Sunday, August 03, 2008


Nordic Walking and sport

I pose two questions:

Question 1: Is Nordic Walking a sport?
Question 2: Is question one relevant?

My answer to the first is no! and my answer to the second is yes!

Nordic Walking expressed as a sport

Examination of a number of the Nordic Walking “establishment” websites reveals terminology such as “Nordic Walking belongs to a wider concept called Nordic Fitness Sports(1) and “Nordic walking is primarily an endurance sport(2). I have also encountered the terms “open-air leisure sport”, “wellness sport” and “health sport” during my research for this article. (my italics)

On the one hand, I suspect that organisations use the word sport in order to imbue the activity with a degree of charisma, a sense of allure and an association with athleticism. In much the same way, a sports car is seen as being more dynamic and attractive than a humble family hatchback (even though there is no gain in its function as a vehicle). I believe it is do with image, a matter of “spin”.

On the other hand, I suspect that the word sport is used as a convenient handle for virtually any activity that involves purposeful human movement. As such, it’s a collective noun which is used in a very laissez faire manner.

Whichever condition prevails, I believe that the use of the word, and the image it conjures, is detrimental to the further mass popularisation of Nordic Walking.

A categorical perspective

Without doubt, the concept of sport is hard to define and it is not my intention to stray far into that territory here. However, examination of some of the literature reveals a number of common characteristics of the enterprise known as sport: it is governed by rules, is practised formally and, most importantly, is competitive. Intrinsically, Nordic Walking does not fit any of these criteria.

Of course, Nordic Walking, as with any other form of human propulsion, can be practised in a “sporting context” and thus becomes sport owing to context and intent. A similar thing happens with running. Running, in itself, is not a sport. It can be said that there is a continuum, where at one end running is simply a means of human locomotion whilst at the other end, where running takes place competitively on an athletics track, it takes on the mantel of sport. (Interestingly, there are some sociologists who maintain that athletics is distinct from sport, but we shall not enter that labyrinth here!)

If not a sport, then what……?

By way of a definition, I would contend that Nordic Walking is a form of active recreation – specifically, a form of exercise. It requires no further elaboration.

But, surely, it’s just a harmless word?

Above I suggested that the use of the word sport, with its associations of “high performance”, may hamper progress of the widespread adoption of Nordic Walking, especially in the quest to reach the least active. I draw many of my conclusions from guidance and data obtained from various reports published by the UK government agency, Sport England. (3) Whilst the statistics pertain only to England (not the whole of the UK) I think that it is reasonable to suggest that the trend illustrated applies to most industrialised nations.

As part of the “Active People Survey”(4) conducted in 2005/06 it was recorded that only 21 % of the adult population aged 16 and over (8.5 million) take part regularly in sport and active recreation. Of course, we would more than welcome this segment to take part in Nordic Walking, but from a purely national health perspective these people are already part of the solution and not part of the problem.

28.4% of adults (11.5 million) have built some exercise into their lives, but accept could do more.

However, most critically 50.6% of adults (20.6 million) do not regularly take part in any moderate intensity sport or active recreation. Sport England points out that many health care professionals take the view that the very word “sport” and all its associations may be a deterrent to many in this category.(5)

Furthermore, another feature of the UK (and probably most other developed nations) is its ageing population. It is estimated that by 2020 almost half of the UK population will be over 50 years old. Though chronologically older, attitudinally many older people “act young”. (Be mindful that Mick Jagger recently celebrated his 65th birthday!) The implications for participation in physical activity for this group are enormous. As part of its policy, Sport England expressly recommends avoiding using the word “sport” in connection with this particular segment.(6)

Whilst many Nordic Walking organisations claim that the activity is “for everyone”, they then proceed to put up barriers to those who would benefit most from taking part. Of course, whilst the removal of those barriers will not in itself open the flood gates to mass participation, I do believe it’s a necessary precondition.

At sport level

The INWA organises its teaching procedure around three “levels”, namely health, fitness and sport. (7) Furthermore, I have also seen an elaboration of this by a member association which incorporated the concept of “progression” between these levels. The implication that could be inferred here is that the individual moves from the “mere” health level, via “fitness” to eventually come to the excellence of “sport”. Whilst this may not be the intention behind this concept I suggest that many will interpret it as being so.

I take the view that the bedrock of Nordic Walking (in any of its guises) needs to be “functional fitness”. This can be defined as a common sense approach to exercise designed to foster and sustain lifelong well-ness and to prolong physical independence.

Of course, everyone must begin by learning the basics of their chosen technique(s) simply to provide the tools of the trade. However, functional fitness does not need to be broken down into a hierarchy.

Needless to say, any individual who cultivates a high performance mindset and wishes to go beyond their “optimum” of functional fitness is free to do so. By the same token, any individual who wishes to use Nordic Walking as a means of training for a particular sport is also free to do so and is able to adopt some highly demanding procedures (Nordic Walking on hills, interval techniques, double poling, running with poles etc.). However, these developments are not part of some “essential continuum” but are simply adaptations or extensions of the core activity.

What about Volkssport?

Paradoxically, there is one particular instance where the usual associations inherent in sport are substantially absent, and that is Volkssport, or Peoples’ Sport. This concept, which has become popular in the US, embodies the concept of popular, non-competitive, but structured fitness activity. Thus far, the recognised disciplines include walking, swimming, cycling and Nordic skiing, all done in a friendly and enjoyable context. Nordic Walking could fit this practise, and indeed, many of the events held in Germany follow these lines.


Whilst I have urged dispensing with sporting allusions, Nordic Walking should not, however, be portrayed exclusively as a modality for the sedentary or the ageing population. This may only serve to defeat the “object of the exercise” by creating yet another barrier, only this time to those who are already fit.

As a form of accessible and inclusive recreational activity, Nordic Walking can be readily adapted to meet the needs of everyone, regardless of age, ability, social group, ethnicity or fitness level. In upholding as its core characteristic the concept of functional fitness, the enterprise can provide an enduring and sustainable exercise methodology.


(1) The INWA website at
(2) The website of the German Nordic Walking Union at
(3) Sport England is the central government agency in the UK responsible for advising, investment and the promotion of community sport to create an active nation.
(4) The “Active People Survey” was carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Sport England in 2005/06 and is claimed to be the largest such survey ever undertaken.
(5) From the Sport England report “Best Value through sport – The value of sport to the health of the nation”.
(6) From the Sport England publication “Understanding participation in Sport: What determines participation among recently retired people.
(7) The INWA website

Malcolm Jarvis, Nordic Walker Leeds UK

Walking with poles is the best!

Nordic Walking, like cross country skiing is a fitness sport and ideal for ALL ages and ALL fitness levels.

Because the INWA provides incorrect information regarding uphill and downhill technique and there appeared to be a need to develop Nordic Walking intensity options, we developed the American Nordic Walking System. As a running coach, ski coach and certified Nordic Walking instructor, it biomechanically correct to NOT lean into the hill while going uphill (good posture is everything) and biomechanically correct to NOT sit back on the downhills. On steep downhills it is advisable to plant the poles out in front to help reduce the stress to the knees. Sitting back would magnify the stress to the knees.

Level 1: Casually walking with the poles is healthy and good - burning over 20% more calories than regular walking! Remember to keep your chin up, fingers relaxed and poles slightly angled back (each pole plants inline with the opposing foot's heel - alternating and never out in front unless going down a steep hill.

Level 2: Requires the arms to fully stretch out and slightly down, keeping the poles slightly angled back. This full arm extension will help to burn over 30% more calories than regular walking! You will find that your walking pace will speed up and your stride will naturally lengthen.

Level 3: Includes the full reach + constant pressure through the heel of the hand into the cradle of the strap. Most Americans don't want to be bothered with Level 3 - high intensity Nordic Walking. Level 3 burns up to 40% more calories than regular walking. Level 3 requires maximum push and can most effectively done with real Nordic Walking Straps (the best are patented by the Salomon Ski Company).

For additional Nordic Walking info check out: WWW.SKIWALKING.COM
At this time there are some very positive moves afoot, which I believe most if not all major players in the North American Nordic Walking market are aware of. If successful, this will bring key players in the US Nordic Walking industry together for the first time, to at last begin discussing how best to move the industry forward in a true spirit of ‘co-operation’.

Re: The comment by Pete Edwards that “INWA provides incorrect information regarding uphill and downhill technique”.

I respect the opinion of Pete Edwards who heads up the American Nordic Walking System and who has posted this comment. Pete does a huge amount of very positive things to promote Nordic Walking, through his many workshops, most if not all of which he conducts free of charge. I respect his opinions, although I don’t always agree with them.

However, I think it is unfortunate that he has chosen to post the above comment on this Blog (a copy of which he has also posted on my Nordic Walking News Blog, in response to the original article). It has been posted as if it’s a ‘statement of fact’, when actually it is his ‘opinion’. Of course he is entitled to his opinion, however I know many people both inside and outside of INWA will disagree with it, which they are equally entitled to do. I would therefore like to offer an alternative perspective for people to consider. I will leave you to decide who is right and who is wrong. However, you may decide that we both have points worthy of consideration.

In my publications I have in the past criticized (I believe constructively) certain aspects of INWA. However, following significant recent changes at INWA at an international level and more specifically the changes made by the new management at INWA (North America), I believe the credibility of INWA is at a better place than ever before. I know for a fact that INWA North America are very keen to work and co-operate with all North American based enthusiasts at all levels, regardless of their affiliations e.g. Organizational or pole brand etc. They are very happy to discuss other people’s ideas and approaches which they accept may be different from their own.

INWA North America have already held at least one training weekend that was attended by people including ‘leaders’ from other North American Organizations, where amongst other things the participant were able to try out a range of pole types and brands and thereby share their collective experiences. From feedback I have received this was a very successful event and I hope the first of many.

I believe that there will be a time (very soon now) when most if not all ‘key players’ in the North American Nordic Walking market will begin to work together in a spirit of co-operation, in fact it is already happening with certain parties involved. I believe that anyone that decides to distance themselves from this ‘new era of co-operation’ will find themselves on the peripherals of the industry.

I should point out here that ‘co-operation’ doesn’t mean losing one’s individual identity as a Nordic Walking organization. As an industry we are never going to agree on everything; apart from anything else I’m sure we don’t all want to become ‘clones’ of each other. There are different ideas and differences of opinion and that is good and that is healthy. We should also remember that Nordic Walking is and will always be ‘evolving’. Therefore; what is deemed by some today as being ‘a correct’ way of doing something, may well not be deemed the ‘correct way’ 6 weeks or 6 months or 6 years from now. We should thrive and enjoy thriving on our diversities, our different ideas and opinions; if we do we will all be enriched by the experience. But above all we should ‘respect’ each other and ‘co-operate’ with each other but never, never, never… ‘Condemn’!

I always say that Nordic Walking is not ‘black and white’ it is varying shades of grey. And isn’t that a healthy way for it to be? On my Nordic Walking eCommunity Forum we have many wonderful and positive discussions that can only happen because we are not ‘clones’ and because many of us have slightly different ideas and slightly different, opinions and ways of doing things. Nobody criticizes another person because their ideas may be different to their own. That is just disrespectful! As a result the forum thrives.

It is and will always be counter productive if we make statements that ‘attack’ other people or other organizations or other people’s products etc. Of course healthy discussion is to be commended. So, coming back to INWA; after 11 years as an organization that chose to isolate itself from the rest of the industry, things are clearly changing for the better and I commend INWA for that. I particularly commend Malin & Gary the new guys in charge at INWA North America, for the positive inroads they have already made. I would encourage all Nordic Walking organizations to take a hard look at themselves, to look at your values & belief system and choose how you wish to proceed from this point on. Are you with us, in which case you will accept our hand of friendship or are you against us? You decide!

I have had some very positive conversations with individuals who head up their own Nordic Walking organizations and there is clearly recognition and acceptance that we need to put our differences in ideas and beliefs aside and come together in a spirit of co-operation.

As Claire Walter who owns the Nordic Walking USA Blog once said – words to the effect that:

“There are too many big fish swimming around in their own small ponds.” I think Claire nailed it on the head!

Due to a recent industry mood change, hopefully we can now start moving forward in co-operation, so that we can all reap the greater rewards and enjoy swimming around in the ‘communal ocean of opportunity’ that Nordic Walking offers us. Let’s hope that ALL concerned open their collective eyes to this opportunity!

The industry has tried the ‘big fish in a small pond’ route and I’m sorry to say it has failed badly!!! How do we expect the public and the media to take us seriously over recent years and still today, when adults in a position of authority and responsibility, isolate themselves from each other based on what organization they run or are affiliated to, or what pole type or brand they use! It’s been madness!

In Germany, so often held up as the ‘shining example’ of Nordic Walking success; reports suggest that they have taken a major hit over the past year or so, with pole manufacturers pulling out, demand and interest falling backwards and instructors moving on to other things in significant numbers.

INWA themselves have had to take a serious look at themselves and they have! It’s still early days, but as far as North America is concerned, INWA is a far more ‘industry friendly’ organization than it’s ever been by a long way! These guys are certainly reaching out a hand of friendship and co-operation. The signs are very encouraging indeed!

Let’s learn from past mistakes. Like us, the Germans were fragmented; let’s not continue making the same mistake! To use computer terminology last start ‘defragmenting’ now!

In this new window of opportunity in the Nordic Walking industry, I would urge everyone (particularly those in a leadership role), to ask themselves the following question before they say, write or do anything in future:

“Is what I am about to say, write or do, going to be helpful with regards to moving this industry forward in a positive spirit of co-operation”. If it’s not or you are not sure, please (if you truly have the best interests of Nordic Walking in your heart) do not say, write or do anything until you have something more positive to say. Let’s not harm this industry anymore!

Many years ago I was involved in sales and a wise old, extremely successful sales manager said this to me words to the effect.

"If you don’t have anything good to say about your competition, say nothing. As soon as you criticize or condemn the other man or his product, you cheapen yourself and lower yourself to the ranks of the gutter salesman. You will never be respected by anyone and ultimately it is your pocket that will suffer. No matter how much you disagree with a competitor; find something to praise them for and then focus on the benefits of what ‘your’ product will do for your customer versus finding fault with your competitors product. That way your customer will respect you, your peers will respect you and you will truly be able to look at yourself in the mirror and have respect for yourself. Your pocket will also be better for it!”

I don’t agree with everything that other people say or do with regards to the Nordic Walking industry. However, who am I to say that I am right and they are wrong? Even though I have (constructively) criticized INWA in the past on certain points; I have always tried to give praise where praise is due before dealing with the points I wish to make. In making points I try very hard not to make wild sweeping statement or to exaggerate. I prefer to deal with the facts. When I get things wrong I am happy to acknowledge the fact. After all we tend to learn most from our mistakes.

O.K, I would now like to respond directly to the statement by Pete Edwards that “INWA provides incorrect information regarding uphill and downhill technique”. However, due to the length of this post I will do so in a separate posting.

David Downer
Owner - Nordic Walking News
This is Part 2 of my posting in response to: "INWA provides incorrect information regarding uphill and downhill technique".

I would advise ‘extreme caution’ to anyone who is considering planting their poles in front of the body when going downhill, ‘particularly’ on steep slopes. The reason for this is because of the potential risk of falling forward onto your poles and injuring yourself. If you are descending a steep hill using the ‘INWA’ technique, your centre of gravity is low and if you slip you will simply sit down onto you backside. If you fall forward on a steep slope and your poles are ahead of you, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that you could impale yourself on your pole spike or handle! Alternatively you could fall on your pole/s, which then splinters or break causing a sharp point to pierce your skin. It could be like falling onto a knife! Think this is far fetched? Remember - Accidents do happen!

If you are an instructor and you are advising your clients to plant their poles in front when descending a steep slope, BEWARE! If an accident happens e.g. your client injures them self falling forward onto their poles, are you confident of defending yourself in a court of law? Before you answer that consider this; the prosecution lawyer is likely to call on an industry ‘expert’ to testify against you in court. It is quite likely that expert may be from INWA (or another organization that teaches the same). INWA’s advice is not to place your poles in front of you when descending a steep hill, because of the risk of serious injury if you fall forward onto your poles? It's common sense when you think about it. How do you think you might fair as an instructor when an industry expert is standing in the witness box saying that you are wrong?

Having said all that; I do use the technique that Pete Edwards refers to for personal use and under certain circumstances (however, not descending a very steep hill)!

Actually in ordinary Nordic Walking around my neighborhood I have got into the habit of often planting my poles in front of me when going downhill. It works for me and I find it comfortable.

However, I think very carefully before introducing these techniques to my clients. In fact I consider planting poles in front of the body when descending even a gradual downhill slope as an ‘advanced technique.’ I do not consider it appropriate or wise to introduce this technique across the board (on safety grounds) and certainly not to beginners. I therefore consider that INWA are perfectly correct, even if they are erring on the side of caution, to strongly advise their instructors against teaching or recommending planting the poles in front of the body when descending a hill.

With regards to uphill technique: This is the first I have heard from anyone to suggest the technique that is taught industry wide (including) by INWA for acending a hill is incorrect.

Posture is everything which is exactly why in my opinion the INWA recommended technique is correct eg:

A full body lean from the heels not the hips. The ribs should be lifted (allowing for expansive breathing); there should be a natural arch in the lower back (neutral spine) and the abdominal muscles should be lightly engaged.

If you see a Nordic Walker in side profile climbing a hill; at the point where one foot is forward and the other is back you should see a perfectly straight line running from the 'heel', through the 'knee', through the 'hip' to the shoulder.

In my opinion it is not practical or efficient to ascend a hill any other way.

I hope that other people will join in this discussion and post their thoughts.

David Downer
Owner: Nordic Walking News
Climbing and Descending hills part #2: in response to David Downer's thoughtful ideas about hill climbing and descending hills here are some ideas based on over 25 years of coaching runners and skiers + hosting a couple hundred Nordic Walking Clinics/Lessons.

If a skier leans into the hill they lose grip, slip and put unnecessary pressure on their lower backs. A little ankle flex is a good thing and the correct term is “flexion” – check out:

When Nordic Walking uphill and we lean into the hill we end up putting unwanted pressure on the weight bearing joints and the lower back. A little ankle flex (flexion) is a good thing. Leaning is a bad thing. I always ask my students ”what makes your back feel the best?” Leaning into the hill is biomechanically a bad thing.

Regarding Nordic Walking downhill: on typical downhills it is totally okay to plant the poles out in front and radically reduce the stress to the shins, knees, hips and back. I’ve been coaching skiers for years and have never heard of pole injuries that David Downer fears Nordic Walkers could encounter. If the slope is wicked steep try double poling. I’ll double pole when bushwhacking down into a ravine – typically off trail. Most trails, logging roads, deer and cattle paths aren’t radically steep. We tested the common sense approach to descending hills with the poles planted out in front to absorb the shock and eliminate the stress to the shins, knees, hips and back. We have tested this technique in the Grand Canyon – check out:

It would have been totally terrible to descend into the Grand Canyon doing a weird crab-walk, sitting back type technique. Again good biomechanics dictates that better posture is the winning ticket – standing tall and NOT sitting back.

My kids LOVE hunting for morel mushrooms during the spring. We find a ton of shrooms on steep wooded slopes and my knees LOVE my Nordic Walking Poles. I either plant them out in front on most downhills or double pole down the steepest/most radical terrain. Sitting back and doing the recommended crab-walk descent recommended by the INWA would be a total disaster – especially on slippery damp leaves. Planting the poles out in front and/or double poling works great.

In all of the Nordic Walking Clinics and Lessons that I host I teach the correct way to Nordic Walk the hills. When class participants compare leaning –vs- no leaning on the uphills and planting the poles in front on the downhills –vs- sitting back the feedback has been and will continue to be 100% in favor of NO leaning on the uphills and NO sitting back on the downhills. Many of my class participants have knee and/or back issues and they are quick to pick up on the techniques that are most comfortable.

Posture and biomechanics are where it is at. The American Nordic Walking System was designed by WWW.SKIWALKING.COM to help keep Nordic Walking simple, safe and effective. So far we are at a 100% positive feedback rating and must be on the right track.

Hopefully we can address stride length in the future. No time now, but faking a long stride is a disaster waiting to happen. As in running, the ideal stride length occurs naturally when the arms are used effectively. Nordic Walkers will benefit from a safe, longer stride when the arm extension increases. Stride length should be a natural thing and NEVER faked.

Walking with poles is the best!

Thank you you for your thoughtful feedback and expansion on your original comments.

This is the sort of discussion that we could do with seeing alot more of in the Nordic Walking world.

I am very open minded to new ideas / possibilities and hopefully one day when I get to visit America it would be great to share time with you and others leaders like you to exchange ideas and experiences.

Of course we are probably never going to agree on everything and that's fine, it's probably a good thing. As long as we can all get along together in mutual respect and keep our minds open, that's what's important.

It's also important that we continue to present are ideas in a thoughtful, respectful way so that members of the public can consider different views, ideas and beliefs in order that they can make up their own minds and form their own opinions.

I do understand where Pete is coming from on the points he makes. With regards to the downhill technique he uses I certainly would not suggest that he is 'wrong'. In fact if I was to join Pete to Nordic Walk in the Grand Canyon [actually I quite like that idea :-) ], I think it is highly likely that I would use the same technique as him.

What I'm trying to do is seperate what I might do myself (a decision for which I take my own responsibility for) from what I feel I should teach as an instructor on safety grounds. The level of experience of the client/s may effect what advice I give.

Pete's mentions that he has never heard of anyone tumbling forward onto their poles and injuring themselves. I've not heard of anyone that has happened to either. The point I'm trying to make here is that as instructors we are obliged to risk assess prior to every activity session we do with our clients.

It may be the case that we have never heard of a specific type of accident occuring, but nevertheless we need to consider the potential for it happening.

If we are happy that we have risk assessed thoroughly and as a result we are confident of the actions that we decide to take or not, then we have done our job.

David Downer
Owner - Nordic Walking News
Nordic Walking or whatever other name one prefers is an an activity that crosses the boundaries of age, fitness and interest. To some people it is a sport in and of intself. To some, it is a way to cross-train for winter or summer sports. To some it is pleasurable outdoor recreation. To some it provides an opportunity to walk sociably with friends with a fitness bonus. To some it is part of a weight-loss regimen. To some it is therapeutic after an injury or joint-replacement or other surgery. To some it is a competition opportunity. To some it provides stability and security in case of neurological and/or balance problems.

Frankly, I can't understand the need to define Nordic Walking narrowly when one of its great pluses is that it fits so many interests and needs. It is fundamentally a simple activity with a short learning curve -- and it seems counterproductive to make it more complicated than it is. Want complication? Try golf!

Claire @
These recent, fascinating discussions have provoked in me a number of trains of thought. Some of the questions are “big” and are to do with the very nature of the Nordic Walking world at an organisational level. I guess I am in a similar position to Claire, i.e. I have an instructor’s certificate but have chosen not to instruct. Instead my path is as a Nordic Walking activist, researcher, writer and, of course, practitioner. As a consequence, and also being out of the organisational loop, David’s commentary is very valuable.

In some respects this whole discussion reinforces my strong belief that we need an international, independent Nordic Walking body which could serve the whole Nordic Walking community, and the grass roots in particular. Even the interesting debate about hill technique could be something such an organisation could examine and do so under controlled experimental circumstances. There is much stimulating discussion within our “movement” and there is the risk that much gets lost owing to the lack of focus.

Having mentioned hill technique I feel compelled to add my own pennyworth, even though I have little knowledge of biomechanics.

Being a mountain walker (we call it fell walking) I encounter steep ground on a regular basis. For about fifteen years I used trekking poles, but I now always take my Komperdells with me instead. I have never been particularly comfortable with the INWA downhill technique and, on a personal basis, rarely use it. Instead, when descending steep ground I plant my poles more or less in line with my feet, or slightly ahead. If the terrain is made up of “steps” then I usually plant both poles simultaneously on the next step down. The nature of the ground dictates and you do need to have some faith in your poles.

However, wearing an instructor’s hat, I fully agree with David that, as far as your tuition is concerned there is a danger if you depart from the wisdom given to you by your awarding organisation. If you show your client something different from the norm, you are exposed if things go wrong. I know the risk might be low, but “low risk does not equate to no risk”. Furthermore, if you have “improvised” with your guidance, even if you feel strongly about it, your insurers might not be happy either. In any event, I think it best not to give advice about taking Nordic poles out onto markedly difficult or steep terrain. A steep grassy slope, or path in the park is one thing, but a long steep, slithery hillside is quite another.

Walking uphill does not, to me, present any real issues. Surely the only purpose of “leaning” forward is to transfer your weight of the “upward” leg as you push. I have watched fell runners ascend non run-able ground by pushing down with both hands on top of the lead thigh just above the knee (so as not to compromise the quads). Pushing on a pair of poles planted double pole technique provides a similar and even better mechanism and I have noted a number of adventure racers use Nordic poles on steep uphill sections (they carry them the rest of the way!).

Finally, Claire makes a case for not getting too concerned about how we classify, or define Nordic Walking. I agree that everyone will choose their own vocabulary, and of course they are free to do so. My concern is not what people choose to call it (e.g. sport) but more how it is presented in the public domain. It may be the case that we committed Nordic Walkers may often revel in concepts such as “training” or “performance” or enjoy allusions to Nordic skiing etc. However, I have come to believe that these references may dissuade many “couch potatoes” from ever picking up a pair of poles.

Malcolm Jarvis
Nordic Walking Leeds UK
Malcolm - thanks for more good discussion! I agree with Claire that Nordic Walking should be kept simple. And I believe it should be presented in a safe and effective manner that works for all ages and all fitness levels. That is why The American Nordic Walking System was developed.

The discussion on uphill and downhill technique has clearly dictated the need for a “Nordic Walker Responsibility Code” – similar to the “Skier Responsibility Code” and addressing some of the inherent risks (pot holes in the road, cracks in the side walk, tree roots on the trail, slippery ice and the need to consult a physician prior to launching any new fitness activity). The only time I’ve taken a tumble while using Nordic Walking Poles was once while Nordic Running with them and my toe caught a root at the top of the last mega last hill – oops. My fault. Nordic Running increases the chance for a crash, but I still let participants in my classes know that Nordic Running is an option.

When teaching Nordic Walking classes, and I teach a ton of classes, I have NO liability fears about teaching safe and effective Nordic Walking technique. David Downer and yourself find that planting the poles out in front a bit on downhills is effective for both of you personally. I find it a knee saver. And I find that for individuals with balance issues it is much more practical and stable.

While demonstrating the best way to approach downhills I always teach double poling, teach planting the poles out in front and quickly demonstrate crab walking (sitting back with the poles angled back) downhills and show how it puts a radical amount of unnecessary pressure on the knees. I demonstrate these options for each class and let them decide what feels best. 100% of the time the combination of double poling (if super steep) and planting the poles in front a little bit are the preferred options. I only teach with one-piece poles and have NO fear of the poles collapsing unexpectedly when planted out in front a little bit or when double poling.

If you tell someone to “lean” into the hill on an uphill it WILL put unnecessary stress on the lower back. A cross country skier that leans into an uphill section puts stress on the lower back and minimizes the grip potential of the skis’ wax pocket.

I love Nordic Sports – Nordic Skiing (cross country skiing), Nordic Walking and Nordic Running are my top three.

I am looking forward to working with others to help keep Nordic Walking simple, consistent and effective. Hopefully we can get millions of individuals off the couch and out doing Nordic Sports!
An interesting discussion with fills me with a sense of Deja Vu.

When I was forming the Scottish Nordic Walking Association a couple or years or so ago I was in consultation with the Scottish Sports Council. The question as to whether Nordic Walking was classed as a fitness activity or a sport came up.

Regardless of what I thought - the Sports Council's criteria for an activity to be classed as a sport, amongst other things, was that it had a recgnised governing body which had been in existence for 2 years.

It would be interesting to know what criteria was applied elsewhere both nationally and internationally.
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