Category Archives: Participation

Nordic Walking Club in Iowa

Classes, talks and now a club a good start in the Hawkeye State

Nordic Walking seems to be taking hold in Iowa, as quickly as a seed germinates once it has been planted in fertile soil. Maybe in a “Field of Dreams” way of, “Build it and they will come” way, that seems to be happening. According to a post in the recently launched Nordic Walking Iowa website, the second free clinic at Body Wisdom Massage School in Uniondale attracted 15 people, including several school staff members, teachers, students and an intern from Wesley Acres retirement community, where they plan to do some volunteer training next month. Rhett Hatfield, co-owner with his wife, Almut, of the massage school, had previously given a talk about Nordic Walking at a men’s networking breakfast, so the recently planted seeds do appear to be sprouting quickly.

“Two hours and a lot of fun and laughter later everyone had a very good beginning toward mastery of levels one and two of the American Nordic Walking System,” wrote Hatfield, who added, “At this point we have 50 percent of our team members at Body Wisdom (staff and teaching staff) and several of our students Nordic Walking. One of my goals as co-owner and Director of Education at Body Wisdom Massage School is to educate our students in integrating positive, healthy, lifestyle changes that will support them in both their personal and professional lives. It is my belief (call me crazy if you will) that as teachers and practitioners we should be shining examples of what we preach and teach!!!”

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.”

During these initial training classes, Hatfield and his colleagues launched the Nordic Walking Iowa Club. Twelve people joined, and the club is planning group fun walk with poles. “Things are happening in Iowa with Nordic Walking!! We have 4 Free Nordic Walking Clinics coming up in the next few weeks,” Hatfield wrote. For more information, call the school at 515-727-5100.

Go Hawkeye Nordic Walkers!

Nordic Walking Article on

New post on popular online walking site includes a poll about poles

Wendy Baumgardner (right) has been’s Walking guide since 1996. That doesn’t mean that she conducts shoes-on-the-ground walking trips, but rather that she cyber guides visitors through the forest of information on walking in general. In fact, one of the first links (see Labels, scroll down on left) from the beginning of his blog has been to Because it begins with an A, has remained near the top of the list all along. I hope you’ve checked it out, because it is a good resource.

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.

On those few occasions when I’ve been with a group of Nordic Walkers, we’ve been able to carry on conversations without conflict or pole-on-pole collisions. Her new post includes a link to an earlier post about Nordic Walking technique with images that were mostly shot in a schoolyard. The group pictures show a trio of Nordic Walkers on a track, each in her own lane — perhaps to avoid conflict. In any case, check out Wendy’s post on Nordic Walking and cast your vote too.

Santa Monica Confab a Promising Step for Nordic Walking

Nordic Walking educators begin pulling together and swapping ideas

As an observer of Nordic Walking (a specialty that I won’t yet call it an “industry” in the US), I have long been impressed by the individual smarts and dedication that have too often been derailed by the astonishing and counterproductive squabbling among on the part of some who would benefit most from its growth. The details are unnecessary and of no interest to the millions people who could benefit from Nordic Walking. It is arguably the easiest-to-learn, least-expensive, most sociable way to health, wellness and fitness around, if only it were less obscure. Millions of Americans should be Nordic Walking, and now, perhaps, it will be easier for them to do so.

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.

Arizona City Eyes NW as Way to Attract Visitors

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.

Nordic Walking Classes Return to Boulder

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.

Teacher Walks Across America With Poles — and an Open Mind

Pole-toting teacher crossed the country seeking input for the president-elect

B.J. Hill, a 32-year-old San Francisco teacher, set off from the the Golden Gate Bridge in March on an ambitious project — walking all the way to the Boston to take the pulse of the country’s concerns so that he could pass them on to President-Elect Barack Obama. Such dedication is fascinating in and of itself, but when I watched the segment called “Teacher Gathers Messages for New President” on this evening’s “ABC News,” I noticed that Hill was striding along with a pack on his back and poles in his hands. Click on the link and then watch the video clip — and don’t even think about analyzing or criticizing Hill’s technique.

On his back, Hill word a sign reading, “,” and anyone who goes to his site can see his route, meet him and walk a way with him, put him up for the night or make a contribution to support his outreach effort in to find out what the country’s concerns are and pass them on the the new president.

Hill walked across the continent and blogged his way across it too. He told the ABC reporter who interviewed him that he walked about 15 miles in about 12 hours a day covering on his 4,200-mile route, rain or shine. Of course, he took time out to talk to and photograph people he encountered. He said that he wore out seven pairs of shoes during his odyssey, but no one asked how many rubber pole caps he wore out. Alas, he didn’t touch Colorado.

Birkie Report from One Who Was There

Nordic Walkers in evidence big-name Midwestern run/walk event

Rhea Kontos of Nordic Walk This Way in the Twin Cities sent me a shorthand report, interesting stats and some photos from the Birkie Trail Run, Relay and Trek that took place this past Saturday in Hayward, WI. I’m grateful to her for sharing these. She wrote:

“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.”

Nordic Walking Challenges in Progress

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’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.

Nordic Walking in High School P.E. Class

Iowa students learn Nordic Walking basics — part of lifelong fitness opportunities.

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.

The class started using poles in January, a month when outdoor P.E. is rarely possible in Iowa. The high-school gym is certainly big enough for this activity. In the YouTube video linked with the story, Fish promised the students that they will be able to take this program outside when the weather warms up. The story continues, “Fish says he tried a ‘soft sell,’ asking his students just to try the poles. The exercise, he says, is great for kids who are not ‘P.E. enthusiasts.'” He called the youngsters “open-minded” about poles, which is saying a lot when it comes to teenagers.

Fish also noted, “What I find is a lot of kids want to have the poles now because it’s such a novelty thing,” Dorothy de Souza Guedes, who reported the story, interviewed several students and found some already willing to use poles outside of a class room situation, while others predictably didn’t think they would. I would have asked the ones who were enthusiastic whether they would recommend poles to their parents or grandparents.

Twenty-five pairs of poles for Fish’s class came from Foot Solutions at 1100 Blairs Ferry Road NE, Cedar Rapids; 319-743-3668.

Use Your Library Card to Borrow Poles? It Might Happen

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.