Tuesday, July 21, 2009


A personal review of Claire Walter's new book "Nordic Walking: the complete guide to health, fitness and fun".

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. Malcolm Jarvis.

It having been published recently here in the UK, I have just finished reading Claire Walter’s new book “Nordic Walking: the complete guide to health, fitness and fun” (ISBN 978-1-57826-269-4).

Many will know the author, Claire Walter, from her Nordic Walking blog (www.nordic-walking-usa.blogspot.com) and may have encountered her insightful postings on the Nordic Walking forum, Nordic Walking eCommunity.

Her new book charts a passage through the seemingly bewildering world of Nordic Walking – or more accurately, the world of Nordic Walking in the US. After all, the US is a big country which has its own home grown method (Exerstride Method Nordic Walking™) and a scattered selection of imported variants. This book sets out to shed some light on what is currently on offer, and in so doing, provides a useful service for the newcomer.

Whilst the book is aimed at the beginner it is also useful to anyone who wishes to explore the arcane world of Nordic Walking. As a European Nordic Walker I found this US account highly informative and gave me a better understanding about what is happening on the “other side of the pond”.

With some honesty, the author explains that she presents her case for Nordic Walking, not from the perspective of a “fitness professional” (although she has a Nordic Walking Instructor’s certificate) but rather through the lens of a writer and enthusiast. I think this gives the book a distinct flavour and makes it a reassuring read for anyone who may be starting their personal Nordic Walking journey. There is nothing intimidating here.

I very much warm to the writing style which is informal and chatty but nonetheless very well researched and informed. Also, the book does not advocate any one technique over another and instead, offers an “expanded Nordic Walking menu” (to quote Tom Rutlin). The author’s enthusiasm for Nordic Walking is evident.

The structure of the book follows a fairly conventional path.

What is clearly a well researched historical perspective is given in the five page introduction. There is however one glitch which might sow the seeds of confusion in the reader’s mind in that it states that Marko Kantaneva was hired (sic) by Exel in the mid 1980’s. Of course, it was in the mid/late 1990’s when Marko collaborated with Exel in the design and development of the Nordic Walker® pole. Furthermore, Marko joined Exel as an employee in 2000.

A raft of Nordic Walking “benefits” is incorporated into a section called “Nordic Walking for Wellness”. This covers many of the usual suspects and is done in a very accessible manner, avoiding technical gobbledegook and favouring some hard hitting facts and sound advice. There are also a number of inspirational testimonials from those who are using Nordic walking to battle against personal difficulties.

There follows a chapter on Nordic Walking poles and the author maintains her mission by presenting the reader with a veritable catalogue of named brands, rather than the usually encountered generic descriptions. Of course, there is also a section which deals with general pole anatomy. As a matter of interest, the photograph which accompanies the Boomyah product shows the “E-Z Flip Lock” which is more or less identical to the “Power-lock” found on the Komperdell Vario pole (my wife has had pair of the latter for some time).

Let me now open “pedant’s corner” by challenging the meaning of “Oy” (as in Exel Oy) which is given by the author as being Finnish for “Industry”. My understanding is that “Oy” is the equivalent of limited company and not industry. Furthermore, it is Exel Oyj, which translates as public limited company. (Some time ago, I followed the ups and downs of the sports division of Exel Oyj on the Helsinki Stock Exchange – hence I take an interest. Of course, you are free to think that “I need to get out more”.)

Chapter three gives us a very useful catalogue of footwear; again by brand name. I would be interested to learn if MTB shoes are suitable for Nordic Walking. Here in the UK those people I know who wear them (not Nordic Walkers) tell me that the “induced” walking action might not be compatible with Nordic Walking technique.

All of the other paraphernalia which a Nordic Walker might want is given in a further chapter amusingly called Toys and Togs. This also nicely sweeps up discussions about hydration and heart rate measurement.

The penultimate chapter brings us to technique. Here the author gives us a flavour of the main procedures which are available in the US but persuades us to seek out the help of qualified professionals. This accords with her own personal experience (as does mine!).

Rather than attempting to give one full explanation of technique the author uses an interesting device of describing what you might expect during a typical Nordic Walking lesson. Subsequently, to illustrate variations on a theme, a brief account is given of a number of differing offerings (ANWA, Exel, Leki and Fittrek). However, given that Exerstriding is mentioned, and illustrated variously in the book I was a little puzzled as to why a section hasn’t been included on the Exerstriding technique here. Furthermore, and perhaps sowing some seeds of confusion, the pictures which sit with the text describing the ANWA approach appears to be of an individual Exerstriding!
The book rounds up with further dimensions of Nordic walking which includes a section called “Pushing the Nordic Walking Envelope” (I liked the phrase!) and one on Competition.

An essential message which emerges from the book is that learning to Nordic Walk is not that difficult, notwithstanding the fine details of technique which abound in the instructional literature and media. Indeed, in her own summary of techniques the author says:
Unless you are out to become a certified instructor or serious race competitor, don’t get so hung up on the minutiae that you are reluctant to begin Nordic walking and so worried about the details that you can’t enjoy the activity.”

I couldn’t agree more.
Malcolm Jarvis, Nordic Walking Leeds UK

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Nordic Walking: “Experiences Going Walkabout on Poles with a Modern Day Legend” ~ By Mike ‘Walking Wizard’ Gates.

Finally, the opportunity that over the years I had long been waiting for was soon to become a reality. I was about to meet up with and walk “In the Footsteps” of a man who is the “Real-Deal”!

Way back in 1985 he was the first person to bring the concept of “Walking with Poles” (Nordic Walking) to urban pathways and suburban parklands. It all happened in a quiet little back street in Wisconsin, USA. He is the ‘Original’; the ‘Modern Day Pioneer’; a ‘Nordic Walking Legend’ – His name is “Tom Rutlin”.

After a 14 hour non-stop flight across the Pacific from Australia to California and suffering the effects of jetlag, I arrived at the hotel to meet-up with this living legend and Nordic Walking giant. As I entered the lobby I was approached by a quietly spoken gentleman with a trim, toned physique. At 61 years of age, if this is what 24 years of walking with poles does for ones aging process, then you can forget the ‘anti aging creams’ and ‘magic pills’. Tom Rutlin has re-defined the medical journals, which should now read “Get on Poles not Pills.” Fair dinkum, this guy is in great shape for his age!

Straight away we broke into intense discussions that would extend over the 4 days. I was so privileged and honoured to be in the presence of this very modest & humble man. Not a moment was wasted by me to listen and learn from this inspirational human being, about the amazing wealth of knowledge and understanding that he, Tom Rutlin, has extracted, researched and developed about walking with poles. He has spent the past 24 years tirelessly & unselfishly singing the praises of the “power of the poles” to all who would listen across the global community.

One thing that really shone out “like a beacon of light” from Tom Rutlin, over the days I got to know him; is something I have only ever personally witnessed, with the same level of intensity and belief, from one other person, another legend of our movement – “Marko Kantaneva”. In 1993 (some 8 years after Tom’s founding work in the USA), Marko pioneered the “Pole Walking movement in Europe”. What both of these pioneers realized, independently of each other and what they have both been selflessly promoting ever since, is that this is a “Physical Activity for All”! Essentially it should be about “inclusiveness”! It should be about encouraging people in our communities onto poles! The focus should NOT be about “pole products” and “self interests”! The focus should be ‘the people”!

On behalf of the few of us who have been so lucky to have met you and to the many who have yet to meet you: To you “Tom Rutlin”, from all of us in the “World of Walking with Poles (Nordic Walking)”, we stand & salute you for your 24 years of tireless “service”, “energy” and “effort”, for which you have been so “visionary” and “innovative”; daring to dare where before you no one else would go.

You are truly an amazing human being which this wonderful physical activity can not yet do without. And if the decision were left to this Aussie, I would Knight you “Sir Tom Rutlin”, in recognition for all your many “Behind the Scenes Achievements” that so many know little, if anything about. However, at this time the only privilege & power that I can bestow onto you is to be able to call you an “All Time Great Nordic Walking Mate”!

Warmest Regards
Mike “Walking Wizard” Gates


Calling all INWA Instructors - 2009 INWA Convention

Nesselwang, Bavaria, Germany is the location for the 2009 INWA (International Nordic Walking Association) Convention from Friday October 15th until Sunday October 18th. The event is open to all INWA qualified instructors to attend.

This annual 4 day conference is a great opportunity for instructors to learn new skills, share ideas with fellow instructors and enjoy some social nordic walking activities such as the Biathlon (Nordic Walking & shooting!) & BBQ on the Friday night.

Any INWA instructors who would be interested in attending should contact the INWA representatives in their own country.

This notice has been provided by INWA's UK Representative organisation "British Nordic Walking" (BNW) who can be contacted via:



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