I belong to a wonderful UK-based cyber-community called eCommunity Nordic Walking I read the posts to keep up with news and concerns of Nordic Walkers, especially newbies, and participate less often than I’d like. In the last few days, there have again been posts from new Nordic Walkers who are afraid to get started, fearing that they have the “wrong” equipment or the “improper” technique. Here’s a paraphrase of what I posted there:
Before they even start, some people seem to get so hung up on the “right”technique and the “best” equipment that they don’t dare take their poles out of the house. Don’t be one of them. For most people, under most circumstances, Nordic Walking can be a fairly simple activity with fairly simple equipment. Get a good pair of shoes that fit right and are suitable for the weather where you live. The best choices (but not the only choices) are Nordic Walking shoes, walking shoes or trail-running shoes. Get a pair of poles (one-piece or adjustable) that feel comfortable in your hand and are within your budget — and, if one-piece, are the right length for your height.
Take a workshop or class if available (check with your local sporting goods or running store, YMCA/YWCA, hospital wellness/rehab program, rec center, adult education program or, if you are of an age, senior center). If you do sign up for a class, the instructor or coach will guide you through those first steps, including what, according to his or her training is, the angle of your elbow, the placement of the pole tip where it touches the ground, whether to open your hand on the backswing and if so, when to do so, and all sorts of other minutiae. If you can’t find a class, wing it. It’s better than leaving your poles inside. So watch a DVD and try to emulate it. Get a trainer, friend or partner with some fitness/PE/sports savvy to compare what you are doing with what the pro on the DVD is doing.
The basics are rather intuitive. Follow the (usually illustrated) instructions that came with your poles to hold them effectively. Avoid clamping your hands around the pole handles in a death grip, but hold them loosely and comfortably. Start walking, moving your arms and legs in opposition (right arm/left leg, left arm/right leg), just as in regular walking. Place each pole tip on the ground somewhere on a line between the heel of your forward foot and the toe of your back foot. Press down and back on the pole lightly as you “move through” the step. As you gain confidence, lengthen your stride, pick up the pace and put more pressure on the pole. For some people, this confidence comes in a few minutes, for some in a few hours and for some only after a number of walks.
Then, if you choose, you can go beyond that. Refine your technique by reading an instructional book, revisiting instructional DVDs or looking harder for an instructor — perhaps taking a vacation or weekend escape someplace with a Nordic Walking program. As you progress, tweak your equipment if you wish. Get some advanced training. Join a group. Start a group.
Once you gotten into the Nordic Walking habit, you will find yourself striding along, enjoying the feeling of freedom and reveling in the knowledge that you are doing something good for yourself, even if you aren’t using the”best” poles, the most prestigious footwear brand or using the most flawless technique. After all, Nordic Walking for health, wellness and pleasure is not a figure skating, diving or gymnastics competition. No one is going to mark you down for technical flaws. No one is going to be concerned with which model of which brand pole you are using, or what the logo on your footwear is.
Unless you are out to become a certified instructor or serious race competitor, don’t get so hung up on the minutiae that you are reluctant to begin Nordic walking and so worried about the details that you can’t enjoy the activity.