Monday, December 01, 2008


A personal review of "The Ultimate Nordic Pole Walking Book"

Firstly, can I confirm that this review is entirely spontaneous, personal and independent. I have no connections whatsoever with either the author or publisher and my account is offered in the spirit of information and opinion sharing.


A few facts and figures about the book:-

Published in paperback, the ISBN number is: 978-1-84126-252-9
Published by Meyer and Meyer Sport

The colophon in the UK version suggests that the book was first published in 2009(!!) by Meyer and Meyer. The Amazon US site tells us it was October 2008. The book, which is paperback, contains 181 pages and measures 23cm by 16 cm, or thereabouts, on face. The cost (Amazon) is 9.99 GBP or 12.21 US dollars, which appears to be an “offer” price. As far as I am aware, it is published in English only.

The author, Dr Klaus D Schwanbeck, originates from Germany and holds a list of impressive qualifications and, amongst other things, has been Germany’s National Track and Field head coach. He is currently president and CEO of Nordic Pole Walking USA LLC, which is based in Florida, USA.


The book is well set out, easy to read and lavishly illustrated. I very much liked the fact that the “people pictures” were by and large ordinary folk instead of the usual young glamorous model types who have probably never picked up a Nordic pole prior to the photo shoot! The book contains a good balance in this respect.

There is one particular “odd” claim (or at least it seems to me) in that the author asserts that …..“In the USA, Nordic Pole Walking is rapidly gaining in popularity – spreading from Naples, Florida all over the country.” Any comments from the US are most welcome!

It’s also interesting to note that the author uses the term Nordic Pole Walking which is also the choice of Marko Kanteneva. However, I could not find any explanation for the departure from, simply, “Nordic Walking”.

The book focuses exclusively on the European Method Nordic Walking (my terminology) and does not touch on the other main technique, Exerstriding ™. At least, in the brief chapter on history there is a tribute to Tom Rutlin, although we are led to think that Nordic Walking as such did not happen until 1997 in Finland! I have no problems with a book about the European Method, but I do wish that some fuller thought had been given to establishing the broader historical picture.

Whilst the book’s main thrust is walking for health and fitness there are a number of programmes to suit those who seek “performance” based outcomes. That’s great but I just wish the author had not liberally used the word sport throughout the book. You might think “what’s the harm?” I freely admit that this is a personal “bee in the bonnet” about which I have elaborated previously in the pages of Nordic Walking News. Whilst it might seem quite innocent, I feel that it can be counterproductive – I will say no more here.

The section on technique shows us the core “cross crawl” method only. There is no mention of how to manage steep ground, nor any additional procedures to “up the ante”, such as double poling, skipping or bounding. The technique shown seems to embody the “extended arm, pump handle” practice although there is no explanation of the bio-mechanical actions involved. The novice walker is warned about the risk of over-striding, which is good.

There is an excellent raft of exercises with poles, including range of motion, plus stretching and strengthening procedures. There are a number I have not seen before and I am tempted to include them in my own praxis (provided it’s not blowing a gale or freezing cold! They look fine when practised in balmy Florida!)

Whilst I found the chapter on equipment and clothing a bit thin, there are however, some excellent chapters on health related matters, as follows:-

Nutrition and weight loss
Cardio-pulmonary issues
High blood pressure problems
Healthy veins
Stress management

With the exception of the chapter on “stress management” I found the content of these chapters just right. There is plenty of technical explanation (although not dryly presented) plus charts and “self tests”. As a lay person I found it very helpful to have all of this kind of material brought together. I’m sure that experts may well dispute some of the conclusions, which is what they do, but I found it all very persuasive.

The final section of the book contains a “fitness calculator” plus a comprehensive range of training plans. I have to admit to being a bit of a mug for this kind of stuff so I look forward to sitting around the fire filling in the boxes! The closing pages touch on frequently asked questions, research sources and details about the author.

On balance I enjoyed the read and will certainly refer to it again with regard to health matters and programmes. For the newcomer, the chapter on technique looked fine and will be helped by the DVD (available separately) or the online video. Of course, none of these media will provide feed back and therefore, in my view, can never replace the guidance of a good teacher. Having said that, I’m happy I bought it.

Malcolm Jarvis, Nordic Walker Leeds UK


Competitive events in the UK

Please note that the context of this particular item is UK orientated. However, readers from other countries might find the content of interest and may wish to make similar representations to their own official national sport administrations.

Earlier this year, one of the members of the Nordic Walking eCommunity (Brian Rulten) made enquiries to the governing body “UK Athletics” (UKA) about the inclusion of Nordic Walking within existing events. Brian has an interest in seeing NW being an acceptable and commonplace feature of various organised running/walking events. He has kindly sent me a copy of his correspondence for publication in this emagazine in the hope that other enthusiastic individuals might take up the issue with event promoters in their area.

Brian sent me a copy of two letters that he had received from the UKA. I have not reproduced the first as this is, by and large, an early response and asserts that broader consultation is required before any conclusive guidance can be given. The second reply from the UKA contains the outcomes of consultation and I am delighted to reproduce it in full (for privacy reasons I have not shown Brian’s home address).

Any reader who wishes to see published the first UKA letter should let me know via a comment to this article or by a posting on the forum at:

Finally, can I thank Brian for getting this issue underway and I hope that interested Nordic Walking enthusiasts will pursue the matter. Apart from providing an opportunity for participation, such events can also give Nordic Walking a boost. It is my plan to get in contact with the organisers of the Lakeland Trails events with a view to seeing if they would be interested in using our “off road” version of the “Portland Protocol”. More on that in a future article.

The following is the facsimile of the UKA letter:-

(recipient’s address withheld)

30 April 2008

Dear Brian,

Nordic Walking in UK Athletic Events

I am pleased to confirm that I have received replies from colleagues which I can now share with you. These include:

Insurance: Our Brokers have commented “insurers are aware of this and have agreed that if competitors use Nordic Walking equipment (in events promoted by affiliated organisations) that’s ok……Nordic Walking events are not covered as they fall outside the UKA discipline” (road running, cross country, etc.).

Road Running: This is an issue to be discussed within the road running technical/rules group that meets infrequently. I have discussed the subject with the Chair of the group and her first thought is that it would be necessary to disqualify anyone in an awkward winning situation but there would be no real concerns about the use of Nordic equipment as a participation activity.

Fell and Hill Running: Comment received from the chair of the UKA Fell & Hill Committee – “I am aware of the use of poles in fell events but only rarely and only in the mountain marathon type events. We see no need to legislate for these or other technical innovations ie GPS and leave it to individual race organisers to decide what is suitable for their event using the catch all equipment rule if needed. However we would not wish to encourage the use of poles especially in fell races where they could prove a danger to other competitors and of course to the environment due to additional erosion.” (see my comment on this latter issue below - Malcolm)

Cross Country and Trail Running: I have not received any feed back from either of these disciplines. However I can speak with a strong background in cross country administration and competition and I would be surprised if use of Nordic equipment were to be accepted in cross country races.

Race Walking: I have not pursued an enquiry with race walking colleagues as my interpretation of their rules for competition – straight leg, continuous contact with the ground, etc. – would automatically exclude any variations.

In summary I would suggest that the use of Nordic equipment would be broadly accepted and would create no issues with our insurers – as long as the usual requirements in respect of health and safety and risk assessment are fulfilled, but instances will arise where local issues will arise. These issues may take the form of a promoter deciding that he will not accept entries or a race referee choosing to disqualify a competitor.

I would recommend a common sense approach in respect of acceptance of entries to races; entrants planning to use Nordic equipment should advise the promoter of their intentions and give the opportunity for objections. Rules for competition are often open to interpretation and each promoter and referee may view issues differently. I would be interested to hear of any examples that you are aware of.

Please let me know if you have any comments or if there are any issues that I have missed.

Yours sincerely,

John Temperton
Athletics Services Manager

(Letter ends.)

Personal comment: Whilst I respect the views of the Chair of the Fell & Hill Committee can I mention that I have previously been in contact with officers from two of our National Parks about erosion caused by poles (trekking or Nordic). Footpath officers from both parks I approached (Yorkshire Dales and Lake District) informed me that they have not seen, nor been alerted to any problems caused by walkers using poles. The biggest cause of footpath erosion has been from the pressure of numbers and the fact that most walkers wear boots with deep cleated soles. Walkers “cutting corners” is another source of problems. Also, concerns about poles constituting a “hazard” can be overcome by common sense, plus some “guiding principles” for the activity.

Article posted by: Malcolm Jarvis, Nordic Walker Leeds UK

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