a soft-spoken, cerebral innovator who developed his poles and his technique (or perhaps his technique and his poles) in the Midwest in the mid- to late ’80s, thousands of miles from the Scandinavian nexus of classic Nordic Walking. Exertrider poles have no straps and are recommended at a couple of inches longer than other Nordic Walking poles. Exerstriding Nordic Walking Technique uses an unforced, comfortable stride length, a softer heel placement and less heel-to-toe motion during each step. Comparing his technique to classic Nordic Walking, he likens it to a crunch rather than a sit-up.
Svensson is cool and classy. Her roots are mainline Scandinavian and her Nordic Walking USA is derived from the original, classic technique developed in Finland for Exel poles. She worked under the personal instruction of international master coaches Marko Kantaneva and Urs Gerig and became the first INWA Certified Master Trainer in the US. Nordic Walking USA is INWA’s American affiliate organization, and she started Nordic Walking North America to build a bridge to other forms of Nordic Walking in this country.
During this weekend of exposure to the fine points of each others’ techniques and philosphies, these three and other participants learned from each and in dealing with the public, sent a clear, positive and inclusive message that Nordic Walking is outstanding exercise for all, no matter whom one learns from as long as the instructor is qualified — and the qualifications don’t get any greater than those present in Santa Monica who teach newcomers and also train and certify instructors. Very few people looking for basic Nordic Walking instruction have a choice of techniques yet, because there are so few instructors in the US certified in any of them, but the techniques are all sound, and the enthusiasm of the those who teach it and lead recreational groups is palpable.