Monday, October 31, 2005
'Straps' versus 'Strapless'
With increasing frequency I being asked about the merits of Nordic Walking poles with straps versus poles without straps. Rather than continuing to reply individually I thought I would make this posting for all to see.
Whilst most Nordic Walking poles have a specially designed wrist strap, there is one notable exception (there may be others although I am not aware of them). That is the poles manufactured by Exerstrider in the USA.
Exerstrider poles are marketed by their creator - Tom Rutlin, as the 'original fitness walking poles in 1988' - A claim that can be fully substantiated - (see my posting 'The History of Nordic Walking - A Clarification' on September 30th).
I have a lot of time and respect for Tom not only for his pioneering work in the field of fitness walking with poles back in the 1980's but for his continuing efforts over the years and to this very day to promote this wonderful activity in every way that he can.
Ok - At Nordic Walking News I do my very best to offer an 'independent' view in the world of Nordic Walking. So what is my view on this subject?
Whatever poles you use and whether they have wrist straps or not there are fantastic benefits to be experienced.
However, I have had the opportunity to try both options - I personally own both Exel & Leki poles with straps and a pair of Tom Rutlin's 'strapless' Exerstrider poles.
As much as I have every respect for Tom Rutlin (who incidently gives me much encouragement with my own Nordic Walking ventures) and I value his opinion, I have to come down firmly in favour of poles with straps for the following reasons (and the first one is a biggy in my opinion).
1) In Nordic Walking (but not in Exerstriding) there is a phase during the polling action called 'open hand', This comes after the phase 'pushed past hip' and increases the range of movement (ROM) the shoulder works through. The larger the ROM the greater the potential for the associated muscles to do more work.
As the Exerstrider poles do not have straps there is not the opportunity to 'open hand' and achieve the full ROM. The handle design on the Exerstrider poles also limit how far you can 'push behind the hip'.
The ROM is in my opinion a really important point. The Exerstrider technique requires that you push only to the hip anyway. Now as one of my own clients pointed out to me - that is not a natural walking action ! If you walk correctly (without poles) your arms will swing ahead of you and behind you. Using the Exerstrider technique and or poles you are only completing half of the natural action. However, with the Nordic Walking technique using poles with straps you are able to complete the full natural swing just the same as if you were walking without poles.
In my opinion, in order for people to experence the full 'health' benefits of walking, one of the things they have to do is swing their arms through the full natural range and not limit the range by stopping the swing at the hips.
As the old saying goes - 'Use it or lose it' - In other words if you persistently work joints and muscles through a reduced or limited range you will eventually lose the ability to work them through the full range.
A natural walking action with a backward and forward arm swing promotes a fuller (natural) range of movement in the shoulders and shoulder girdle and also rotational movement in the thoracic spine (the part of the spine the ribs stick to) - Again this free movement is really important if you are to obtain the full health benefits of walking and not suffer in the future from reduced range of joint movement.
2) In my opinion it is a clear advantage to be able to let go of the handles and work the poles via the straps. The further you walk the greater the advantage. I have to say I found it a disadvantage having to hold onto the handles (albeit lightly) when using the Exerstrider poles.
3) With all poles you should avoid gripping the pole handles too hard (particularly if you suffer with high blood pressure) . Think of the handle as a baby bird - Don't let it fly away but don't squeeze too hard either! However, in practice it is all too easy to squeeze too hard. With straps you will not be holding the handles all the time so that will be an advantage to you if you suffer from high blood pressure.
Ok - So there you have my opinion and findings - I have read many fantastic testimonials from users of Exerstrider poles. Please do not think I am saying that Exerstrider poles are no good - I am not - They are very good - It's just that having had the opportunity to try the different options I have come down in favour of poles with the strap option for the reasons I have stated in this posting. If you are a user of Exerstrider poles I am sure you will have many more years of great enjoyment and benefit out of them.
One final point: This is to do with technique not the actual poles. I whole heartedly endorse Tom Rutlin's straight arm (versus the more commonly used bent arm) 'plant' during the polling action - Tom calls this his 'pump handle' technique. I have previously written at length in Nordic Walking News as to why Tom's 'pump handle' gets my vote. But, simply put - When you plant your poles do so with a straight arm (in practice this will be very slightly flexed). As you push down keep the arm straight.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Testimonial - "Amazed at how much of a cardio workout I got"
What a great morning, Nordic Walking on the beach is probably the perfect sport. I had a lovely lesson, there were 5 of us and we met at the Ski Store and walked down to the beach, it was just 1 hour and went far too quickly. I really enjoyed myself and was amazed at how much of a cardio workout I got. I'm really excited about this and looking forward to getting more involved.
North Vancouver, Canada
Walk Away Your Low Back Pain
Reasearch at UCLA shows that walking for 3 hours or more a week can help sufferers of low back pain have less pain. Interestingly the same research showed that specific back exercises tended to make the condition worse rather than better.
OK - But we know that walking with Nordic Walking poles is even more beneficial to back pain sufferers both on the flat and on hills.
Anyway here is the article - Check it out:
If you would like to learn more about back pain also check out:
* The book that is promoted comes with a 100% money back guarantee if you are not absolutely satisfied.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
A Change of Hats !
I'd just like to put my 'Exercise Therapist' hat on for a moment...
I believe that there is great potential for Nordic Walking instructors who have the relevent qualifications and experience to work with people recovering from illness, operation and injury.
This is an area that I am particularly interested in and I have teamed up with my local Physiotherapy Clinic on a pilot project to work with clients who might benefit from using Nordic Walking poles. Yesterday I met with my first referred client and the experience was very positive.
I have previously spent 6 years working with exercise clients mainly in the over 60's age group, who between them had a whole host of medical issues and ailments (I have specialist qualifications in this area). I found the work to be very rewarding.
I would like to request feedback from anyone who has personal experience as a sufferer / patient in any of the following areas, who has found that Nordic Walking poles have helped them:
Balance instability, Osteoporosis, Painful joints, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Back Pain, Parkinson's Disease, Injury (sporting or otherwise) or any other medical condition for which Nordic Walking poles have been a benefit.
Please tell me your story and your experiences with your poles. Also please let me know if I can use your story as a testimonial in which case I will need your full name, town and country of residence.
Nordic Walking & Osteoporosis
October 20th was World Osteoporosis Day and this got me thinking. I believe that Nordic Walking poles have a role to play when it comes to the prevention of both Osteoporosis and the Osteoporotic Fracture.
Osteoporosis is a disease which affects many older people particularly women,in which bone density and bone quality are reduced. This can lead to osteoporotic fracture eg in the spine, hip, wrist, upper arm and shoulder.
Unfortunately many people are unaware that they have Osteoporosis until it's too late. The first symptom they experience is a bone fracture. Medical experts agree that exercise plays a vital role in maintaining bone health. This is because bones respond when they are stressed eg when they are forced to bear more weight than they are used to.
Exercise also helps to maintain muscle strength, agility, mobility, flexibility, movement quality and confidence. The result of all this is that quality of life can be maintained for longer and the risk of falling, which can lead to osteoporotic bone fracture is reduced.
Ordinary Walking has for a long time been recommended as a good form of 'bone loading' exercise for the spine and hip but what about Nordic Walking ? Well, logic suggests to me that if enough force is applied during the Nordic Walking polling action (eg you push hard enough) this will result in 'extra stress' being placed on the bones in the wrist, and upper arm and shoulder, which can only have a positive effect in terms of osteoporosis prevention in those areas.
It is the muscle tendons pulling on the bone that build bone strength.So the harder you push during the polling action the harder the muscle works (contracts). The harder the muscle contracts the harder the tendon pulls on the bone. The harder the tendon pulls on the bone the better it is for developing or maintaining bone strength.
Of course, Nordic Walking Poles are also the ideal equipment for people who experience balance instability (so much better than a single walking stick). The increased stability and improved postural position gives added confidence to the user, which reduces the likelyhood of them falling and therefore experiencing an osteoporotic fracture.
We promote Nordic Walking as a total body exercise program but could it also be the best single form of exercise for osteoporosis prevention too ?
I would welcome any feedback anyone is willing to give.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Welcome - Poland, Saudi Arabia, Israel & Malta !
Since my posting the other day celebrating my BIG 30 ! (That's subscribers in 30 countries)... I can now add Poland, Saudi Arabia, Israel & Malta to the list making it my BIG 34 !
So a very warm Nordic Walking News welcome to all new subscribers wherever you are in the world !
Add Saudi Arabia Too !
You can add Saudi Arabia to the list of countries. We have started a Nordic Walking group here and we love it!!!
Please keep up the good work, the newsletter is great!
Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Testimonial - My six year old likes to use the telescopic poles now
Thank you for so much good information about Nordic Walking.
I currently live in Germany and am hooked - as are many Germans. Monday - Friday I put the children on the school bus at 8am and then head out for my walk. I Nordic Walk for approx 1hr15min - This sets me up for the day.
Last year I had major surgery and have not been able to excercise. Nordic Walking, for me, has been the perfect exercise/release I have needed. Exercise and fresh air - perfect combination.
I started out with telescopic aluminium poles and now use carbon fixed length poles after reading your article about how to get the correct height pole. Two sets of poles and I've only been walking since September! My six year old likes to use the telescopic poles now.
Keep the information coming.
Lotte, near Osnabrueck, North West Germany
Testimonial - It's a lot better than just walking
I am a 71 year old male who has started Nordic Walking to get in shape and lose some weight. I have been using Nordic Walking poles for two weeks. It's alot better than just walking. I Nordic Walk about three miles a day, and enjoy it a great deal. Nordic Walking helps my back a lot. I feel like I have had a good workout when I get done, but not all beat up like running.
Thanks very much and keep up the enthusiasm it is inspiring.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
I'm Celebrating the BIG 30 !
Here at Nordic Walking News I am celebrating the BIG 30 !
No not my 30th birthday... I wish !
I am actually celebrating subscribers in 30 Countries / Territories across the world !
Please excuse me for my little celebration.. It may not mean much to you but for me.. it's a little mind blowing !
Just 7 months ago I decided to sit down and write the first monthly edition of Nordic Walking News - see www.nordicwalkingnews.co.uk/archive (that was before the Blog format that I now use) - It just seemed like a good idea at the time and I thought that I might get a few subscribers here in the UK. Originally I only thought of it as a UK publication, that is until I found people were subscribing from other countries too.
Within a month I had subscribers in 14 countries - I thought that was pretty amazing but to find I now have subscribers in 30 countries / territories - Wow... The Power of the Internet !
I would like to ask you a little favour...
Below I have listed all 30 countries / territories (in alphabetical order) - If you don't see your country / territory listed, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
Ok that's all for now... Here's the list:
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg, Micronesia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA, Wales.
Note: In case like me you are wondering where Micronesia and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are...
Cocos (Keeling) Islands = A group of islands in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Indonesia, about halfway from Australia to Sri Lanka
Micronesia = Island group in the North Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to Indonesia
Saturday, October 15, 2005
It's 'time' not sweat that counts !
You don't need to sweat to benefit from exercise. Check out the article at the following link to learn more:
Also read my posting on 24th August 2005...
'How Hard Should I Exercise'?
Sunday, October 09, 2005
The standard Nordic Walking poling technique requires that as the right arm comes forward, so does the left leg and vice versa. We call this 'walking in opposition'.
This is also the standard technique used by cross country skiers (remember Nordic Walking is a cross between cross-country skiing and fitness walking). Another technique used by cross country skiers is called 'double-poling'. In double-poling both arms come forward together and you take two steps to every poling action.
Double-poling is a great way to create a more intense contraction of the upper body musculature. So if you are looking for even better results when it comes to eg toning and conditioning your abdominal muscles, then give double-poling a try.
Note: When you first try double-poling do it in short bursts otherwise you may tire quickly
An occasion when double-poling really comes into it's own is when you are walking down a very steep hill. Ordinarily when walking downhill (see previous posting) the pole tips stay behind you as per the standard Nordic Walking technique...
However there comes a point (as hill walkers will know), that the decline becomes so steep that it is not practical to keep the pole tips behind you any more. On such occasions place the pole tips ahead of you using a double poling action.
Note: All other points re: walking downhill (see previous posting) apply.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
10 million Nordic Walkers by 2010... and that's just in Germany !
In the September issue of German fitness magazine 'Fitness for Fun', the following statistics are listed for the number of Nordic Walkers in Germany.
The statistics come from the German Nordic Walking Association:
2002 - 20,000
2003 - 300,000
2004 - 2 million
2010 - 10 million (estimated)
Wow... And that's just in Germany !
[[My thanks to Bernd Zimmermann at the American Nordic Walking Association (ANWA) for alerting me to these facts - Bernd has just returned home to Los Angelas, California after a visit to Germany]]
As a Nordic Walking Instructor sat at my desk in England that's music to my ears. Until recently, here in the UK promoting Nordic Walking has been rather like 'pushing a pea up a very steep hill' - Challenging ! But lately I have noticed positive change.
'Brits' who have been introduced to Nordic Walking whilst on holiday this summer in countries like Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Scandanavia are coming back to the UK wanting to take up Nordic walking.
For example - Yesterday a retired couple hired me for a private workshop - They had recently purchased Nordic Walking poles whilst on holiday in Switzerland - As serious hill walkers they had used 'hiking' poles for years but they were now very excited about Nordic Walking.
A group of people passed me on my local seafront recently as I stolled by using my poles - One person commented "That's Nordic Walking - in Finland everybody's doing it".
A friend of mine made a similar comment after a recent visit to Germany.
It's always exciting when you get a phone call out of the blue and someone is enquiring about Nordic Walking - But it's even more exciting when that person is in a position of influence, as has happened to me a couple of times recently.
The first call was from a representive of the Leisure Services Department of my Local Borough Council (Local Government Department). This resulted in me running a taster session for a group of council staff and the signs are positive that this will lead to further opportunities.
In fact it already has, as next week I will be attending a one-day Council run 'Walk Leaders' course - It's an initiative set up to promote 'walking for health' in the local community. Walk leaders organise led walks and members of the public come along to join in.
The second call was from a Physiotherapist at a large private Physiotherapy practice in my home town. As a result of this call next week I have a three way appointment with the Physio and one of his patience, who he believes will benefit from using Nordic Walking poles. We are already talking about an exciting joint project that would see me working with many more patients with similar needs.
Anyway I have rambled on a bit considering I intended this to be a quick posting about those amazing figures !
Photo - Oh, nearly forgot to mention - I took the photo at one of the recent Nordic Walking taster sessions I held in my local park.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Uphill & Downhill Technique
When you are walking up and down hills you need to adapt your basic walking technique as follows:
- Lean into the hill, the steeper the hill the more the lean.
- Lean from the hips as opposed to leaning over by bending your spine forward.
- Maintain your walking pace (some instructors say accelerate)
- Use strong arms - The stronger your arm action the more effort will be transfered from your legs
- Protect your back - Pull in your abdominal muscles eg draw your navel (tummy button) towards your spine and maintain a natural arch in the lower back
- Control your breathing. Many people get breathless due to poor breathing technique eg they take short shallow breaths. Always take slow deep breaths - Fill your lungs with air by expanding your ribs and then let the breath out slowly (practice this whilst seated in a chair).
- Bend your knees / sit / lean back. The steeper the hill the more you bend / sit / lean
- Reduce your speed.
- Strong arms - The harder you push your pole tips into the ground the more they assist the 'braking action' during your descent
- Plant you heel first (toes raised). The steeper the descent the more you dig your heels into the ground to slow your descent.
Note: the pole tips still stay behind you when walking downhill