Saturday, October 28, 2006


Nordic Walking – The “Right Way”?

I would like to thank fellow UK based Nordic Walking Instructor Stuart Montgomery of for the following 'thought provoking' article. =====================================================================================

Here’s an interesting question for NW instructors: are we introducing Nordic Walking, or are we re-inventing it to fit our own local context?

The question hinges on what we think Nordic walking really is. A common view is that it is a set of fairly fixed practices that were codified by fitness professionals in Finland in the 1990s. In this view, the job of the NW instructor is simply to make this set of practices available to his or her local public.

However a contrary view is possible. This view does not see NW as a fixed set of practices. Rather, it sees NW as something that – in a diligent and serious-minded way – instructors are making up as they go along, amending it to suit the needs and expectations of the clients that actually present themselves.

I go for this contrary view. And I therefore get a little impatient with instructors who talk dogmatically about the right way to practise NW, who say that you must wear one kind of footwear and not another, and who insist that for a person of a certain height there is one length of pole that is right and every other length is wrong. I have come to this view after a couple of years’ experience as an INWA instructor. During this time I have done a lot of teaching, often taking five regular classes a week.

My own background in outdoor activity has three different elements. I’m a fitness instructor; I have done a lot of mountain walking with groups (I hold a Summer ML); and I have many years experience of cross-country skiing. Each of these elements tends to influence my NW teaching in a different way – and each is relevant to a different type of student.

With my fitness instructor hat on, I take a focussed approach. I work on good technique, emphasising push-back, oppositional rotation of shoulders and pelvis, foot-strike that leads with the heel. I get the students to engage their abdominals, to feel their triceps working, to keep their shoulders soft. We mainly do long, slow distance; but sometimes we do intervals, ladders and pyramids. For footwear I recommend good trainers or NW shoes...

...For clothing I refer them to the local running shop. For pole-length I follow INWA’s recommendation of height multiplied by 0.68. For terrain I use public parks with well-maintained grassy surfaces. At this intensity, a session of one hour will normally be long enough. When I’m working like this, I think I come pretty close to INWA’s expectation of a NW instructor.

The trouble is – I don’t get many clients who want me to work like this.

What I do get – and they form the overwhelming majority of my clients - are people who want a regular, brisk, country walk. They want to join a group, to have a sociable chat as they walk, and perhaps to make new friends...

...When they have completed one eight-week series of classes they will often immediately sign up for another. They are mainly women, and mainly aged over forty. Part of the reason they want to join an organised group is that they are afraid to walk on their own – there is a strong feeling in our area - in many areas - that women who walk alone in parks and open spaces are putting themselves at risk of assault.

With this type of client, my job starts out as a NW instructor – I need to show them the basics, after all. But then it has to change, for if I go down the “fitness” road I will very quickly scare them all off. My role therefore becomes more like a walking party leader...

...I still occasionally work on new technique. But the main tasks are to research and select a good variety of interesting country walks, and then lead the groups around them, taking care to match the pace to the fitness level of the group, to ensure there are plenty of drink stops, and to ensure that nobody is left out of the conversation.

The walkers in these groups have different equipment needs from the fitness walkers. Now light walking boots are the most appropriate footwear. Boots may lack the forward flex of trainers or walking shoes, but the ankle support is valuable, and so is the cleated sole, for we sometimes go over muddy ground. For clothing I refer them, not to the running shop, but to a supplier of country walking gear...

...As for pole-length, these students are often better with a pole that is a little shorter than INWA’s recommendation – partly because they will not consistently perform a good push-back and partly because our walks will sometimes take us over mixed ground on which we use the rubber “paws” (which add to the overall length of the poles)...

...These walkers are definitely getting some benefit from their poles. However, I sometimes feel that because they are poling so lightly, they might as well be using any old poles: trekking poles, ski poles or even poles with no straps at all. Partly to compensate for this light poling I make these sessions longer, from ninety minutes to two hours, to ensure that a good fitness workout is achieved.

My third category of NW clients is made up of people who are already cross-country skiers. This is a small category, making up perhaps ten percent of the overall total number of students. Some come for standard classes; others join a Ski Fit - Ski Ready programme.

NW offers two sorts of benefit for cross-country skiers. One is the general fitness benefit. The other is that they can use the poles to practise ski-specific exercises. These exercises mainly involve work on hills. We climb hills in different ways (walking, running and bounding, and sometimes using a shuffling kind of gait known in skiing circles as “moose-hoofs”)...

Usually we walk back down the hills. But sometimes we work our way down by taking jumps that simulate the turning movements in downhill skiing, using the poles for support as we jump. As far as clothing is concerned, these people need running kit. Footwear should be good trainers or sporty walking shoes – as long as the terrain is free from tussocks and potholes...

...And as for pole-length – well, poles should ideally be adjustable. When going uphill the optimum pole length will be about 10cm longer than the INWA standard. When going downhill, and especially when jumping, the pole should be about belly-button height, which is maybe 10cm shorter than the INWA standard.

I have worked with other types of walker. There have been people wanting help in recovering from hip replacement surgery. There was a woman in her mid-eighties, still keen to walk, but a little hindered by angina. There was a man trying to hold off Parkinson’s disease. There have been teenagers preparing for a school ski trip. They have all required a different approach.

I am certain that other instructors could come up with many additional categories from their own experience. And I’m also certain that these categories would encompass a very wide range of ages, expectations and levels of fitness.

I feel that as instructors we should celebrate this diversity, rather than retreating into a one-size-fits-all mentality. The great thing about Nordic walking is not that it is suitable for everyone. Rather, it is that it can be made suitable for everyone. The challenge for instructors is to make our practices and methods every bit as varied as the clients who come to us for help.

Stuart Montgomery
October 2006

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Dog Lover's - Nordic Walking Testimonial

"I have only been Nordic Walking for 4 months here in New Zealand. I have always walked with a hiking stick due to bad knees but Nordic Walking is great. It is fun, invigorating and works the whole body. I have lost a lot of weight and am feeling so less stressed.

I have a medium sized terrier. I thought Nordic Walking would not be compatible with walking my dog but I have found that if I have my small pack on with a carabiner on the waist band my dog will walk in front of me and he loves it.

The lead is just long enough for him to be ahead of me without him getting accidentally kicked but not too long so he wanders. I prefer to have him in front rather than behind (It also helps up hills :-)

I have walked with groups of people and he doesn't get in the way of others. He is a real talking point too. On the beach I allow him off lead. My dog is looking a lot healthier now that he gets an hour of exercise a day.

I bought David's Nordic Walking book and I found the explanation and '10 Step Plan' very easy to understand and the pictures were great to reinforce the descriptions."

Rachel Rait
Christchurch, New Zealand

Note: Photo permission Tom Rutlin:

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Nordic Walking Book - Physical Edition Now Available!

Following the successful launch (4 months ago), of the world's first Nordic Walking book in the English language - my own "Nordic Walking Step By Step" (by David Downer). I am delighted to announce that the real live 'physical version' is now on sale.

For the full information and / or to order either the Physical version or the eBook version, please visit:

Note: When ordering either version of my book, you will be taken to an external website that handles the order fullfillment and the financial transaction.

The Physical version retails at $24.95 plus US sales tax (if applicable) plus shipping (shipping costs vary by location).

Note: It doesn't matter what your local currency is. The automated ordering system handles all currencies, the fact that the book is advertised in US dollars has no bearing on this, it will convert your currency to US dollars.

Note: If you want to confirm the 'total' cost before ordering (which will vary depending on your location), simply go through the online ordering process up to the point where the total (including sales tax if applicable & shipping) is confirmed - At that point you can then decide if you want to proceed with your order.

Note: If you want to convert US Dollars to your local currency, there is an online currency converter at the following website. Please be aware that this website will not necessarilly convert at the rate that will be applied to your transaction when you place your order but it will give you an approximate guide.

Note: The binding I have chosen for my book is Wire-O. The benefit of this to you is that when you open the book at a page the book will lay open flat eg on a table or floor (great if you are out in the local park following my 10 point program).

30 Day Money Back Guarantee!!!

With the Physical Book (NOT the ebook)there is a 30 day money back guarantee.

Note: Please be aware that only the front and back cover of the Physical Book are in full color (only the ebook is full color throughout). The inside copy plus all the photos / graphics are black and white. Unfortunately some of the impact of the photos is lost with black and white versus full color. However the contents of
the ebook and the Physical book are identical.

So here is the website again (this is the only place that you can order the physical version at present).

Note: Before you order my book please read the (recently updated)information on the website and download and read the f-r-e-e 4 chapters excerpt. Included with the free excerpt is the recently added 'Forward' to the book written by Bernd Zimmermann - President of the American Nordic Walking Association (ANWA)

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Nordic Walking News - Cross-Country Skiing Vacation - All the details ..

I am pleased to announce that I am now able to provide the full details for the planned Nordic Walking News ~ Cross-Country Skiing Vacation to Norway in February 2007.

All standards welcome - Complete beginner to advanced skiers

For full details, including how to reserve your place/s (no money required yet!)visit:


Big Strides, or Fast, Little Steps?

Following my recent appeal for writers, I am delighted to present this very interesting article by Marek Zalewski of that offers food for thought to every Nordic Walker - Please feel free to post your comments and feedback.... David

Those interested in Nordic Walking, or for that matter just walking as fast as possible, endlessly debate whether it can be done faster, by taking long - almost at maximum extension - steps, or faster, shorter ones.

Aristotle has said a long time ago, that: "The person who walks with short and slow steps is a person who starts his business sluggishly and does not pursue a goal". I do not necessarily agree with the famous philosopher, mainly because it does seem to me that taking shorter, faster steps is not only, well...faster, but there's also less of a danger of injuring oneself, by overstretching the stride.

I can only assume that Aristotle was not too concerned about the actual speed of walking, but rather with one's personality. He also talks about "slow" steps and that's not what we are interested in here.

About a year ago, trying to catch up with a woman, who passed me on the trail around Burke Lake, Virginia, appeared to be totally impossible. Very quickly I realized that my super-long steps simply were not the way to win races.

She did admit (probably to make me feel better, as she was passing me) that she used to be on the U.S. race walking Olympic team...

Anyway, after struggling for about half a mile and at the same time seeing the woman steadily pulling further and further ahead of me, taking very fast, but relatively short (by the standard of my longer legs) steps, I decided to try to emulate her technique.

It didn't come naturally, particularly in view of the fact that I had to exponentially increase not only the cadence of my legs, but also of my arms and Nordic Walking poles, but lo and behold! I did start to slowly gain on her!

I was not able to catch her before the end of the lake circuit, but the slightly shorter, but much faster steps almost brought me within striking distance!

I suppose that the optimal combination would be achieved by taking long and very fast steps. Unfortunately, most of us are limited to a certain effort and in order to maintain a very fast cadence, the stride has to be shortened at least to a certain degree.

Most of the time, when I do not try to race someone, or attempt to beat a personal best time, I usually Nordic Walk with my longer, slower steps, which seem more natural than a really fast tempo. When doing that, I usually am able to push harder with the arms. There is simply more time to do so.

Shortening the step by 5, to 10 cm (2-4 inches) will not affect the distance walked nearly as much, as increasing the frequency of the steps from 90-92 steps per minute (my long step average), to 130 + steps per minute (again-my average).

Losing let’s say, three inches out of every stride would translate into 180 inches, or 15 feet (about 5 meters) per minute, or only 300 meters (900 feet) per hour. On the other hand...considering that my steps are around 1 meter-long (3.3 feet), the 40-step per minute increase translates into 40 extra meters for every minute, or 2,400 meters (1.5 miles) additional distance covered every hour!

Do the math yourself, substituting your figures for mine.

Once again, regardless of the tempo, cadence, stride length, proper form should be maintained. If you cannot maintain the form, try slowing down the pace, to the point where both speed and form can happily co-exist.

Faster cadence might be easier to manage with slightly shorter poles. I haven't been doing it, but you are all welcome to try, if your regular size becomes too cumbersome at 130+ strides per minute.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a better upper body workout, slightly longer poles might help. Once again, all I do is simply concentrate on pushing harder and/or doing some hill climbs, but using longer, or adjustable poles may be a very good idea here.

Marek Zalewski lives in Vienna, Virginia. He is a journalist with the Voice of America and Editor of Nordic Walking US.
email: marek @

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Cross Country Skiing Holiday / Vacation - Everyone Welcome... Complete Beginners to Advanced

You may have already read that I am planning to host a Cross Country Skiing Holiday / Vacation this coming winter (I think that's autumn / fall for readers in the southern hemisphere?) ...

...And all readers of Nordic Walking News and Nordic Walking eCommunity plus friends and family are very welcome...

Note: It doesn't matter where in the world you live, you can come and join us for a fun filled holiday / vacation in the beautiful winter wonderland of Sjusjoen, Norway.

Before anyone asks - "What has this got to do with Nordic Walking"? Of course the answer is everything. Firstly the origins of Nordic Walking can be traced back to Cross Country Skiing and both Nordic Walking and XC Skiing are 2 of the 6 disciplines under the umbrella of 'Nordic Fitness Sports'.

...And it doesn't matter what experience you have of Cross Country Skiing - In fact it doesn't matter if you have ever seen real snow in your life because full instruction is available...

...Those that opt for the instruction package will start out by experiencing another fantastic Nordic Fitness Sport - 'Snow Shoeing' - a great and fun way to get used to being on snow and a great way to prepare for Cross Country Skiing.

Note: Anyone who can Nordic Walk is at a distinct advantage when it comes to learning to Cross Country Ski.

For experienced Cross Country Skiers we have route descriptions that will enable you to go off and explore this beautiful locality before returning to join the rest of the group for laid back evenings of Apres Ski.

For anyone who would like to extend their stay to enjoy a few days in Norway's capital city Oslo... We can arrange that too. The package is being organized for us by an ATOL licenced UK
holiday / vacation Tour Operator. These guys have many years of experience of organising similar holiday / vacation packages and are experts when it comes to Cross Country Skiing and as it happens Nordic Walking too...

...So we can assure you of a fantastic holiday / vacation.

Ok, that's all for the minute...

Full details will be released within the next 7 days..

Oh, by the way pencil in the dates... February 4th - 11th 2007


Writers / Contributors Wanted for Nordic Walking News

First an apology... Following a request earlier this year a number of people contacted me expressing an interest in writing / contributing to Nordic Walking News. Unfortunately, due to the major computor problems I suffered mid summer I lost alot of my contacts, including some of the people who had put their name forward... Therefore, if you are one of those people and you have not heard back from me, I offer my sincere apologise...

I would now like to make my request again...

Perhaps you are a Nordic Walking enthusiast who enjoys researching and / or has a flair for writing and you would like to play a part in the next phase of development of Nordic Walking News?

Perhaps you are an industry professional who would like to raise your own profile and that of your company / website and become recognised on the international stage as an Nordic Walking expert (NW News has subscribers in over 50 countries / territories across the world)...

Note: Although I have an extensive background in the fitness / sports industry going back over nearly 30 years, nobody in the Nordic Walking industry had heard of David Downer 18 months ago! Imagine what you could achieve in the next 18 months off the back of my success and by sharing my stage - If you aspired to it of course!

If you already have that recognition perhaps we can work together to further raise your profile and and that of your company by spreading your message to even more people.

Maybe you would like to be a 'columnist' and have your own regular column? Or, perhaps you would like to be a Nordic Walking News 'Field Reporter', reporting on Nordic Walking news in your state, county, city or town?

I am open to all offers and suggestions... Simply, if you would like to use Nordic Walking News to put your message out there to Nordic Walkers across the world I would love to give you that opportunity.

I am able to offer reciprical benefits to all writer contributors eg I will promote you, your business and your website via Nordic Walking News and NW e-Community and via other exciting projects I have in the pipeline, in return for your contributions

Note: Some of the contributors whose articles have already appeared in Nordic Walking News have since featured in my book - 'Nordic Walking Step by Step' and of course they have been given due credit and publicity in my book... A win, win situation for all concerned. Perhaps you'd like to be featured in a future book / publication?

I am currently working closely with one of my contributors on some exciting holiday projects.. another potential win, win situation for us both.

Simply... You help me and I will do all I can to help you...

Note: Even if you do not consider yourself to be a Nordic Walking expert that's not a problem! If you have expertise / knowledge in associated areas that would be of interest to Nordic Walkers, that knowledge / information can be adapted to a Nordic Walking theme...

Eg: An expert in Nutrition might write an article "Essential Nutrition tips for Nordic Walkers". An athletic coach might write an article - "12 week step by step training program to Nordic Walk your first half marathon". I'm sure you get the idea....

Of course many writers do not have any specialist knowledge in the particular field they write! Instead their skill is researching a subject and then writing creatively based on their research. Whatever you have knowledge or expertise in, if you would like to write for Nordic Walking News I would be very pleased to hear from you.

I have been asked to write some guidelines for prospective writers so here goes...

Article Guidelines

+ Articles should be relevant to the topic (a bit obvious really) - But take 'goal setting' as an example... The goal setting article should be tied into Nordic Walking versus being a stand alone article about goal setting with no mention of Nordic Walking.

+ I ask all contributors to respect that my publications are 'independent' and my aim is to promote Nordic Walking in general without bias or favour to any one manufacturer or Nordic Walking organisation.

+ Articles cannot be an advert for a company, product or service. The reader should not be able to say "this is just an advert." However, in return for contributing an article I will promote the writer, their business and website via a resource box. I am happy to liase with the writer as to the contents of the resource box. Here is a couple of examples of a resource box.

David Downer is Editor of Nordic Walking News and author of Nordic Walking Step by Step. To download your FREE 4 Chapter Excerpt visit:

David Downer offers 'private' Nordic Walking tuition to individuals, couples and groups in the Poole & Bournemouth area of Dorset, England and 'One to One' Pole based Physical Therapy. Visit:

+ I cannot accept articles that attempt to negative sell - eg Articles that make negative statements about one manufacturers product / equipment design etc in order to influence readers to select an alternative manufacturers product / equipment design.

+ Individual articles should ideally be around the 300 words count (eg 250 - 350 words). Larger articles are absolutely fine but ideally these should be broken down into a series of articles eg a 900 word article would make a great 3 part series of articles each of approx 300 words.

Note: Why write a 900 word article and feature yourself once, when you could split it into a 3 part series and feature yourself on 3 seperate occassions?

+ As people tend to scan online articles (versus read word for word), short paragraphs are best. A maximum of 6 lines per paragraph is recommended

+ Articles must be the original work of the writer. Where quotes etc are used or scientific research reproduced, appropriate credit must be given to the originator. Of course plagiarism or any other breach of copyright or ownership is unacceptable

+ The use of bullet points is encouraged as is...

+ A good headline plus the use of sub-headers

+ As editor I reserve the right to edit all articles

Interested? Then email me at:

Sunday, October 01, 2006


This One's for UK based Nordic Walkers

There will be a series of 'Exel and Asics National Nordic Walking events' held in UK cities during the coming months...

Each event will include basic instruction from Nordic Walking UK / INWA Instructors and will finish with an organised 3 - 5 mile Nordic Walk. Exel poles will be provided on the day.

The following dates are planned:

London: Sunday 3rd December 2006
Bristol: Sunday 28th January 2007
Manchester: Sunday, 11th February 2007
Birmingham: Sunday 18th February 2007
Edinburgh: Sunday 25th February 2007

For further details and / or to register your interest visit:

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