Sunday, February 15, 2009


Is Nordic Walking a Sport?

Following Paul Chesmore's excellent article; "Is Nordic Walking a Sport", which he wrote as a follow up to Malcolm Jarvis's excellent original article of the same title, I thought I'd offer my contributions to this interesting debate.

The idea that Paul offers, that above all Nordic Walking is a 'recreation activity', sits well with me. That Nordic Walking is a sport can certainly be contested but I don't think it can be denied that Nordic Walking is most definately a 'recreational activity' . If we are looking for an 'umbrella' definition, I think we are going to be hard pressed to better it.

Note: Like Paul, my personal preference is the word 'recreational' versus 'leisure'!

The argument as to weather certain recreational activities are sports, or not, will always be debated. To spread some more light on our debate, I thought I'd take a look at some dictionary definitions of the word 'sport'. Here is what I found out...

1) states:

Sport is: An athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.

2) Cambridge Dictionary of American English

Sport is: A game, competition, or similar activity, done for enjoyment or as a job, that takes physical effort and skill and is played or done by following particular rules

3) Longman's Dictionary of Contemporary English (2003 edition) states:

Sport is: A physical activity where people compete against each other.

4) Collins Gem English Dictionary (1989 edition) states:

Sport is: A game, activity for pleasure, competition, exercise.


Sport is: An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others.

Based on the opinions of these respected fountains of knowledge, Nordic Walking does appear to fit into the definition of a sport, at least under certain circumstances. In English speaking countries such as USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Nordic Walking competitions are few and far between (although there are more than there used to be). Not so in Mainland Europe! Germany (for example) has many Nordic Walking competitions, with competitions often attracting thousands of participants / competitors!

So, where does this leave our debate. Well; individuals will clearly make up their own mind. However, personally, for now at least, I'm going to take the following stance...

At it's current point in the evolutionary process:

"Nordic Walking is primarily a recreational activity, that can, when a competitive element is introduced, be classified as a sport".

So, straight answer to a straight question. Is not walking a sport?

...It can be ! :-)

David Downer
Owner - NordicWalking News / Nordic Walking eCommunty
Author -


Nordic Walking -Training Agenda

Introduction from Malcolm Jarvis, Nordic Walker Leeds, UK
The following article was written by Stacy Meyer Jochem who, amongst other things, currently runs the Employee Health Improvement program for Medical Care Development in Augusta, ME. Stacy also has a passion for Nordic Walking and holds instructor certification through INWA and Nordic Walk Now.

The article first appeared over on the Nordic Walking eCommunity at:

As it is a very informative article, we thought that we would re-produce it here as it will sit well with a suite of “technical articles” planned for the near future. Of course, Stacy has kindly agreed to us doing this. Please note that her original introduction has been modified very slightly in order to allow the material to function as a “stand-alone” article.

Also, it gives those who do not subscribe to the forum an opportunity to read Stacy’s comments and add it to their “fitness file”.

Here is Stacy’s article:

How often can I go Nordic Walking?

When we exercise our muscles breakdown and small amounts of protein in the muscle cells rupture. The more you exercise, the more the muscle is likely to tear. It’s one of the reasons why we become weaker by the end of a vigorous workout.

After any workout muscles need to recover. But if muscles are not given enough time to recover fully before another workout then muscle can progressively become smaller.

As your fitness level increases it’s possible to increase the number of training days in a week and still be able to recover within a day. Most overtraining is due to a combination of excessive volume and intensity. Most exercise programmes include both resistance and cardiovascular exercise. This combination presents a very complex setting from a physiological standpoint. The data available suggests that both components may have to be modified to prevent overtraining.

According to Andrew Fry PhD, most overtraining occurs when either volume or intensity is excessive for too long. It is also important to note that training volume and intensity are inversely related. In other words, when training volume is greatest, intensity must be relatively low, and vice versa.

The defining characteristic of overtraining is an unexplained drop in performance. Some important signs to pay attention to are: exaggerated fatigue, “heavy legs” and changes in mood, sleep and concentration.

John Douillard PhD, author of “Body, Mind and Sport” (Three Rivers Press, 2001), states “The way you’re breathing can indicate how effective your training is. If you’re soaked with sweat and panting for breath every minute of your workout, you’re probably overtaxing your body. Shallow panting can actually make your body more stressed. When you gasp through your mouth, you’re triggering your fight-or-flight stress receptors,” he explains. “When you breathe through your nose, your lungs and ribcage work in a more efficient manner.”

What exactly is overtraining? An expert panel from the US Olympic Committee and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) have answered this question by defining the differences between overload training, overreaching and overtraining.

Overloading is:
Planned pushing of training limits that is necessary to achieve improved performance.

Overreaching is:
Unplanned, excessive overload without adequate rest. This is a short-term problem marked by poor performance in training and competition.

Overtraining is:
Untreated overreaching that results in chronic decreases in performance and an impaired ability to train. This is a long-term problem associated with prolonged overload training without proper recovery time.

Over training occurs when an athlete spends too much time training and not enough time resting and eating the nutrients needed to rebuild muscle tissue that is damaged during intense exercise.

Marathon Training Guidelines

I used the following training formula when I trained to walk a marathon. It is outlined here as a general guide but the full text can be found at:

The “guidelines” are crafted around four specific walking modalities: Easy, Tempo, Maximum-oxygen and Long. Essentially each modality is as follows:-

Easy walks:
Many coaches and exercise physiologists maintain that most walkers should do 80 to 90 percent of their weekly training at an “easy walk” pace.

Tempo walks:
These are described in the guidelines as "hard but controlled" walks, and they suggest they will help you prepare for events of 10,000 metres up to the marathon. They go on to say that “tempo workouts” generally fall into one of two categories: steady walks of 4 to 8 kms; or long “intervals” with short recovery periods. It is recommended that you should do tempo walks no more than once per week.

Maximum-oxygen walks:
It is said that the so called “maximum-oxygen” walks help you improve your walking “economy and racing sharpness”. These workouts are often called "interval training," and are most useful when you are preparing for a race of 5000 metres to half-marathon distance. They offer an example of a typical workout: 6 x 800 metres at maximum-oxygen pace with 1-4 minutes of recovery walking between repeats. You should do maximum-oxygen workouts no more than once a week.

Long walks:
They claim that “long walks”, as defined, are the very foundation of all marathon training programs. So, even if you are not training for an event, it's a good idea to do one semi-long walk each week. Because long walks are done at a relaxed pace, there is a latitude in how fast you actually walk and in general, the guidelines suggest that a slow pace is appropriate.

Putting It All Together:
It is not suggested that you shoe horn all of these modalities into each and every week. Therefore, please take into account the following:

Hard days:
Many authorities recommend that most beginner and intermediate level walkers do no more than two hard days per week. More advanced walkers can attempt three hard days if they're very careful. Each of the following is classified as a “hard day workout” in the guidlines: tempo walks, maximum-oxygen walks, long walks.

Hard days/Easy days:
A hard day workout should usually be followed by one, or preferably, two easy day workouts. Easy days can of course include rest days and cross-training days.

Rest days:
Most beginner and intermediate walkers should aim to walk 4 to 6 days a week. We recommend one or two rest days, when you do no training at all (or just take a relaxed 30-minute walk) and one or two cross-training days.

Cross-training days:
While research indicates that cross-training probably won't make you a faster walker, the guidelines suggest it can make you a stronger and healthier and less injury-prone. They suggest that walkers do best with cross-training exercises that are non-weight-bearing which includes swimming and aqua-walking, strength-training, bicycling and rowing. Non-impact exercises, which include Nordic skiing, elliptical training and step climbing are also considered beneficial.

Article Author: Stacy Meyer Jochem
Currently running the Employee Health Improvement program for medical Care Development in Augusta, ME. Additionally, Stacy is liaison to the Maine Governor’s Council on Physical Activity.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Is Nordic Walking a Sport? A former Leisure Services Director responds.

The following article was sent to me by Paul Chesmore of the City of York, here in the UK. Paul had been trawling through the archive of “Nordic Walking News” and was particularly intrigued by the article entitled “Is Nordic Walking a Sport?” As the former Director of Leisure Services for the City of York, Paul has a particular philosophical outlook on such issues. Here is his response:-

Is Nordic Walking a Sport? A former Leisure Services Director replies.

The article “Nordic Walking and Sport” (Nordic Walking News 3 August 2008) posed the question: “Is Nordic Walking a Sport?” The spirited analysis by Malcolm Jarvis struck a chord with me. So here is my reaction to the question, for what it is worth.

In England it has been usual for a local council to provide, or support, a wide range of free-time activities for its community. It is essential that elected politicians and their advisers can determine defensible priorities and make valid investment choices between indoor and outdoor sport, music and drama, museums and libraries, parks and playgrounds, allotment gardens and community centres, etc. Could we find a single word that could bind all these wide-ranging and apparently disparate things to a common purpose that would make comparisons and decision-taking valid? My department was called “leisure services”. The word “leisure” was pretty good, but it has never been an easy one for policy-makers in England: probably because it sounds too much like idleness and that offends our ingrained puritan instincts! But help is at hand.

I put the case for the word “recreation”. To make the point, add a vital hyphen: “re-creation”. Whether you play soccer in the park using jackets as goal-posts, play tennis in the local league, or are in an elite squad with Olympic pretensions; whether you collect matchboxes, grow prize-winning vegetables, paint pictures or sing in a choir: these are all things we do to re-create ourselves after the paid work and our other commitments are out of the way. And, I suggest, we define ourselves and who we are as much by our free-time pursuits as much as by our paid employment. The need for recreation binds us together: amateur and professional, activist and spectator, and helps us to share common values.

So don’t agonise too much about Nordic Walking as sport: accept that it may evolve competitive dimensions for some, simply because competitiveness is part of the human condition. But sport can only ever be part of it: recreation in all its manifestations brings benefits to mental and physical well-being. Let Nordic Walking take its place on that basis. Above all, just do it!

Author of the article - Paul Chesmore
Ex-Director of Leisure Services for the City of York

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Nordic Walking and what to wear!

As the UK is currently gripped in unusual wintry conditions, it puts me in the mood to have a look at clothing for Nordic Walking and the “layering system” in particular.

If your outings usually comprise half an hour or so around the streets of your neighbourhood, getting sophisticated about the principles of clothing seems unnecessary. Even so, it’s not much fun venturing out on a cold windy afternoon unless you have something to wear which makes the effort reasonably agreeable. Of course, if you go for long walks or you venture further afield, then clothing systems come into their own.

Most outdoor activists traditionally apply the layering system when choosing clothes, and with recent technological advances there is now a bewildering choice. My own Nordic Walking “wardrobe” is a combination of garments from my mountain walking interests, mingled with a bit of trail running stuff (I have to confess, that as a typical mountain walker [here, we call it fell walking] I am a sucker for “gear”).

The classic system involves three layers: base, insulating and shell. The base layer is essentially underwear and it should feel comfortable and remain essentially dry as you are exercising. Coping with perspiration is key and in this respect synthetic materials which are hydrophobic (water hating) are ideal. Such materials are able to maintain a dry microclimate next to the skin by “wicking” moisture away to the outer layers. It is for this reason that cotton is not recommended for this layer, particularly during the cooler months.

The question as to whether such a base layer in winter needs to have thermal properties has to be matched to the conditions. For example, in lowland UK I would never bother with a thermal base, but it’s a matter of personal choice. For leg wear, some walkers/runners like to wear longjohns plus a pair of outer running shorts and this offers a good combination. My own choice is a pair of “trackster” type trousers which are cheap and cheerful and also wash and dry quickly.

I have found that the most suitable second, or insulating layer, is a lightweight, windproof fleece jacket with a full length zip (not a smock). I stress lightweight, as the level of insulation needs to be tempered by the fact that the body constantly generates considerable amounts of heat whilst Nordic Walking (particularly if your exercise level approaches vigorous). A jacket is also useful as you also get pockets – ideal for stowing paws, mobile and the dozens of paper hankies that are needed when it’s cold!

If you can be very confident that the weather will remain dry, then an outer shell can be dispensed with. However, if your journey takes you into wilder places then a breathable, waterproof shell is essential. A jacket designed for running, or even mountain biking, can be good in these circumstances as they tend to be ultra light and have little bulk. Such qualities will allow the freedom of movement needed to effectively Nordic Walk.

To complicate the picture, manufacturers have now introduced the “soft shell” concept in place of the “hard shell” (the outer waterproof). Some may view these garments as being little more than marketing hype as they seem to have a “difficult fit” within the layer concept. They are usually only water resistant, not proof, and do not have anything like the insulating properties of fleece. However, they are windproof, are very comfortable and work well as a Nordic Walking jacket owing to their soft feel. Be prepared for a hefty bill, though, if you go down the soft shell route.

Also, on cold days, I find it’s better to slightly warm the chest strap of my heart rate monitor – it saves that initial rapid intake of breath!

Malcolm Jarvis, Nordic Walker Leeds UK

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