Category Archives: Participation

9-Day Walking Festival in England

The Brits really get the benefits and pleasures of walking (“tramping” as they call it in the country), and walking with poles is part of the picture. Here’s what the Staffordshire newsletter writes about its upcoming walking festival. Staffordshire is in the West Midlands, the largest nearby city being Birmingham. The photo below is also from the borough’s newsletter story.

Stafford Borough Walking Festival returns for its sixth year on Saturday, May 2, and runs until Sunday, May 10.

More than 30 activities will be running at locations including the Trentham Estate, Izaak Walton Cottage, Shugborough Hall and Doxey Marshes. There will also be fun family events linked to walks, such as a treasure hunt in Stafford town centre, a fairy hunt in Victoria Park and picnics at the Trentham Monkey Forest.

Anyone interested in taking up a new way of walking is invited to try out Nordic walking, a whole body exercise using specially designed poles. Instructor Gareth Davies will be running taster sessions at Rowley Park each day and borough residents who want to do more Nordic Walking, and normally exercise for less than 150 minutes a week, can sign up to a 10 week course for just £20.



Pole Walkers on My Street

NordicWalkingI haven’t added any posts in months, because I wasn’t seeing a lot of traffic — or a lot of interest in Nordic Walking. I was encouraged this morning. When I popped outside to pick up my newspapers, I saw a couple striding up the street at a good clip — poles in hands. I was still wearing my nightshirt, so I didn’t trot after them to talk to them. Also, they were behind parked cars, so I couldn’t tell what kind of poles they were using. But the very sight of them encouraged me enough to post this, to approve some comments left since I last checked and to be more conscientious about posting now and then.

147 Nordic Walkers in the Birkie Trek

Great Lakes Nordic Walkers reported that 147 Nordic Walkers participated in last weekend’s fourth annual BirkiTrail Run & e Trek in Wisconsin. The Trail run is a marathon, while the Trek is a half-marathon that welcomes Nordic Walkers. The organizers describe it thus: “The Birkie Trek is a “Nordic walking” event where use of poles is suggested. The Trek is a non-competitive, un-timed walk on the beautiful American Birkebeiner Trail. The Trail, used in the Winter for the American Birkebeiner Cross-Country Ski Marathon, is mowed, relatively smooth, but hilly and challenging.” The Birkie Trek remains on my bucket list, but this time, I was in Connecticut while it was going on. Below is an image from the Great Lakes Nordic Walkers blog.


WordPrss isn’t letting me embed links in my posts on this blog. The URL for the post is The Birkebeiner website is at

Forest Versus Trees

Considering what really matters in fitness walking with poles

I have been following the impassioned and yet dispiriting discussion on the UK-based Nordic Walking eCommunity about whether Pacer Poles with their unconventional grips can be considered Nordic Walking poles in the broadest sense of the term. Click here if you care to slog through the discussion on the topic, “Is There A Place For Pacerpoling on a – Nordic Walking – Forum?”

I read through long discourses on why Pacer Poles belong or don’t belong, a divisive thread that seems to pit purists versus globalists. I read the tangential discussion about whether the Pacer Pole people play well with others, which is totally irrelevant to an individual who wants to gain fitness by walking with specially designed poles.

Against this background, I was heartened to read a post by a Canadian blogger named Deborah who writes “The Unbearable Lightness of Becoming.” I don’t know her last name, nor do I care. She describes herself as “a 41 year old female living in the beautiful province of New Brunswick.” She has been trying to lose weight and also seems to be a fairly new Nordic Walker who just completed half-marathon. She wrote a post titled “I choose Not to run! But I will Nordic Walk” that continued, “Which is exactly what I did do this past Sunday for a half-marathon. I am proud of myself for seeing this through because I am a great one for starting something and giving up half-way through. It was a tough ten weeks. Today I hurt in places I did not know I even had but it is worth it.”

She didn’t write about which poles she uses or even whether they are one-piece or adjustable, which shoes she wears, which technique she practices and whether it is biomechanically correct. She wrote about setting a goal and accomplishing it, feeling proud and strong. Her enthusiasm for walking with poles is palpable. And that, IMHO, is what everyone in the small community and smaller “industry” should be focusing on.

Exerstrider founder Tom Rutlin, who himself was long considered an outsider and renegade by the orthodox Nordic Walking community, wrote on the eCommunity thread, “Pole walking in just about any form trumps ordinary bipedal walking (for health benefits, enjoyment and motivation). Let’s all  finally all begin to concentrate far more on getting more people to ‘taste’ this wonderful healthy activity which just happens to come in a number of flavors’ — all of which would likely to be equally tasty to those without prejudiced minds, not to mention the kind of fear and confusion arising from the endless technique and equipment debates which have too long obscured to the outside world’ the simple fact that ‘Walking with poles is great!’.” Amen.

A Note from Nancy Trock

Informal guest post from Illinois trainer

I haven’t formally put any guest posts on this blog — mainly because no one has ever offered to write one. In a post about upcoming US Nordic Walking programs last week, I mentioned Illionois trainer Nancy Trock’s June program. The information I gleaned online was sketchy, but I sent her a link to the post anyway. I received an extensive and complimentuary) message. I asked her whether I could post it as a comment (she gave me permission), but instead of a comment, I’m taking the liberty of presenting it like a guest post. I think I’ll do that more often — though or course, I welcome — no, crave — comments to my posts. Here are Nancy’s words, including material quoted from her own newsletter:

“Nancy Trock here. You mentioned that I teach Nordic Walking in Oak Park, IL and I wanted to thank you for that mention!

“I appreciate that you don’t affiliate with any particular method and though I did learn Nordic walking with Malin Svensson I have always learned that there is something of value to be gained from all sources AND thank goodness there are different strokes for different folks…

“As an activity activist, I like to get people moving and especially outdoors. Being a personal trainer (martial arts background), I believe in building strengths and overcoming weaknesses. As a degreed industrial designer, I favor the Exel poles (as of 2009).

“That said, the following FLASHES! are excerpted from my recent newsletter:

“N O R D I C W A L K I N G F L A S H !!!

“Nordic Walking is modeled after cross-country skiing and offers benefits beyond the quantum boost calorie burn. Nordic walking is a low-impact aerobic activity that strengthens the upper body…improves posture…minimizes back and leg strain…relieves tension in the neck and shoulders…and it’s fun. You can take to the pavement, trails, grass, sand or snow. One-piece Nordic walking poles are safest, and good quality poles make all the difference (huge hint: take a pass on cheap poles from big box stores).

“F L A S H !!!

I am a certified Nordic Walking instructor and have introduced several hundred folks to this sport since 2007. Would you like to experience a fitting with Exel wound carbon poles and proper walking technique in just 75 minutes for $35? Yes? Please schedule an introductory Clinic. What have you got to lose? If you wish to purchase poles with the Clinic, they are $100 (no tax or shipping) and worth every penny (lifetime guarantee).

Once you have learned the basics of Nordic walking, you may wish to join the group workouts or go off on your own adventures…

“F L A S H !!!

“Group Nordic walking classes go April through November.

“You must have taken at least one lesson. Bring your poles or arrange to rent.

“The group Nordic Walking workouts usually travel 2 to 2.5 miles (after about 5 minutes of warm-up). As you know, Oak Park is a fantastic architectural museum and Nordic walking is the multi-taskers’ dream come true: socialize, exercise, and tour the ‘hood! The group stays together and we add pole-assisted exercises and stretches along the way, then conclude with cool-down stretches.

“Tuesday 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. group meets at the main Oak Park Library on Lake Street at Oak Park Avenue

“Saturday 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. group meets at The Pleasant Home (Mills Park) at Pleasant and Home in Oak Park

“10-class pass $100 (good for 3 months)

“Drop-In single class $12

“Thank you again, Claire. Your history is very impressively accomplished and I appreciate knowing of your presence.”

Thank you Nancy. Stay in touch, and the rest of you, let me hear from you too!

Hesitant Steps in Riverside and San Diego

Los Angeles exurb dips a toe and a pole tip into Nordic Walking. San Diego too

The good news is that a free Nordic Walking demonstration has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 31, at the University of California, Riverside. The caveat is that in this city of some 300,000 residents and a campus enrollment of 17,000, this demo is part of UCR’s Work/Life and Wellness classes and is therefore intended only for faculty and staff. The course is described as a “provide a new approach to walking . By adding Nordic walking poles to walking, you are able to get a more effective workout with minimal effort.” New? Not exactly. Minimal effort? Not exactly either.


To offer this class, UC Riverside has partnered with Nordic Walking America, whose Ron Brogdon and Newell Whitfield describe themselves as “San Diego’s first certified Nordic Walking Instructors.”  Last summer, Brogdon and Whitfield offered a series of classes at the University of California San Diego. Their website shows photos of a very small group of participants, and nothing appears on the calendar after August 2009. San Diego is a far larger city (1.5 million +/-) and UCSD is a far larger campus (22,500 students). I hope that response at UCR is greater than at UCSD — or maybe that they are so busy teaching that they’ve let the class schedule on their site fall way out of date.


Meanwhile back to Riverside, the Parks and Recreation Department offers a “diverse range of classes/activities created for all ages!” Exclamation point aside, you have to register online before you can even check out their course list, so I can’t tell whether Nordic Walking is among them. All I know is that the Riverside Foot Solutions store sells poles and, of course, all sorts or shoes, orthotics and socks, but there is no indication that they also offer demos or classes.

I suppose I should be doing nothing but boasting about the growing enthusiasm for Nordic Walking in the US. While it has gained more attention, and while a number of good people are working hard to grow the activity, the fact that so many sources describe it as “new” indicates how below-the-American-radar Nordic Walking is still flying. The sorry reality is that it remains that way. Perhaps my opinion is colored by what coninues to happen across the Atlantic. I can’t help but compare the acceptance of and encouragement for Nordic Walking in these southern California cities that are so proud of their year-round benign climate with that of Ehingen, Germany, that I wrote about yesterday.


Top Walking Trends of the Decade

Nordic Walking makes a “trends” list, but with reservations

Wendy Bumgardner, who writes about walking for, cited Nordic Walking as one of the top walking trends of the decade, but with a disclaimer. “Nordic walking – walking with fitness walking poles – is big news and big business in Europe,” she wrote. “Trails, resorts, and vacation packages are being built for nordic walking. I walked on dedicated nordic walking trails in the Alps where you could check out a timing chip and record your time. In the USA, small steps forward were taken as the Portland Marathon added a Nordic Walking division to their 10K Mayor’s Walk, but few joined in.” Sigh.

Five other trends that she mentioned: pedometers (I use one), marathons and half-marathons (I haven’t done anything longer than 10K), GPS and mapping (including, computer-linked pedometers and online wellness programs (New Year’s resolution, maybe) and research supports walking and other moderate exercise for health and fitness.

International Fitness Week, February 1-7, 2010

Good idea, but no North American and not always Nordic Walking

International Fitness Week is scheduled for February 1-7, 2010, and while it is multi-national, it is hardly global. Promoted by Fitness First, a consortium of 540 health clubs in 17 countries, its goal is stated as, “We want to make the world a fitter place and inspire you to make a change to lead a healthier lifestyle. Anyone can get involved with free gym passes, taster sessions, health checks and advice from the experts.” Its real goal, of course, is drumming up business for those 540 clubs.

The information is different from country to country. The UK page includes a multiple-choice question asking what fitness item people would want from Santa Claus. It lists everything from celebrity fitness DVDs to an at-home smoothie maker, but no Nordic Walking poles. Not surprisingly, the German section includes a search function that comes up with 30 Nordic Walking opportunities. The United States and Canada are not among the countries with Fitness First affiliates (Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore, as well as the UK and several other Asian and European countries).

I really am happy every time health, fitness and wellness being promoted, and I’m every happier when Nordic Walking is one of the options, even if North America does not seem to be poised to celebrate International Fitness Week,

Promoting Nordic Walking Two Poles at a Time

Grassroots efforts can spur the growth of Nordic Walking

In her blog, Twin Cities Nordic Walk This Way’s energetic Rhea Kontos wrote: “The [Minneapolis] Star Tribune reported that Dakota County Parks, Lebanon Hills, is having an open meeting to solicit ideas from the public on the best ways to spend some funding to improve the park. Meeting is Tues, Nov 24 from 5-8pm @ 860 Cliff Road in Eagan. Is it time for some Nordic Walking poles to be available for rent? Have any other great ideas?” She included a link to the county parks site and even provided the phone number for a person to contact for information — or perhaps make a suggestion. She is setting a great example by getting the word out with a reasonable suggestion that can be impactful in her area.

The Lebanon Hills visitor center (right) at the 2,000-acre natural park laced with summer and winter trails already seasonally rents cross-country skis, snowshoes and kayaks and offers free loaner fishing equipment. So why not Nordic Walking poles?

Rhea’s pro-activity in this realm makes me think that pro-activity by individuals — individual instructors, usually — in their own communities is causing Nordic Walking to inch forward in gaining general acceptance as an easy-to-learn, easy-on-the-wallet route to better health and increased fitness. We who love Nordic Walking know this, but without the corporate muscle of a committed manufacturer or deep-pocketed Nordic Walking sponsor, it’s a tough row to hoe. LEKI gave it a good shot, supporting programs, hiring a New York public relations agency and training individuals to teach Nordic Walking or lead Nordic Walking groups. They’ve pulled back significantly, and no other large entity has stepped in, so it is left to passionate Nordic Walkers like Rhea to promote and cajole within their own communities.

My Nordic Walking Wish List

Encouraging the growth of Nordic Walking takes cooperation as well as creativity

Earlier this week, I participated in a telephone conference with an ad hoc steering committee for Nordic Walking North America, established to disseminate information about Nordic Walking and promote it. Even it if had a budget, this would be a real challenge. With a very small pie (thus far), few training organizations, instructors or equipment suppliers appear eager to share. Feel free to jump all over me if you want to, but please do note that I wrote “few,” not “no.” I truly believe that NWNA is trying to make a breakthrough and has taken the first important step in this country to baking a bigger pie.

I’ve also had communications from frustrated people who were looking for information on Nordic Walking and found me, and from instructors and trainers who are individually trying to grow the sport in their own areas. One of the most ambitious resources that NWNA can provide is a national, searchable list, by geography, of local instructors, regardless of which training organization they went through. Creating such a list is daunting, and includes such issues as privacy. Individual instructors will probably have to be pro-active in supplying information or at least opt in. Some observers do not believe that all training organizations will be eager to provide their lists as a starting point. As one nationally known trainer said, “They all want to know what’s in it for them.”

Here’s my very personal wish list for Nordic Walking, which I ardently hope will gain traction, grow and thrive:

  • I wish that all training entities and individual instructors could think beyond what is immediately in it for them.
  • I wish that people in the competitive little community of Nordic Walking would recognize that a rising tide lifts all ships.
  • I wish that they could understand that everyone who walks with any kind of poles for any purpose using any technique and is enthusiastic about ultimately, if indirectly, benefits everyone.
  • I wish that an individual somewhere who wants to start Nordic Walking and is looking for information on how to go about it can find pathways, rather than roadblocks.

What are your wishes for Nordic Walking — and do you have any ideas of how to best go about it?