Friday, September 30, 2005


The History of Nordic Walking - A Clarification

In a previous posting on this Blog I outlined the History of Nordic Walking. Most Nordic Walking websites state that Nordic Walking began in Finland in 1997 but there are counter claims that Nordic Walking originated in the USA in the 1980's. So which claim is correct?

Here I present the Facts, the Claims and the Proof - I will let you decide for yourself...

Fact: The origin of the name 'Nordic Walking' can be traced back to 1997. It was in this year that Finnish ski equipment manufacturer 'Exel' launched their first specially designed fitness walking poles. The poles included a specially designed wrist straps which was to be key to the technique used to this day by millions of Nordic Walkers across the world.

Fact: In year 2000 'Exel' launched the International Nordic Walking Association (INWA). This was a shrewd exercise in marketing. Exel, quite understandably wanted to market their poles across the world. However, how can you market a concept that in most countries few people had heard of ?

The answer was simple; Exel / INWA would launch an instructor training program and roll it out across the world. The instructors would teach people to Nordic Walk, the people would then need to buy Nordic Walking poles and INWA / Exel instructors would recommend Exel poles.

The plan worked which is why Exel / INWA can take much of the credit for the world wide success of Nordic Walking today.

Claim: Exel / INWA state that the origins of Nordic Walking as an exercise form can be traced back to Finland in the early 1980's. I have yet to see evidence proving this claim.

Claim: It has also been claimed that the routes of Nordic Walking go back to Nordic Skiers in Finland, who used their ski poles during summer snow free training as long ago as the early part of the 20th century. However it is unlikely that such activity was restricted to Finland

Fact: In 1988 an American by the name of Tom Rutlin launched the first specially designed fitness walking poles with rubber tips for use on an asphalt surface. Tom called his new exercise method - Exerstriding.

Proof: I have copies of press articles going back as far as 1988 featuring Tom Rutlin and Exerstriding. This includes an article in The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin, USA) - dated December 13th 1988 titled - 'Exerstriding a workout for everyone'. I also have a copy of an article from the German edition of Esquire Magazine from July 1989 which states - Exerstriding is the new sport from the USA.

Claim: Tom Rutlin claims that shortly after the article appeared in Esquire in 1989, that a representative from Exel had a meeting with him. This was 8 years prior to the launch of the first Exel Nordic Walking poles. Tom says that Exel have since claimed to have no knowledge of this meeting.

Note: I am aware of a suggestion that in 1995 two Finnish students came up with the idea of fitness walking with specially designed poles whilst doing research at a university. However, I have seen no evidence of this claim. However, this was still 7 years after Tom Rutlin launched his fitness walking poles and concept in the USA.

In summary:

From the hard evidence available to me at this time (note I use the word evidence), it is clear that the term 'Nordic Walking' originated in Finland in 1997, as did fitness walking poles with specially designed wrist straps that we know as Nordic Walking poles.

Note: Exerstrider poles do not have wrist straps... I will discuss this in one of my next postings.

However, it is equally clear that the concept of fitness walking with specially designed walking poles originated in the USA and that in 1988 Tom Rutlin was marketing the concept under his Exerstrider brand name.

As Tom Rutlin points out, Exel / INWA actually define Nordic Walking as 'fitness walking with specially designed poles', the exact concept that Tom launched in the USA in 1988.

I guess the question is - Should Tom Rutlin's role be recognised in the 'Official History of Nordic Walking' ?

Before you answer that question bear in mind that Nordic Walking is simply the 'generic' name most widely used to describe fitness walking with specially designed poles. It is not a trade mark or method exclusive to Exel / INWA.

Note: There are differences in both technique and pole design between 'Nordic Walking' and 'Exerstrider Method Nordic Walking' that I will discuss in another posting soon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Let’s Talk About Back Pain

I have been teaching sport and exercise for over 25 years and in that time one of the most common ailments I come across is back pain. This is an area that I have some experience in myself as at one stage I teamed up with my local Back Pain Association to run weekly back pain exercise classes.

Of course one way to reduce or even eliminate back pain whilst walking is to use Nordic Walking poles but there are many other ways for back pain sufferers to improve their quality of life too.

At a recent seminar in London, England, I met Back Pain Specialist, Kim Standeline. Kim is a registered nurse working in the UK as a back care advisor for a large Hospital Trust.

I mention Kim because she has written an e-book entitled –‘Let’s Talk About Back Pain’

Note: If you are not familiar with e-books they are simply books that you download onto your computer by clicking on a simple link and following one or two basic instructions. You can then either read the book on the screen or alternatively just print it out.

Why not visit Kim’s website and register for her FREE backpain Newsletter, you will then receive the first two chapters of her book FREE.

Unconditional 14 day, 100% money back guarantee

After reading your 2 FREE chapters if you decide to buy the book, Kim even gives you a generous 'unconditional 14 day, 100% money back guarantee' - just to be sure you are absolutely satisfied with your purchase.

Interested ? Then to find out more visit:

If the link fails either ‘copy & paste’ it into the address line of your web browser eg Internet Explorer or alternatively just type it in.

Hope that helps somebody – If you do read Kim’s book let me know what you think.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Testimonial - Amazed at how invigorating it is to walk with poles

Dear David,

Thank you! I live in North Vancouver Canada, and I've only ever run into one other Nordic Walker on the street. I have already gotten 2 friends into it, who are getting their friends, so it's only a matter of time! I have been using the poles for about amonth, and am amazed how invigorating it is to walk with them.

Patricia Smith
North Vancouver, Canada

Monday, September 26, 2005


Update on Arm & Leg Co-ordination Posting

In a posting on Tuesday, July 19, 2005 I gave advice for people who have a challenge co-ordinating their arms and legs (in opposition eg left arm / right leg and vice versa) whilst Nordic Walking.

The posting explains the 'Drag' method whereby you simply strap into your poles and walk whilst the poles 'drag' along the ground behind you (do not hold the pole handles, just let the poles hang from the wrist straps).

As you walk swing your arms a little and as it feels comfortable gradually increase the swing. Once you can do this then you take away the drag and start lifting and planting the poles.

However - What happens if you are still having problems?

Well we then need to go back a stage or two further. When I teach Nordic Walking stage 1 is:

1) Walk without the poles and let your arms swing. As you feel comfortable swing them some more. When you feel ready move on to stage 2:

2) The 'carry': Pick up the poles (do not stap in) and carry one pole in each hand. Hold the poles mid-shaft so they feel balanced in your hands. When you feel ready start to swing the arms a little. If it feels comfortable gradually swing them some more.

If it goes wrong - Stop swinging your arms, just keep walking and when you feel ready start swinging again. If it goes wrong again stop again etc etc.

Note: Until you can walk holding your poles and swinging your arms as in 2) above, do not go on to stage 3 which is the 'drag'.

Tip: Do not think about it too much. If you are having difficulty, the more you think about it the more difficulty you will have. Above all relax. Take a deep breath in and as you breath out 'R~E~L~A~X ~~~~~~ Relax your shoulders, relax your arms, relax your muscles....

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Great tip re holding your pole handles

Further to the posting below re Marek's website Here is a great tip from one of Marek's postings:

Re Gripping the pole handles - Marek says...

"Before we even start, let me emphasize that gripping the pole should be compared to holding a little, live bird in your hand. In other words: don't let it escape, but do not squeeze the life out of it"!

That's excellent advice... Editor

As I always say - The beauty about the Nordic Walking wrist straps is that you don't hold on to the handles all the time

The full action involves:
  1. Grip the handles lightly (remember the little bird) as you 'plant'
  2. Push down towards the hip 'push to hip'
  3. Push on through and extend the arm behind the hip 'push behind hip'
  4. Open the hand and release the grip 'open hand'
  5. Push back into the strap before the arm comes forward 'strap extension'
  6. The arm swings forward and at the front of the swing the handle catches up with your hand and you grip the handle again, ready to 'plant'

... and it all happens as if by magic ! Ok - Yes... it does take practice !

Note: I teach the Tom Rutlin Exerstrider straight arm 'plant' technique versus the bent arm plant as taught by INWA (see elsewhere in Nordic Walking News for the science behind my reasoning for doing this. However if you use the bent arm 'plant' then between 3 and 4 above you will need to add:

* 'Straighten the elbow 'elbow extension'.

If you use Tom's technique the elbow will already be straight.


Check out this Nordic Walking website !

Fellow Nordic Walking Instructor Marek Zalewski who lives in Vienna, Virginia, USA has a Nordic Walking Website that's well worth taking a look at and adding to your 'favourites'. Apart from being a Nordic Walking Instructor and enthusiast Marek is a Journalist with the Voice of America.

Visit Mareks website at:


Need an Instructor ? Want to train as an instructor ?

I receive many emails from subscribers asking me if I can refer them to an instructor or if I know of any instructor training courses.

Whether you need an instructor or want to train as an instructor here are a couple of websites to check out.

1) International Nordic Walking Association (INWA). Visit: Once on the website go to the link for 'Your Country' and then you will find the details of the person you need to contact. You may find a link eg to - 'Find a class' or 'Train to be an Instructor'.

2) American Nordic Walking Association (ANWA). If you live in the USA also visit

[[If you know of instructor training courses / dates in YOUR country - Please let me know and I will post them on this Blog]].

Here a several up and coming Instructor Training courses for subscribers in the UK and the USA:

** Please mention 'Nordic Walking News' if you make an enquiry or book a course - Thank you.

London, England

The next two training courses to become an 'INWA' qualified Nordic Walking Instructor will be held on September 24 - 25 and October 22 - 23, 2005. For more details contact Martin Christie, Education Director of Nordic Walking UK, on 020 8211 3512 or 07989 967 459 or email

Maidenhead, England

The next 'Fit Pro' qualified Nordic Walking Instuctor training course (qualified fitness instructors only) will be held on November 19th, 2005. For more details contact Fitness Professionals on 08705 133 434

Los Angeles, California

The next 'ANWA' Basic Instructor Certification Seminar will be held on October 22 & 23, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. For more details visit:

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Testimonial - Nordic Walking Gave Me Back My Confidence

Hello David

Just wanted to say Nordic Walking gave me back my confidence. Though I still have problems with my legs I can walk with my grandchildren and enjoy it once again, keep up the good work.

Maggie Stubbs
Bournemouth, England

Note: I personally introduced Maggie (a retired lady) to Nordic Walking earlier this summer - David


Choosing the Right Walking Shoes for You

I am regularly asked my advice on choosing the right walking shoes. Most people badly neglect and abuse their feet with poorly fitting shoes, the wrong shoes for the job, spending too much time in shoes when you don't need to be in them etc.

For many years I taught group exercise classes and occasionally when teaching a stretch class I would do a whole class focusing on the 'feet' and nothing else ! The feedback I received after these classes was fantastic - The class members loved it. For most of them nobody had ever spent so long focusing on nothing more than their feet.

Have you ever considered this ? - Poorly fitting or incorrect shoes for the job can have a knock on effect on the joints right up your body ! Had you considered that the back pain or hip pain or knee pain that you suffer could possibly be traced back to badly fitting or incorrect footwear ? - There's a thought.

Ok - I have found a really great website where you can find out all about the right footwear for your walking.

Note: If the link fails either copy and paste it into the address line of your web browser eg Internet Explorer or failing that type it into the address line.

Friday, September 09, 2005


Bouncing Poles

In the past couple of weeks several people have emailed me to ask how to overcome the pole bounce which sometimes happens when you plant them into the ground.

I covered this question in Nordic Walking News earlier this year when I produced the monthly newsletter. However, there have since been many new subscribers so I thought I would reproduce the article for those who have not previously read it.

Do you find there are occasions when your poles bounce around a little when you plant them?

If yes - Here's a little technique to counteract the bounce:

As you plant the pole tip into the ground squeeze the handle a little firmer and at the same time push the heel of your hand against the pole handle.

To practice this: Stand still and plant the pole into the ground. Your arm should be reaching out in front of you as if you are reaching forward to shake someone's hand. The pole will be at about a 45 degree angle to the ground.

Now squeeze the pole handle and at the same time push the heel of your hand against the base of the handle. Release the pressure and repeat several times.

As you push with the heel of your hand notice how the pole bends backwards a little. Ok - Now try this exercise whilst walking with your poles. I also find this technique useful on slippery surface eg if the surface is dusty or there are a lot of fallen leaves or it's raining.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Incorrectly Adjusted Poles Can Cause Back Pain !

A client contacted me the other day complaining of back pain following a long Nordic Walk. This particular client is not normally prone to back pain walking with or without poles.

My first question was - "Are your poles adjusted correctly" ? (The lady uses adjustable length poles). We had a brief chat about this and it turned out that the poles were infact too short.

Originally the poles had been adjusted to the correct length by me, however after her last walk she had shortened them to their minimum length. Before her next walk she had set the length up wrong and the back pain had resulted. She had been walking all day in slight spinal flexion which had put undue strain on her back.

Having readjusted her pole length, the next time she went out Nordic Walking she had no problem - her back was fine.

I cannot over-emphasise the importance of your poles being the right length...

For more information on correct pole length see my article on this Blog dated Friday July 15th titled - What Poles Should I Buy ?

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Update on - Nordic Walking Couple Who Ditched Wedding List For Malawi Aid

Last month you may have read about two of my clients David Taylor and Heather Fraser. David and Heather were looking forward to their wedding on August 13th.

They asked their wedding guests to help bring water to an African village instead of buying them wedding presents and wanted to raise £2,000 to drill a borehole in the Sauya in Malawi.

Here is an update from David and Heather:

Hi David,

Well the wedding was brilliant and we raised £1270 for our project. We are holding a disco/raffle/bbq at our local gym on 1st Oct so hope to reach our £2000 target after that.

We spent our honeymoon in Snowdonia - taking the summit of Snowdonia 3 times - how crazy is that - we did the Snowdon Ranger, The Pygroute/miners route and then did the big Watkins route.

Note: Snowdon is the highest mountain peak in Wales (editor)

Our fixed length Nordic Poles got a lot of attention as everyone else had telescopic poles. It' s amazing how many people don't know how to fit their straps for maximum efficiency - Nordic poles are fine until you have to scramble up rocks and scree - but they do slot into backpacks so no worries there.

The Nordic Poles really enabled us to extend ourselves, especially when we did some steep forest trails.

Regards Heather and David Taylor

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