I don’t call Hatfield “crazy.” Au contraire, I call him smart for setting a good example. He also reported that participants “were already noticing the positive effects of improved body posture (neck and shoulder pain disappearing and improved posture while sitting and standing) and of course the ease of walking with the poles since many had knee, foot and hip conditions that they had acquired over the years.”
Her latest post shines the spotlight on Nordic Walking. In fact, she is currently conducting an online poll to gauge her readers’ interest in Nordic Walking. So far, the poll has logged 34 responses. Of those, the highest number (12) clicked on “I’m interested,” Next (8) was “No, I’m fine without poles,” followed closely (with 7 clicks) by, “No, looks silly.” Only 7, including me, report that they sometimes, often or always use poles.
A few sentences in her post took me aback: ” It doesn’t work if I’m walking with my walking buddies, the poles get in the way. So I can really only use it for solo walks.” I was surprised because one of the great benefits of Nordic Walking is the social nature of the activity. I use my poles on my daily morning walk with a friend and also with my husband when we go on an occasional evening walk. My friend is of the “No, I’m fine without poles” opinion, and my husband doesn’t bother. My poles have never gotten in neither my friend’s nor my husband’s way — and neither of them has never gotten in the way of my poles.
This past weekend launched what might be a real change in the Nordic Walking world — change for the better. On Saturday, May 30, tents lined up along Santa Monica Beach symbolized a significant cooperative effort by pole-makers and high-level trainers. The trainers not only tried to find common ground to promote Nordic Walking in general, but they also served as instructors for people happened to be on the beach on Saturday and those who knew of the event and came specifically for it. Of greater longterm significance, however, was a frank and open roundtable organized by Malin Svensson and Gary Johnson of Nordic Walking North America, established as an umbrella organization for the sport/fitness activity.
Here’s some insider stuff gleaned from Nordic Walking leaders. Participants were able to share teaching/training philosophies and try out each others’ technique to learn what differences and similarities felt like — even in the hallway of the hotel in which the meeting was held (below). I’ll try to compile a list of participants and their contacts when I can, but for now, please know that trainers/coaches who came from the US, Canada and Australia were asked to put aside any lingering suspicions of each others’ philosophies, choice or equipment and choice of words to describe technique, and work collegially to promote Nordic Walking.
In my forthcoming Nordic Walking book, I noted that the similarities among different techniques are greater than their differences — and in listening to the roundtable discussions, it seemed to me that others were coming to that conclusion too. The differences were more in personalities and teaching styles than in technique itself. Exerstriding, the only technique that keys in on a strapless pole, is the “most different” from the others, and I had the sense that some of other trainers came to Santa Monica with skepticism about it. But once they tried Tom Rutlin’s Exerstrider poles, listened to the rationale for his technique and put it into practice, they came around and saw its place in the Nordic Walking pole pantheon.
The roundtable’s modest goals are achievable, and this first event was a triumph of discussion, compromise, civility and positive messages. There was deliberation and discussion on each goal, and I hope that I’ve properly deciphered my notes, with all their arrows, inserts and cross-outs:
Goal #1 – Define “Nordic Walking”
Walking with a pair of specially designed poles, used for forward propulsion. Poles are planted alternately with each step in a natural walking rhythm to enhance health benefits.
Goal #2 – Define Nordic Walking Poles
Poles with a strong, durable, lightweight shaft, handles designed for forward propulsion and specially designed tips for all surfaces. There was discussion about whether to use “grip” or “handle.” The latter was selected, because to many people, “grip” implies use of strength. The group ultimately decided not to include a phrase like “with or without straps” and also not to go into detail that “tips for for all surfaces” meant metal tips for unpaved surfaces and rubber paws/feet/caps for pavement. Someone suggested that the metal tips of quality poles can be used on pavement, annoyance factor of metal-and-pavement clacking notwithstanding.
Goal # 3 -Add an Instructor Contact List to the NWNA Website
This was unanimously and enthusiastically praised, and as a recent post (including comments) on this blog indicated, it is truly needed. How this database would be created and maintained was touched on lightly.
Goal #4 – Add a Calendar to the Website to Promote Nordic Walking Events and Training
This was agreed upon as a worthy goal, but the difficulty in finding events in time to post them and also maintaining this database was acknowledged.
Goal #5 – Consumer “De-Confusion” Efforts
Saturday’s Walking & Nordic Walking Health Expo (see separate post) in effect launched this effort. It was easy for passersby and participants alike to see that people were learning to walk purposefully with poles. Instruction was available, and pole companies’ reps were eager to answer questions. There were well-attended four lectures about Nordic Walking and its benefits, and not one of the speakers aggressively promoted one specific technique or equipment over any other. The impression the public came away with was positive. If funding (i.e., a sponsor) is found, this demo event could be a model for others to come.
In summary, I came away from Santa Monica encouraged that a “community,” if not yet an “industry,” is shaping up.
Lake Havasu City set to promote Nordic Walking — maybe
The Herald-News, which covers Lake Havasu City and the Lower Colorado rover area, reported that visitation is down and that the Convention & Visitors Bureau is rethinking its tourism promotion activites. Along with a photo of the Slingshot, a 145-foot-tall ride that catapults its passengers 200 feet into the air at approximately 100 mph but also reported that they will be targeting a different audience. In a piece called “CVB Reports Decline in Visitors,” reporter Tony Waggoner wrote, “The CVB will be focusing specifically on Las Vegas and Phoenix with programs like the upcoming ‘Ol’ 55’ program for baby boomers and Nordic Walking for military personnel within a 300 mile radius, and a marketing program targeting human resource departments for casinos in and around Las Vegas.” Little tidbits like that from around the country are signs that the tide for Nordic Walking in North America is starting to come in.
Where are all the Nordic Walkers in Boulder?
When my Nordic Walking poles and I are out on the paved recreational paths or trails through city and county Open Space land, we never encounter anyone just like us. Sure, my NW poles and I meet hikers with trekking poles on a trail administered by Boulder Mountain Parks & Open Space. But Nordic Walkers? Not yet — or at least so infrequently that I can’t recall the last time.
It’s not because Boulder Parks & Recreation hasn’t been putting Nordic Walking classes on their seasonal class schedule. I just wonder where these newly minted Nordic Walkers go once they’ve learned how to do it and own poles. The Spring 2009 class catalogue lists two classes — Tuesdays, 10:00-11:00 a.m. and Thursdays, 12:00 noon-1:00 p.m. at the East Boulder Rec Center. The spring schedule begins the week of Monday, March 29 and runs through the end of May. The series of classes costs $61 for Boulder residents and $77 for non-residents, including use of poles. Register online or by calling 303-413-7270.
Pole-toting teacher crossed the country seeking input for the president-elect
Nordic Walkers in evidence big-name Midwestern run/walk event
“They had a total of 400 participants. 91 of that number signed up for the
21K. 90 some for the 5K (most were running it) (but a few NWers). The remaining
200 were in the run relay that Birkie has been hosting for a number of years.
The weather was beautiful. I did not NW, but instead manned my Gabel / Nordic
Walk This Way booth. Wish I could’ve walked it though.
“All sorts of poles were being used to NW with. Trekking, X/C, one pole, and of course proper NWing poles too. Even though it wasn’t a race, many got awards, so that was fun. A couple the came along with me won in their age bracket for the 5K.
“Linda Lemke and Hoigaards were there. She walked the 21K and enjoyed it.
Most people finished it under 4 hours. Midwest Mountaineering / Brian Glader too
was there selling Leki.
“Birkie already has the results up. The pic on the site is from Saturday. This Birkie Trek is bound to be larger next year.
“I crunched the numbers on the results of the 21 K Nordic Walk. (I’m a demographic freak.) The list is in order of top finisher to last. Male and Female were not identified
except by name. This is what I came up with:
“87 Total – 38 (44%) from WI, 49 (56%) from MN, 39 (45%)
Men average age 55.89 years; age range 28 – 71 years. Possibly one 99 years (maybe typo).
Women 48 (55%) women average age 48.14 years; age range 23 – 75 years.
“This is not surprising to me, except that more people from MN were involved than WI. UMMMM. But MN is relatively close to Hayward. I drove 3 1/2 hours. I
think more men than what I expected but this is a X/C trail, so that is why I
think a lot of men participated.”
Informal challenges on both sides of the Atlantic motivate Nordic Walkers
Members of a UK-based Nordic Walking eCommunity have challenged themselves and each other to log and report mileage walked with poles. It’s all very informal. Participants just send messages to the community listserve reporting on their progress.
Wendy Baumgardner of About.com’s Walking section, also has launched an April challenge for walkers in general — not Nordic Walkers in particular. Visitors to the site are invited to register and sign up for the challenge and then post reports on their walks.
I have participated in freelance writers’ query challenges (a query being a proposal to an editor, an e-letter of introduction or some other form of communication). Participants in query challenges are divided into teams, each with a captain who generates a weekly report on how many editors team members have contacted and how many assignments have been generated. At the end of a given period (usually eight weeks), the team with the most points “wins.” Neither of these challenges are that structured. Like walking or Nordic Walking itself, both are much lower-key and totally unstructured, but they can be motivational — so start walking and start reporting on your walks to one of both lists if that’s what gets you moving.
A friend from northern Virginia, who teaches phys ed teachers on undergraduate and graduate levels at George Mason University, is visiting us right now. She is committed to introducing her students to simple, inexpensive options for lifelong fitness, so that they can do the same for their students. She came to Colorado for yesterday’s Winter Trails Day in Rocky Mountain National Park. When I found “Marion Students Find Pole-Walking Levels Phys Ed” in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, I printed out a copy for her, because it fits right in with her thinking.
The Gazette story reported on Marion High School, IA, gym teacher Steve Fish’s introduction of walking poles — fitted with rubber paws, of course — because the classes are held in the school gym. He starts his class with warm-up exercises, both with and without poles, then cranks up the sound system to rev up the energy and kick up the pace. Students start doing laps around the gym, first simply dragging the poles behind them, then jogging and skipping (photo by Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette). At the familiar sound of a gym teacher’s whistle, the pace changes. Fish keeps things moving with a routine that “alternates between slow and fast, poles in front, poles in back. Occasionally, he has the kids drop to the ground for push-ups or crunches,” according to the story.
Twenty-five pairs of poles for Fish’s class came from Foot Solutions at 1100 Blairs Ferry Road NE, Cedar Rapids; 319-743-3668.
Buried at the end of a Salt Lake City Tribune business story on encouraging teens to participate in outdoor sports (“Outdoor Industry See Teens’ As Business Future“), reporter Tom Wharton wrote: “Lindy Spiezer, of Leki – a nordic walking pole maker, said her company is working on a pilot program that uses libraries as a lending source where kids and their parents can check out backpacks, field guides, compasses and poles for use in the outdoors. ‘If we can concentrate on getting people out, then we will have future customers,’ she said.”
Wharton noted that there are currently 34 million youngsters in the 12 to 14 range, whom Michael Wood, vice president of Teen Research Unlimited, described as overscheduled, adding that “listed technology, laziness, emphasis on traditional sports, college preparation, school activities, costs, fear sometimes fueled by movies and the desire to be with friends as major reasons why teens don’t want to go outdoors.” That, of course, relates largely to middle-class teens. Rural teens who often have chores and long school bus commutes and urban youngsters have other issues. Still, the notion of making Nordic Walking poles available through public and/or school libraries is a tantalizing one — for teens, their parents and their grandparents.