Category Archives: Poles

Bad Knees + Walking Poles = Pain Relief

Pittsburgh blogger shares his maiden voyage with walking poles

An unidentified male from Pittsburgh whose blog, Navigating the Finite, just started using poles and enthused about the relief they offer to sore knees and back. In a post called “In Praise of Nordic Walking Poles,” he wrote:

“I have had my Nordic Walking Poles for week now and have not used them until tonight. Fantastic! My knees and back are shot, complete and total junk, and while I can get around, walking certainly is no pleasure.

“I left work in time to go to a small park nearby. While walking through the parking lot at work I was thinking to myself, this is crazy, my knees are killing me, what the hell do I want to go walking for? I had spent most of the day on my feet on the concrete shop floor. The trip to the car after work was painful. Well I decided to go and try it. What the hell, if my knees and back hurt I could always quit. I drove home got the poles and my walking spikes and headed off to the park.

“One small step for mankind, one huge step for a couch potato! I walked! I enjoyed it. I walked fast. I am not using the poles right, but I ACTUALLY WALKED WITH LITTLE PAIN IN MY KNEES AND BACK! It was fantastic! This is the first time that I have enjoyed walking in a long long time!”

His surprise and joy were palpable as he wrote that he had an a welcome aerobic workout and that with this new-found pleasure, he isn’t even sure how long he walked. Then, he thanked “Old Baguette” for introducing Nordic Walking poles, writing, “I had never heard of Nordic Walking Poles until the Old Baguette mentioned them in her blog. Thank you, my dear for introducing me to something that just may turn my life around.” 

Of course, I found  “old Baguette.” In a post called “Are Walking Poles Lutheran?” about a hospital stay, she wrote, “I’ve spent the last week schussing up and down the corridors of Abbott Northwestern Hospital here in Minneapolis. I was the first person to use Nordic Poles instead of a cane, crutches, or walker, and I wowed ’em all! Doctors muttered, ‘I think I’ll have my patients use those things!'” The title of the post could have been written by Garrison Keillor, but the sentiments expressed another Nordic Walker’s realization of the benefits.

What struck me about both Sextant and Old Baguette, as they call themelves,  is that they simply found walking with poles instantly beneficial. Were they actually Nordic Walking poles or hiking poles? I have no idea. What brand were they? I inititally had not a clue either, except later when I read Sextant’s comment on O.B’s post, Sextant wrote that his poles were made in “Lillyhammer,” which would be Lillehammer and would make them Swix.  Did he use “proper” technique as taught by any of the training and certifying organizations? He didn’t mention it, so I have no way of knowing that either. I do know that Sextant reveled in the thrill of discovery when his pain went away while walking with poles, and I hope he keeps it up, wherever walking with his poles leads him — and I hope that his Nordic Walking muse, Old Bagutette, continues as well.

And once again, I realized that the Midwest indeed is the epicenter of Nordic Walking in the US.

Rick Deutsch Nordic Walks on Water!

More precisely,  Rick Deutsch’s annual Nordic Walking presentations on a cruise ship that floats on the water

San Jose, California-based trekker, guide and Nordic Walking instructor Rick Deutsch again led complimentary classes for passengers aboard Crystal Cruise’s “Serenity,” sailing around the boot of Italy from Venice to Monte Carlo. The cruise line reports that since the Nordic Walking program was launched a year ago, several hundred guests have tried fitness walking with lightweight poles.

Through a partnership with LEKI USA, Crystal continues to offer Nordic Walking as a fitness option at sea. Most cruise ships schedule one or two formal nights a week, and Rick was ready with his tux and his “dress poles” — actually his regular poles — but I like the image of formal Nordic Walking poles. We already have the tussle over whether one-piece or adjustable poles are preferable. A writer cleverer than I could parody it with a debate over casual poles versus dress poles, or day poles versus evening poles. But I’m getting silly.

I digress. Rick sent me a brief report about his Nordic Walking activities on the ship:

“We sailed  from Venice to Monte Carlo in early October. I taught Nordic Walking every day at 7 am and 5 pm. The classes are complimentary and we had a nearly full house at most sessions. The mornings are a tough play with so much going on AND folks enjoying sleeping in during their vacationn

” I also gave an overview / benefits presentation mid-week. We have 10 pairs of Leki Instructor model poles onand have just  each of the 2 ships in the fleet.  We just launched the Traveller poles for guests that want to purchase their own. The Travellers are 3-section (vs 2) so they pack much better. They were a hit with the guests.

” The Fitness Directors incorporate the benefits of Nordic Walking during their classes when I am not on board and they guide the 2 daily sessions. The complimentary program has be running a year and participation is increasing. We have exposed well over 1,000 people to Nordic Walking. People first feel their triceps working and it goes from there. The 360 degree Crystal Promenade deck is 1/3 of a mile around, so folks get a good workout. Many “walkers” are being converted into NW users.”

Another successful voyage for Nordic Walking, I’d say.

Vermont Country Store Carries Nordic Walking Poles

Well-known US retailer carries Canadian poles

The Vermont Country Store, whose slogan is “Purveyors of the Practical and Hard-to-Find,” is now carrying Nordic Walking poles. I’m always encouraged when I find another well-known resource for poles. The Vermont Country Store carries one brand (Keenfit) and one type (adjustable) as one of 20 items in the “Health & Fitness” category of the online catalogue. They retail for $79.95.

Anyone who happens to be in the Green Mountain State can visit the original store in Weston or the second one in Rockingham and presumably see how the poles feel, but everyone else is relegated to ordering for shipment.  L.L. Bean doesn’t seem to carry Nordic Walking poles, though I believe they once did, and REI never has, so I’m glad they are available through Vermont Country Store. Unless they buy poles from an instructor, many newbies wouldn’t know where to start looking for specialized poles.

Michigan’s VASA Trail Run Permits Poles

Nordic Walkers welcom at upcoming Michigan foorace

Michigan’s spectacular VASA Trail system in Pere Marquette State Forest is the site of the VASA Trail Run next Saturday, October 2, hosted by Running Fit. Runners and walkers (including Nordic Walkers) can participate at 5K, 10K and 25K distances. The courses will be marked and timed. Call Running Fit, 231-932-5401 or 231-933-9242, both in Traverse City for more information on the event, whose proceeds benefit the system in the lovely northwestern part of Lower Michigan.

Ski Walking’s Pete Edwads offers FREE American Nordic Walking System instruction and FREE use of Swix or Exel one-piece Nordic Walking poles during the trail run. Edwards, the owner/founder/coach of SkiWalking, located in nearby Glen Arbor, is an enthusiastic promoter of Nordic Walking in general and one-piece poles in particular. Edwards can be reached at 877-SKIWALKING (877-754-9255) or

Walk Strong Event Set for September

Top Nordic Walking gurus to gather and teach in Greenfield, Wisconsin

If you read this blog (ir)regularly, you’ve heard me describe the Midwest as a hotbed of Nordic Walking in the US. Most recently the second annual Nordic Walking Expo was held in the Minneapolis area, and coming up next month is Walk Strong, September 11-12 in Greenfield, Wisconsin, near Milwaukee. Walk Strong is a two-day event with components for the public and for fitness pros. On the schedule are certification programs for fitness pros who want to add Nordic Walking to the repertoire, specialty lessons and, importantly for the growth of Nordic Walking, free introductory sessions including use of poles. Suzanne Nottingham, who organized Walk Strong,  has designed this program with commendable inclusiveness in the spirit of two previous Expo. Walk Strong also brings together top trainers and instructors to interact with each other and with the public to instruction options for beginners and broaden the horizons of pros.

Leading Nordic Walking experts will be there, so whatever your level or interest, your meeting and learning from three of Nordic Walking’s gurus: Suzanne Nottingham of Nordic Walk Now and Malin Svensson of Nordic Walking North America, both from California, and Tom Rutlin of Exerstrider, the in-stater from Madison. Promoting lifelong fitness through walking with is a passion of these Nordic Walking authorities. Jenne Goldberg (above left in Nordic Walk Now photo), who is in her late 70s, is an example of one senior who practices just that.

Saturday the 11th is open to anyone who wants to learn what Nordic Walking is about, try different kinds of poles, workshops and leadership intensives. Rutlin and Svensson will team teach two free Intro Nordic Walking sessions, open to the public on Saturday with no pre-registration required. Also on Saturday, Nordic Walk Now is offering demos of inline skating with poles. Bring your helmet (mandatory) to try this energetic, energizing workout. The organizers supply skates, poles and protective gear in two demo times on Saturday. No registration is necessary for the free sessions, but it is necessary for the NWN intensives, the Walk To Live Workshop for everyone and the four- hour Instructor Training Program just for qualified instructors. Also on Saturday is the launch of the stepping stone to the ITP, Master Fitness, an eight-hour course for individuals who have completed the NWN ITP in order to qualify for Master Fitness.

Sunday the 12th is is open only to qualified instructors. Malin and Tom will each offer a 75-minute certification prep courses for any instructor who has a teaching certificate from any Nordic Walking education organization. Pre-registration is required for these two courses at,
 A $10 donation to the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department is also required.
A schedule and registration information are promised soon on the Nordic Walk Now website. Meanwhile, for more information, call  760-912-4471 or email

Nordic Walking Poles in an Unlikely Place

While in Cheyenne this weekend, we stopped at the Sierra Trading Post outlet. There, mixed in on a rack of mostly trekking/hiking poles and mostly from Komperdell, were some poles with thick, glove-like straps and angled feet. I found three pairs of Nordic Walking poles priced at under $65. I didn’t buy them, because I have several pairs of poles already. But I did untangle them, match them up straighten them out and put them together on the rack in the hope that someone will be intrigued enough to read the hang tag. Anyone who recognizes them will get a very good deal.

FWIW, Sierra Trading Post promotes its Komperdell trekking pole inventory online, boasting of 35 to 70 percent savings on the brand. But when I typed “Nordic Walking” into the search box on the Komperdell page, the message I got was, “We’re sorry, we couldn’t find any matches for ‘Nordic Walking’.” I’m sorry too, because they have no idea what they’ve got.
Sierra Trading Post is a privately held company that purchases name-brand overstocks and closeouts of outdoor equipment, sporting goods, apparel, footwear and home furnishings and sells them at great discounts through a simple newsprint catalog, online and in four retail outlets including Cheyenne. 

Nordic Walking Notes

Ultra Walker Mike Gates on the Move Again

Australia’s Mike Gates, nicknamed “Walking Wizard” for his ultra-endurance Nordic Walks is reportedly planning to break his own Nordic Walking 36-hour nonstop record on August 5-7, when he is aiming for 48 hours of nonstop walking with poles. He set his previous record in 2006 on a street course and is planning to throw in some variety with 80% of the course on sandy beaches, bush routes and pathways through coastal villages. In addition to raising Nordic Walking’s profile, Gates will be raising money for Kids In Need,” (K.I.N), which assists seriously ill and disabled children with rehabilitation equipment, ongoing medical expenses for specialised treatment, therapeutic and  medical equipment to enhance the quality of the child’s life. Norman Trubik, one of several co-moderators for the Nordic Walking eCommunity, reports, “”On his previous marathons, Mike used conventional Poleabout strapped poles. This time he will be using strapless Exerstrider poles. Mike will also be wearing Vibram Five Fingers (KSO Treks). These two changes which will give some good feedback to the E-Community.”

Map My Run App Praised 

In a comment on the Nordic Walking eCommunity of which he is another of the co-moderators, Virginia-based Marek Zalewski, also Owner/Editor of Nordic Walking US, wrote, “if you already have a smart phone and no wrist-mounted GPS device, a great and free way is to download the free Map My Run app (runs on Android phones and iPhones). It will track your walk, draw it on the map and allow you to save it. You will get the distance, the average speed, etc.” Map My Run is also an eCommunity created for runners and joggers but also applicable for Nordic Walkers.

Nordic Walking in Your Own Backyard

Discovering a nearby route ideal for Nordic Walking is always a something of a thrill. Twin Cities instructor Rhea Kontos of Nordic Walk This Way recently posted an item on the Great Lakes Nordic Walkers blog extolling the benefits of 60-acre Caponi Art Park in Eagen, Minnesota. She exclaimed, “Suburbia, wooded, maintained, two abreast nature trails, and Free!” She knows her way around Nordic Walking venues in her area, but her delight at finding a new one is palpable.

DIY Poles: A Discussion

The Instructables is a site for do-it-yourself devotees. A discussion of Nordic Walking poles is interesting for equipment junkies and arguably for anyone interested in NW’s image. And for the record, I’m not advocating making your own when there are good, reasonably priced and sturdy walking poles on the market.

Nordic Walking on YouTube

A new (or new to me) Nordic Walking video on YouTube — in Italian:

Nordic Walking in Eastbourne

Nordic Walking Fitness in Eastbourne, UK, has an info-packed website and blog with links to Nordic Walking videos, and also offers monthly demos so that newbies can get a taste of Nordic Walking.

INWA at 10 Years

Sea change pending at International Nordic Walking Association

The International Nordic Walking Association, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has a convention coming up September 23-26 in Riga, Latvia, and Otepaa, Estonia. From an interested observor’s point of view (that would be me), this convention for Nordic Walking trainers at all levels and other fitness professionals will see a shift in the small world of Nordic Walking. I think of this shift that has the potential to be as major as the early cracks in the Iron Curtain proved to be for the politics, identities and economies host nations. So by major, I mean MAJOR.

In addition to Exel, the Finnish pole company that pioneered Nordic Walking in Europe and is an expected sponsor of the convention, another is Gymstick, a newer conmpany that makes Nordic Walking poles, including aqua-fitness and other non-traditional applications. Equally significant, or perhaps even more so, INWA has invited Tom Rutlin, who pioneered fitness walking with his Exerstrider poles on this side of the pond, to be a keynoter at this convention. (Remember that Exerstriders are strapless poles, and Rutlin’s Exerstrider Method is somewhat different from the technique taught using poles with straps. But I have always felt that to people with a little distance from all this, the similarities are greater than the differences.)

The North American Nordic Walking Association, headed by president Malin Svensson who herself teaches Nordic Walking in the INWA mode, set an ecumenical model for European traditionalists by inviting Rutlin to participate and present at the first and second annual Nordic Walking Expos in North America. In fact, NWNA welcomed everyone who has a variation on teaching/training/technique and equipment. Rutlin was quick to accept, and to the credit of all pros who presented at both Expos, open-mindedness and mutual respect reigned.

INWA also promises that the convention will include the launch of their new INWA 10-step methodology, plus technical workshops, product clinics and networking — and it was networking that proved to be invaluable at the NWNA Expos in opening eyes and opening minds. I hope that the inclusion of Gymstick and Exerstrider (and perhaps other innovators) on the program is not just for show and that they signal a major move toward genuine inclusiveness, and I look forward to the reports that come out of the 2010 INWA convention.

To the average recreational Nordic Walker who goes out with a pair of poles and gets stronger, leaner and healthier, none of this is really of great importance. But to those who want to share their pleasure and find Nordic Walking companions, the significance is down the road a bit. IMHO, the greater the cooperation, the greater public acceptance of Nordic Walking of all stripes and the greater the number of participants, the better. So hats off to INWA for inviting Tom Rutlin and hats off to Tom for crossing the ocean to give a keynote address. I wish I could be there.

Nordic Walking Community Conjunction

June 12, 2010, was a landmark day in Nordic Walking cooperative efforts

Two significant Nordic Walking events occurred yesterday — not the introduction of a new kind of pole or the unveiling of yet another technique tweak, but one event and news of a new grassroots organization that underscore the commonality of different aspects of the Nordic Walking community. As I often say in conversation with people involved in Nordic Walking, whether instructors/trainers/educators or pole suppliers, I have no horse in this race. I don’t care which technique new Nordic Walkers learn or which poles they use. I have an ardent belief that Nordic Walking presents an opportunity to get outside and that poles add a fitness/cardio/upper body bonus to any walk. This is true for elderly people who gain stability and confidence from using poles to competitive walkers who are capable of marathon distance Nordic Walks and for the big bell curve of Nordic Walkers in between. It encourages me advocates of one particular technique or sellers of one particular pole brand find ways to work together to elevate the entire activity. That happened twice on June 12, 2010.

Nordic Walking Expo

Hyland Park in Bloomington, Minnesota, was the site of the second annual Nordic Walking Expo, an exposition — free and open to the public — to introduce Nordic Walking to a new constituency, to include Nordic Walking enthusiasts in the Twin Cities area and to underscore the social aspects of Nordic Walking as a small-group activity. I was unable to attend this year, but reports are that the weather, which started out clear and dry, unfortunately deteriorated as the day went on, but enthusiasm did not wane among those who stayed.

The Expo was both national and local in nature. Great Lakes Nordic Walkers, formed as a small pod of Twin Cities instructors, planned a local promotion. Nordic Walking North America, a US-Canadian group that started last year and put on the first annual Expo, was seeking a site for the second one. The local event became a national one, using the name Nordic Walking Expo, and the pattern is now established for future events.  NWNA president Malin Swenson and vice president Gary Johnson are already beginning to look at locations for 2011. If you have any suggestions, click here and submit your ideas via the comment form.

Equipment manufacturers and distributors, and Nordic Walking educators were on hand to present workshops and lead Nordic Walking classes. I was unable to attend this year, but I did participate by phone in a debriefing of sorts. I believe it was Suzanne Nottingham, a veteran fitness instructor and founder of Nordic Walking Now, who observed, “People were really smart and asked good questions. It was the first time at an event that people could pull me aside to talk. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Speaking from the local perspective, Linda “Nordic Walking Queen” Lemke, called the Expo a “thrilling event” and was enthusiastic about the presence of national leaders on the Nordic Walking scene. She also went on to describe some of the various programs she is involved with in the Twin Cities. Working with Hoigaard’s, a major outdoor sporting goods retailer, has provided a Lemke with a platform to work from and support for even modest individual outreach efforts. The concepts of some of the programs were fodder for thought among others at the meeting.

I don’t have attendance guesstimates or even any images, but when I receive some that I may share, I’ll do another post.

World Nordic Walking Federation

Also on June 12, the announcement came via the UK-based Nordic Walking eCommunity about a new grassroots organization called the World Nordic Walking Federation. The three well-known names spearheading this effort Marko Kantenev from Finland who first codified what has come to be called European-style Nordic Walking, Mike “Walking Wizard” Gates from Australia and America’s own pioneer, Tom Rutlin who developed Exerstrider poles and the  Exerstrider Method.

These big names from the Nordic Walking world  brainstormed this but Say they are minimally interested in “leading” anything and mostly interested in growing world-wide interest in Nordic Walking as a recreation, fitness and public-health activity.To that end, there will not be a board of directors but rather a board of servers who served the Nordic Walking community. Idealistic, perhaps, but hopefully also effective in bridging the Nordic Walking turf wars that in many ways retard the growth of the activity, especially in this country.There is no website yet, but it will be web-based organization.

The mission statement and other founding principle are as follows (this from the eCommunity site and presumably available for sites like this):


“The mission of the World Nordic Walking Federation is to unite member individuals, organizations and industry partners in educational, research and promotional projects aimed at increasing participation in Nordic Walking and thus creating a critically needed positive impact on public health on every continent around the globe. Our central focus will be on educating, empowering and encouraging people of all ages, abilities and means to enjoy a more active life, and in doing so prevent the onset of many of the epidemic diseases of sedentary living through regular enjoyment of the body, mind and spirit-nurturing benefits of Nordic Walking”. (end of statement)
Since service to the expanding Nordic Walking community is the mission of the WNWF, it is proposed that there be created a Board of Servers (as opposed to Board of Directors). While this board will by necessity help direct the early course of the Federation it is intended that a board consisting of those committed to serving the community would underscore the mission of the Federation on the premise that the power of the Federation is derived from serving the grass roots community. To this end, each Server will be expected to make a pledge to the community, as follows:


“As a member (of the Board of Servers ) of the World Nordic Walking Federation, I pledge to place the organization’s mission of service to the Nordic Walking community ahead of my personal and/or professional goals with a full understanding that a united effort fully committed to serving — rather than exploiting — the Nordic Walking community through the Federation’s stated mission is what is absolutely essential in order to bring about the maximum life-changing public health impact and participation in this fun, healthy, life-enriching physical activity on a global scale”. (end of pledge)

Work is currently ongoing to develop the mechanics of the organisation. A domain name has been allocated and a web site is under construction to serve as the focal point for information. At the same time, this forum will also provide updates on development and will facilitate discussion.

There will surely continue to be bumps in the Nordic Walking road, but I am greatly encouraged by two conduits for cooperation and communication regarding Nordic Walking,

2010 Nordic Walking Expo Schedule

Full day of events set for tomorrow’s mega-event in Bloomington, Minnesota

Event: Nordic Walking Expo
Place: Hyland Park
Date: Saturday, June 12
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.


9:00 Class – “So you think you can walk?” presented by Malin Svensson (president, Nordic Walking North America and author of Nordic Walking, published by Human Kinetics).  Enhancement of regular walking without poles

9:30 Lecture – “Injury Prevention for Nordic Walkers” presented by Suzanne Nottingham (founder and director of Nordic Walk Now and author of Nordic Walking for Total Fitness, Human Kinetics). Nordic walking skills and movements for the safest, most effective techniques to stay safe and injury-free.

10-10:30 Class – Group walk around Hyland; can run longer if group wishes, led by three top Nordic Walking educators, Tom Rutlin (Exerstrider), Suzanne Nottingham (Nordic Walk Now) and Malin Svensson (NWNA).

11:30 Lecture “That Girl” 2010: New City, New Job and New Life, or How I Started My Own Nordic Walking Bisiness, Lindy Spiezer Smith (formerly LEKI USA marketing director). Lindy left LEKI in Buffalo and moved to Florida for family reasons, then turnied her passion for elder health into a business  that make a profit within a year.

12:00 Class – “K9 Nordic Walking,” Kristine Zellmer and her Alaskan Huskie, Caird (Skijor Now). Canine  Nordic walking, an exciting new sport in the Nordic Walker wears a padded waist belt and the dog gets robust exercise from pulling instead of just walking on a leash). Harnesses are available to those who  bring their dogs.

12:30 Lecture – “Active Aging Through Nordic Walking.” “Nordic Walking Queen” Linda Lemke (Great Lakes Nordic Walkers). Nordic Walking to help people stay active, stay mobile, improve balance and stability (less chance of a fall), support the lower joints and helps promote healthy bones. “It’s fun, it’s social and it’s outdoors,” Lemke reminds people.

1:00 Class – “Intro to Exerstride Method Nordic Walking,” Tom Rutlin (Exerstrider). Pioneer in developing special poles for fitness walking and the technique that goes with it introduces the simple basics of this original “Nordic American” technique that he introduced in the U.S. in 1988. .

1:30 Lecture – “Burn More Calories with Less Effort,” Malin Svensson (NWNA). Seven simple secrets on how to “Burn More Calories with Less Effort.” You will walk away with effective tips on how to get into your best shape ever and how to overcome the most common obstacles to exercising through Nordic Walking.

2:00 Class -“Boot Camp 1,” Suzanne Nottingham (NWN), Join Nottingham for a fun and original outdoor cross-training excursion from her recently released book, Nordic Walking for Total Fitness. This class is intended as a mixed-intensity movement experience through safe and progressive training methods for those with some Nordic Walking experience.

2:30 Lecture)- “Play it Safe, Nordic Walking Jeopardy,” Bonnie Dau (Revel Sports). Nordic walking is naturally a fun and safe activity, but an ounce of prevention can make it safer yet.  Bonnie counts on audience participation to play the game of “Jeopardy,” highlighting ways to stay while Nordic Walking. Revel Sports will be giving out nominal prizes to the winners.

3:00 Class – “Nordic Walking Adventure Circuit,” Gary Johnson (NWNA vice president). Adding various exercises to a Nordic Walk with the equipment all around. The interval class incorporates upper and lower body exercises to get a great whole body workout

3:30 Lecture – “The Future of Nordic Walking… Impacting Public Health on a Global Scale,” Tom Rutlin (Exerstrider). A growing number of people share a vision of impacting public health on a global scale through fitness walking with poles. Rutlin and others see Nordic Walking’s potential for the greatest impact on global public health of any exercise trend since Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s book Aerobics launched the modern exercise movement more than four decades ago.

Also, every 20 minutes (9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.). Join an instructor try different types of poles.

Be there!