Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Jim-Jams Nordic Walking in New Zealand!

Now there's a novel idea to blow out the cobwebs on New Years day - Nordic Walking in your Pyjamas along the beach!

My thanks to fellow Instructor Steffi Mueller down there in Mt Maunganui, New Zealand for letting me know about this event. It looks as though both Nordic Walkers as well as ordinary walkers are welcome to this fun event. Steffi says...

"You'll enjoy cool water stations & summer treats, sun screen, the Pyjama & FUN police, sausage sizzle, fresh fruit, Yummy Bakers Delight baking to devour, a lolly scramble".

Sounds a whole lot of fun and in the middle of summer down there in New Zealand - Oh I am envious!

Anyway, if you are in Steffi's part of the world check out more details here:

If you are elsewhere in the world, well perhaps this will give you an idea for your own event!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


History of Nordic Walking... A Passionate American Compelled to Respond!



I was very moved by your recent post on your blog website regarding "The History Of Nordic Walking", and was compelled to respond. Feel free to publish my response in any way that you may feel appropriate. Being 70 years of age, I feel that I can freely express my opinions without fear of what others may think!

Even though most of us who have been involved in "pole walking" for a while know the true history of the activity, very few are willing to publicly acknowledge the contributions of Tom Rutlin and Marko Kantaneva to that activity. Even here in America, where it all started, people are not ready to accept the fact that "one of their own" really started it all...

...After all, doesn't it just make much more sense to think that an activity called "Nordic Walking" would come from one of the Scandinavian countries, just like Nordic Skiing? And in fact, the predecessor of pole walking, called "hill bounding" was practiced in Scandinavia as a summer training activity for Nordic skiing long before Nordic Walking existed. (I was doing "hill-bounding" with my cross-country ski poles in the 1970's)...

... there can be no doubt that the first commercially documented use of poles used for 'fitness walking' was started in 1988, by Tom Rutlin and his company was called Exerstrider. I bought my first set of walking poles from Tom in 1988, and still have and use them today. And for those of you who may not know, Tom's first poles did come with leather straps! I'm not sure when he eliminated them. Unfortunately, Tom did not have much financial support for his new enterprise and the activity did not take hold in America, like Nordic Walking did in Europe in the late 1990's to now...

Tom's operation, and I suspect, Marko's operation as well, are still small compared to the big pole companies, Exel, LEKI, Swix etc. I'm not sure how many "Exerstride Method" Instructors Tom Rutlin has in the world, but I am sure that those numbers would pale next to the numbers posted by LEKI, Exel, and other pole companies...

...Bottom line here is what is sometimes called "The Golden Rule". He who has the gold rules!

Thank you once again for allowing us in the "Nordic Walking World" the means to exchange ideas, thoughts and opinions about our passion...

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving and Holiday Season!

Walk Well!

Ed Urbanski.

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Monday, November 19, 2007


Attention Nordic Walking Americans - It's not Soccer: The History of Nordic Walking

As a true Brit, I just don’t understand why Americans are giving all the credit for being the ‘originator’ of our great activity to someone else other than one of their own. Nearly every American newspaper article I read on the subject of Nordic Walking credits the Finns or Scandinavia or a Finnish ski pole company, and so do most websites!

Here’s the latest newspaper article:

True to the British spirit of fairplay, I just had to write on this subject again. I just don't like injustice!

Surely by now people must know that it is an American who got there first, a decade before the Finns. So why aren’t you Americans out there fiercely defending and giving credit to one of your own? It’s seems a strangely un-American thing to do!

If you buy into this 'Finnish story' you are just buying into Nordic Walking pole manufacturer Exel’s marketing bandwagon. Exel have re-written the history to suit their own convenience and everyone, including Americans have taken the bait, hook line and sinker!

"Exel weren’t even first in Finland for goodness sake, let alone first in the world! So why are they being given all the credit all of the time?"

A History Lesson:

The pioneer of the sport in Finland was a private individual with a sports and fitness background by the name of Marko Kantaneva. Marko had been teaching it at the Finnish Sports Institute at Vierumaki from 1994 (3 years before Finnish ski pole manufacturers Exel launched their first Nordic Walking poles). Ok what Marko was doing wasn’t called Nordic Walking at the time (that name was created by Exel’s marketing department in 1997). Marko called it Sauvakevely (Pole Walking in English).

When Exel heard about Marko’s work, they hired him to help them develop their own poles to break into what for them was a new market. The name created by Marko, Sauvakevely (Pole Walking) didn’t fit the bill for Exel, so their marketing department came up with a new name ‘Nordic Walking’. Nordic Walking was defined as “Fitness walking with specially designed poles”.

Now how often do you see Marko given any credit or recognition for his pioneering work in Finland? His name is mysteriously absent from the published history of our sport; he’s been written out! When Exel created the International Nordic Walking Association (INWA) in 2000, it was Marko who was appointed as head trainer and it was Marko who developed the INWA instructor training program. Marko was instrumental in the success of both Exel and INWA when it comes to Nordic Walking.

However, it wasn’t even Marko who was first in the world; as I started out by saying it was an American. It all began in 1988 in Wisconsin, USA, when Wisconsin resident Tom Rutlin launched the very first commercially available fitness walking poles. Tom created the name Exerstriding (Exercising all the body’s major muscles while striding) to describe his new creation. This isn’t hearsay or speculation, it is hard fact. I actually own an original 1988 copy of Tom’s ‘Exerstrider Manual & Instruction Guide’ that he sent out with every new set of poles (and still does today).

So, why when the activity that is variously called, Nordic Walking, Pole Walking, Ski Walking that is defined as ‘Fitness Walking with specially designed poles’, is it that Americans fail to give Tom Rutlin the recognition he deserves, when he was clearly promoting this activity a decade before anyone else?

Ok some will argue – “Well, Tom didn’t call his invention Nordic Walking, it was Exel who invented that name and also that Tom’s poles and techniques are slightly different too” – That may be the case but it's still 100% ‘fitness walking with specially designed poles’!

Interestingly, many Nordic Walkers and instructors including those from the Exel / INWA camp are today adopting original 'Tom Rutlin' Exerstrider techniques such as the 'pump handle', long arm Plant, keeping the arm long throughout the poling action. The Exel / INWA technique calls for the elbow to be bent to 90 degrees when you Plant your poles, with the elbow only straightening as you push down and back. Tom's technique is more efficient and activates more of your body's upper body musculature. Many Nordic Walkers are also experimenting with different pole placings eg a more upright plant as per the Tom Rutlin Exerstrider technique. So even the black and white dividing line between Tom's Exerstrider technique versus that promoted by Exel / INWA has been shaded grey.

Nordic Walking is simply one name, although granted the most widely used name for an activity that is also widely defined as 'Fitness Walking with specially designed poles'. Tom Rutlin invented that activity no question and it's proven. Exel simply repackaged what Tom had invented and promoted a decade earlier and called it Nordic Walking.

To say that Tom Rutlin is not the originator of the activity we know as Nordic Walking because he called his creation Exerstriding, is like saying that the English are not responsible for developing the modern game that Americans know as Soccer because the English called it football and not Soccer!

So, American Nordic Walking enthusiasts – I urge you to get behind Tom Rutlin and give him the credit and recognition that he deserves. By all means give Exel in Finland credit for creating the name Nordic Walking (they did) and for pouring in huge sums of money to get the wheels of their great marketing machine into motion (they did) and for being first in setting up an International Association to train instructors (they did) but for goodness sake don’t give them the credit as being the originators because they were not, they were 10 years behind the times on that one!

- Tom Rutlin developed his original idea in 1985 and launched it commercially as Exerstriding in 1988 .
- Marko Kantaneva introduced Sauvakevely (Pole Walking) at the Finnish Sports Institute at Vierumaki in 1994
- Exel launched their version of Tom’s original idea in Finland in 1997.

Tom Rutlin is a true Ambassador for Nordic Walking. He is a man of integrity who always puts Nordic Walking and the furthering of the Nordic Walking movement ahead of his own commercial gain. I wish there were many more Tom Rutlins in our Nordic Walking world because it would be a much better and nicer place...

Come on America (and everyone else around the world), Tom’s is a wonderful story, get behind it and celebrate but above all get the ‘true story’ out there on your websites and into the media and don't forget to menion Marko too! There are people out there who are set on writing both Tom and Marko out of the ‘official history’ don’t let them!

Tom’s website can be found at:

Marko’s website can be found at:

Finally here's how I explain the history of Nordic Walking in a couple of paragraphs. If you have a website please feel free to use these two paragraphs in your history of Nordic Walking, after all it is the true and accurate story:

"Nordic Walking is defined as 'Fitness Walking with specially designed poles'. It comes from America and was invented by Tom Rutlin in Wisconsin in 1985. Tom launched the first commercially available fitness walking poles called 'Exerstriders' in 1988. Between 1994 - 1997 a Finn, Marko Kantaneva was developing his own ideas, entirely independent of Tom Rutlin. Marko called his creation Sauvakavely or Pole Walking.

In 1997 Finnish ski pole company Exel commissioned Marko to help with the design of their own brand fitness walking poles. In late summer 1997 Exel launched their first Nordic WalkerTM poles from which the name Nordic Walking is derived. In 2000 Exel created INWA (International Nordic Walking Association) who began developing a network of instructors to promote Nordic Walking and Exel poles to a worldwide audience."

David Downer
Author - 'Nordic Walking Step by Step'. To get the first 4 chapters of my book for free visit:

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Saturday, November 17, 2007


Nordic Walking in the Mediterranean - Cyprus

It was nice to find a Nordic Walking story today from the beautiful Mediterranean island of Cyprus . The story appeared in the island newspaper The Gazette and features British Ex-pat, Janet Freeman who takes a brisk daily walk of 9km from Protaras to Ayia Napa. Janet says...

"My friend Sonia bought me the sticks from Sweden, (actually they're called poles but we know what you mean! - Ed). I love it, I know some people laugh at me as they drive past but I am not bothered."

One of the first long-stayers to bring her sticks (there's that word again) to the island, Kaari Mäkelä from Finland say's...

"Its not a totally new sport, but it's new here I suppose. I remember being the only one with Nordic poles a few years ago, now everyone in our hotel has them".
To read the full article visit:
. - Look for the story titled - "taking a Nordic Stroll" dated 17th November 2007 (the articles are listed towards the bottom of the page and central.


It's all change for Nordic Walking pole manufacturers Exel & One Way...

Following a mutual separation between pole manufacturer One Way and Alpina Sports Corp, Alpina Sports Corp will take over distribution of all Exel products in North America effective January 1, 2008. Exel Sports will be closing down their company run North American distribution centers effective January 2009, while concurrently ASC will ramp everything up in anticipation of supporting the brand and current dealers through the remainder of this coming season.

According to ASC’s President, Frank Thibodeau the mutual split...

“Simply came down to a difference in product priorities and perceived growth opportunities”.

According to Mr. Aki Karihtala, President of Exel Sports...

“We are very excited about the partnership with the ASC team in North America . They have the sales representation depth, logistical reputation and product expertise we feel the brand needs in the North American winter sports industry”.

To read more on this story:


Olympic Marathon Champion Joan Benoit Recommends Nordic Walking!

In 1984 Joan Benoit Samuelson was the first women’s Olympic Marathon gold medalist . She has won the Boston Marathon twice and the Chicago Marathon once.

Here is what Joan had to say about Nordic Walking during a guest appearance a couple of nights ago at the Maine Running Company. Joan said...

“Nordic Walking is a good introduction to Nordic Running, and is a great way to build some upper body strength that will equal your lower body strength and bring your body into balance. A body in balance is more efficient.”

Take a look at the full question and answer session that Joan gave about her training and her career as a top international athlete:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


New Nordic Walking Association

Nordic Walking Instructors in Scotland have got together to set up their own asssociation. It's called the "Scottish Nordic Walking Association".

It's members are committed to the development of Nordic Walking in Scotland and to ensure those wishing to learn the sport receive quality instruction.

The Scottish Nordic Walking Association is independent and not affiliated to any pole company or supplier and their instructor members are committed to giving advice that is totally impartial. Nordic Walking News would like to wish our Scottish instructor friends every success in their new venture!

Checkout their website here:

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Ed Urbanski - From ‘Iron Man’ to ‘Fat Man’ and Back

Ed Urbanski symbolizes all that is good about Nordic Walking, he not only ‘talks the talk’ but he very much 'walks the Nordic Walk'… and does so daily!
At age 70 Ed is both a Leki and Exerstrider certified instructor and is a regular and popular commentator on all things Nordic Walking on a variety of websites including our sister website:

Rewind a few years and Ed used to be a marathon runner, ski racer and tri-athlete. At the age of 50 he completed the grueling Hawaiian ‘Ironman’ triathlon event, the race encompasses three endurance events of a 2.4 mile (3.86 kilometer) ocean swim, followed by a 112 mile (180.2 kilometer) bike ride and ending with a 26.2 mile (42.195 kilometer) marathon.

But as so often happens to athletes and sports people, injury took its toll and Ed wore out the cartilages in his knees. The pain was so great he could barely walk, running was a complete non-starter! So he began power lifting and got injured again, this time it was his rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is the network of four muscles and several tendons that form a covering around the top of the upper arm bone (humerus).
Ed decided to give up exercising altogether and his weight ballooned, the fat piled on and he went from a lean, trim fighting weight of 175 pounds to a 'fat man' (Ed's words) of 255 pounds with a 40 inch waist.

In 2004 Ed had both knees replaced. In 2005 he took up ‘Exerstrider’ Nordic Walking. Ed has the good fortune to live close to fellow Wisconsin resident and ‘pole walking pioneer’ Tom Rutlin. Ed chose Nordic Walking because it reduces the stress in your knees and hips.
Today Nordic Walking has helped Ed reduce his weight to a touch over 200 pounds. His goal weight by the end of the 2007 is 190 pounds.

Without doubt, Ed Urbanski is both an inspiration and a role model to Nordic Walking enthusiasts everywhere!

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