Monday, June 23, 2008


So, what's in a name? - a personal view

Thus far we have encountered Nordic walking, Nordic pole walking, Ski walking, Exerstrider ™ Nordic walking, Exerstriding ™, Dryland ski walking, Pole walking, European Nordic walking, the American Nordic Walking System and Uncle Tom Cobbly Nordic walking! (I will also add my own favourite sobriquet, namely, Finnish Nordic Walking).

It must surely be the case that many potential participants will be confused about what is on offer?

[For the purposes of this discussion I will continue to use the term Nordic walking (NW) meaning simply “fitness walking with poles” and which includes all current variants. I will use the term European Nordic walking (ENW) for the model which is espoused by the INWA (on a personal note I will add that I find the term ENW misleading, but it seems to have gained currency). I exclude “trekking” with poles here as I would assert that as such it is not “fitness walking” but “economical walking”.]

A question

Can the Nordic walking world settle on some simple definitions in order to make life less of a muddle?

If we want to agree that the term “Nordic walking” has now assumed generic status (which some now do) then the INWA would have to be persuaded to share that conclusion. However, the INWA will possibly say that its own founders (Exel Oyj) originally invented the term as a tag for a new commodity, namely a form of fitness walking with poles.

INWA’s initial working definition was “fitness walking with specially designed poles” and this has entered into Nordic walking lore (notwithstanding recent amendments made by the INWA, seemingly to parry a number of alleged “misuses” of its definition). At this point, can I refer you to previous articles written by David Downer on this weblog which explains the origins of Nordic walking (30 Sept 05 and 19 Nov 07).

I feel sure that the INWA will contend that only its model is Nordic walking, simply because its founders invented the term, and it is therefore exclusive. The logic only goes one way, they might say. In other words, Nordic walking is Nordic walking and everything else is everything else. Of course, I feel sure it would probably accept that, say, Exerstriding ™ is most certainly a legitimate pole walking modality (and even the first ) but might go on to say that it does not, of itself, make it Nordic walking, although it is like Nordic walking. As an aside, Exel Oyj should have perhaps registered the name back in 1997 along with that of their poles, “Nordic Walker ™”.

It strikes me that the term “Nordic walking” is itself going to sustain an irreconcilable and dysfunctional state of affairs, with no obvious way out – an impasse. Why would the INWA, or its new “partners,” freely abandon its “guardianship of the ideal” when it no doubt see it as its “right”.

What might our options be?

Turbulent history notwithstanding, we need to move on. As a starter, can we consider that there are, in principle, two main variants of pole walking, i.e. the model as exemplified by the INWA (European NW), and Exerstriding™? Can any other current styles be classified as being variants in their own right: - e.g. Ski walking or Fittrek, or are these hybrids or developments of one, or both, of the two main forms?

Firstly Exerstriding ™ is a very specific form of pole walking, strongly underpinned by testing and experimentation and its presentation to the world has an almost “missionary” quality. It is winning many friends as it embodies a highly resolved ethos which is uncluttered, direct and honest. Of course, the name Exerstrider ™ therefore needs to feature, unsullied, in any fresh definitions.

The creator of the European variant, Marko Kantaneva has reinvented his technique as “Nordic pole walking” in deference to its pre Exel manifestation, which he called sauvakavely (Suomi for pole walking). It is also verified by a large body of research and testing and a return to its “roots” gives it pristine condition.

Likewise, the owners of Ski walking and Fittrek would surely welcome inclusion in this scenario, along with any other variants currently on stage.

As a possible alternative, should we therefore consider “pole walking” as a generic term in place of “Nordic walking”? I know David Downer has alluded to this in the past. Would that fit everyone? This could lead us to:-

Exerstrider ™ pole walking
Nordic pole walking.
Fittrek pole walking
Ski pole walking

Could INWA accommodate the term “Nordic pole walking”? At least it would “shake hands” with its creator with whom it collaborated very closely in the early days. It would still be upholding “le method” still much liked by many, albeit with a slight shift in title.

A glance at the current Exerstrider ™ web site suggests a predominant use of the words Exerstride and Exerstrider and only occasional use of “Exerstride method Nordic walking”. Am I being naïve to ask if Tom Rutlin could consider a shift away from “Nordic walking” as a term – provided it formed part of a wider, mutually agreed development?

Likewise, could not the owners of both Fittrek and Ski walking (and any other forms I have not mentioned) come to terms with adding pole walking into its title?

Poor old Nordic walking

Agreed, the foregoing would mean that the term Nordic walking is discontinued. We all have become used to it and there are scores of organisations world wide who include the term in its service/organisational description. However, it now comes with a great deal of unwanted baggage and it strikes me that matters might become clearer if we finally dispense with it altogether. Of course, the word Nordic would still be around for those who hanker after that connection, in the current context of Marko Kantaneva’s Nordic pole walking.

Pie in the sky?

A second enormous question: - could such a rationalisation lead to the forming of a global co-ordinating body with national associations and which could accommodate everyone currently jockeying for position? Would not such co-operation benefit all (and in particular the grass roots – i.e. the people who buy the poles and the tuition). Tom Rutlin has already alluded to this but I think it would be essential to get rid of any dysfunction first, and then everyone could be included.

Can you see it? The Global Congress (or Coalition) of Pole Walkers (to adapt Tom Rutlin’s suggestion) followed by the UK Congress…., the Australian Congress…. etc. The GCPW would be established to serve the whole Nordic walking community (not just teachers), would have proper governance, an elected president (with a fixed term and an ambassadorial function), membership for all and perhaps a foundation for research and development. In our commercial world sponsorship could be included, as with many other “governing bodies” but would take conventional and transparent form and might differ nation to nation.

Lastly – if that’s not enough

Or, is there simply too much at stake? Are things now too entrenched? Has it all gone too far? Am I simply being too naive and fanciful? Quite possibly “yes” to all of these things, but I do feel that the Nordic walking house needs to be rebuilt square if it is to flourish.

This issue has exercised me now for some considerable time and any views would be more than welcome.

A personal view of: Malcolm Jarvis, Nordic Walker Leeds UK

Sunday, June 15, 2008


John's marathon

A few days ago David advised us of a blog set up by John Merritt, a Portland resident who is currently training for the Nordic walking category of the 2008 Portland marathon. John has changed the design of his site, plus you can now leave responses. His new address is:-

John also wishes to populate his blog with pictures of Nordic walkers - or their pets - or their favourite walk locations. Come on - don't be shy!

Malcolm Jarvis Nordic Walker Leeds UK

Friday, June 13, 2008



I have just finished reading Tom Rutlin's Summer 2008 Newsletter. This edition is packed with interesting ideas and tips, but one particular article grabbed my attention, and imagination.

Tom explained that he had been serving as a member of an advisory panel for the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center of the University of Illinois at Chicago. There, a number of other panel members, who were wheelchair users, were invited to take his Exerstrider (R) poles and have a go at wheelchair "exer-rolling". One of those who tried them out, Terry Chase, subsequently bought a pair, and now uses them as part of her exercise regime ( you can see a picture of Terry with her poles on John Merritt's blog at .

Terry, who lives in Denver, explained how effective they were at providing a good workout for both her cardiovascular system and her upper body. Terry was already an active person who engaged in a range of sports including kayak, swimming and XC-Skiing but simply pushing her chair as a form of exercise didn't appeal. It looks as if Exerstriding has filled a void.

I wonder if Finnish Nordic Walking would be viable for a wheelchair user? Perhaps the "push past the hip" - which is about at the same point as the wheel hub, would be difficult owing to the space taken by the wheels. However, I could envisage a wheelchair user "double poling" to great advantage. Feedback on this would be very welcome. Perhaps there might even be a category here for a marathon event - Nordic Rolling -or am I getting carried away?

Let me conclude with Terry's own closing, and inspirational remarks:-

"So now I have an exercise option that is inexpensive, portable and easy on my body and fun. I can train for XC-skiing any time of year and get a great cardiovascular workout at the same time. Happy poling!!"

Malcolm Jarvis
Nordic Walker Leeds UK

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Hearts and Minds

With some justification we tend to focus upon the physical benefits of Nordic walking, with perhaps a passing reference to the "improvement of mood". For a long time I have "intuited" that the effect exercise has on the brain has far reaching physical ramifications.

To some extent this has been borne out by a recent article in the UK publication "Heart Health" published by the British Heart Foundation (19 April 2008). The article refers to a study published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which has looked at the effect which long standing anxiety has on the risk of heart attack in men over 60.

The British Heart Foundation has added: "It has long been established that poor mental health can have a negative impact on a person's physical health and, sadly, can increase their risk of heart disease".

So, it looks as if exercise can give protection to the heart from two sources - a direct physical effect through good use, plus an indirect effect through better mental health. Given that Nordic walking provides substantial benefits physically then it is likely that it could do so mentally. Research carried out on walking with trekking poles seems to bear this out (Journal of Exercise Physiologyonline Vol 11 No3 June 2008).

Exercise, particularly walking and jogging, has been used with considerable success in people who are suffering from depression and anxiety. We all experience a "high" to some extent following our Nordic walks (see my earlier anecdote "Prozac on a stick"). This is brought about by the secretion of the hormonal substance, beta endorphins into the bloodstream during exercise. This has an analgesic effect on the brain resulting in a state of euphoria and also reduces stress levels.

However, perhaps more importantly in the case of those suffering from depression and anxiety, it is the release of other substances, called catecholamines, which may be bringing about improvement. The effect of catecholamines on the nervous system is evidently to do with the neurotransmitters linked to depression and anxiety states.

Enough of chemistry.

We now know that Nordic walking at a moderately vigorous level brings about a significant range of physical benefits and it seems quite likely that the mood improvement we often experience goes much further than simply giving us a "feel good" effect.

In future we had better reverse the maxim "Healthy body, healthy mind" to "Healthy mind, healthy body".

Malcolm Jarvis Nordic Walker Leeds UK

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Karhu and Exel

On 30 May 2008 Exel Oyj issued a stock exchange release which confirmed that the sale of the Exel Sports Outdoor business to Karhu Sports has now been completed. Exel has claimed that this move will allow them to focus on their core industrial activities. Exel Sports Oy still exists as part of the Exel company but consists purely of the Floorball business.

It is understood that Exel had already outsourced the assembly of its poles to China in a bid to reduce its production costs. Reports suggest that this action had not met with success. The press release does not say if Karhu (a Finnish company) will take on board the complete manufacturing, assembly and distribution process.

The brand name "Exel" will continue to be used by Karhu alongside its other products. Previous reports indicated that brands such as "Nordic Walker" and "Nordic Blader" will be used as part of a long term licensing agreement.

It will be interesting to see if there is any manifestation of this in the function or operation of INWA or whether it will be "business as usual". Presumably Karhu will welcome the ready made network of sales outlets previously set up through INWA's cadre of instructors.

Malcolm Jarvis
Nordic Walker Leeds UK


John Shares his training log as he prepares to Nordic Walk the Portland, Oregan Marathon (26.2 miles)

John Merritt is preparing to Nordic Walk the Portland, Oregan marathon in October and he is sharing his experience. John has set up a training blog and it makes interesting reading.

John is also looking for Nordic Walking photo contibutions, so why not send John a photo or two? John's Blog has already featured photos of Tom Rutlin, Ed Urbanski, a wheelchair Nordic pole user, myself and Malcolm Jarvis (who you may know as a Nordic Walking eCommunity moderator).

To view John's training Blog visit:-

Photos should be sent to:-

To join the Nordic Walking eCommunity Forum visit:

David Downer

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?