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

Malcolm -
Thanks so much for such a careful read of "Nordic Walking" and for such excellent comments. David wrote about the book when it came out but yours is the first real review.

Re the history of Nordic Walking: I included it as a matter of interest to some Nordic Walkers, 1980s/1990s was a typo that I marked for correction in the next printing. When I looked up Exel's "last name," I found both "Oy" and Oyj" online, found several translations and selected one. I'm glad that you didn't get out of the house more and actually know what is accurate. I'll make note of that too.

Re Exerstriding. Guilty as charged. I really should have written more about the technique differences between Exerstriding and other techniques. Mainly, I focused on the effect of a strapless pole on the open-hand/pole-gripping part of the NW action. I plan to expand on it in a subsequent edition. Apologies to Tom, whom I greatly admire and whose contributions have been immense.

Re images, all I can do is apologize, add that the layout part of the process was problematic and that this is a problem that hopefully will be corrected in the future.

Re MBT shoes. I am sure that some people do find them suitable for some method of walking with poles. An American footwear chain called Foot Solutions has a house-brand rocker-sole shoe called Chung-Shi. When combined with poles (also a house brand), Foot Solutions refers to the package as "Balance Walking." Is it technically Nordic Walking? No. Is it walking with poles? Indeed.

Again, thank you for your positive and also helpful review.
Thanks for the review. I also want to relate to the issue of shoes, with special relevancy to the UK.
I have been using a much more technologically advanced shoe for more than 2 years now. It is called APOS which has been brought to the UK by BUPA. The truth of the matter is that I was introduced to Nordic Walking because of APOS, and I will be eternally grateful to them both for the amazing shoe that they have invented, and the additional benefits of using them together Nordic Poles.
Hi Jack,

Many thanks for your inspiring account. I have seen the BUPA/APOS information and find it quite fascinating. You must let us know if there are any "compatibility" issues with Nordic Walking.

Malcolm Jarvis, Nordic Walking Leeds and co-moderator of the Nordic Walking eCommunit
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