We see people walking, running, jogging and walking with poles. Why the poles? I have always felt, as a coach, that there is more than one way to feel healthy, get fit, and enjoy being active. The best way to do this is the way that works for you! In order to understand a bit more about pole walking, I have invited our resident expert, Linda Shaumleffel, to weigh in on what is Nordic Pole Walking (NPW). She has generously donated this blog post so we can all learn a little more about all the folks that show up at the TC10K. Read on.....
Poles have been used for many years, for climbing Mt Everest, for rehab, during ultra long cross-country foot races, for balance and stability, and hiking in our local forests. What makes NORDIC STYLE pole walking different? Like running, NPW is used for FITNESS and racing. NPW is derived from cross-country skiing and the poles are used to gently propel the pole walker forward.
TWO BIG BENEFITS!
There are TWO BIG BENEFITS: 1) using poles turns the athlete into a 4-wheel drive machine using 90% of the body’s muscles all in one fluid motion, and 2) the downward pressure on the poles creates an upward lift on the lower body so that pressure is relieved from sore feet, knees and hips. Runners who have developed sore knees over the years LOVE NPW because they can still train hard and compete…and get even fitter than before!
Another feature of NPW: Beside improving posture, the oblique muscles and abdominal floor get exceptionally strong as they counteract the rotational forces created through shoulders stabilization while pushing the poles back.
It doesn’t seem fair! NPW feels relatively effortless, BUT IT BURNS TWICE THE CALORIES of walking and jogging. AND the 10% of muscles that get to de-stress in NPW? The neck and shoulders! Sign me up! Desk workers are now just starting to discover the beauty of NPW. Anything to relieve stressed neck and shoulders.
SURPRISINGLY HUGE WORKLOAD!
To watch well trained Nordic pole walkers is a picture of flow and elegance. NPWers use straighter arms, and push the poles behind their body, while maintaining great posture. It looks effortless, and relative to many sports, it is. But when we calculate the WORKLOAD (repetitions x weight over time) the workload is surprisingly large and explains why published science reports so many health benefits occurring relatively quickly with NPW. For example, if I pole walked 1000 steps in 10 minutes and pushed on the pole strap with only 3 pounds of pressure, the workload on each side of the body would be 1500 pounds, the weight of a cow. The scientific prescription for health with NPW starts at 30 minutes of pole walking three times a week. In 30 minutes, the workload with the same three pounds pressure would add up to 4500 pounds, the weight of a car, on each side of the body. You would get fit if you lifted a car three times a week! How is it possible? One push of the pole at a time.
Like learning to play the piano, there is a skill to be learned in NPW and muscles to be strengthened to do NPW “effectively”. It takes patience and focused training to learn any new skill, including the skill of NPW, but once learned you’ve got it for life: the strength and fitness benefits just keep piling up.
HISTORY OF NORDIC POLE WALKING
NPW was created to be summer training for Finish cross-country skiers in 1930’s. It came into the mainstream in the mid 1990’s when citizens in Europe wondered why only athletes got to do this great exercise. Now, NPW is the fastest growing adult exercise/sport in Europe. In Europe they NPW race every weekend to boot. The Medical Service Plans of Germany and France endorse NPW by refunding every adult annually the cost of NPW lessons, because they know how effective NPW is at improving health. They have read the published research.
Poles are not all the same! Different poles for different jobs. NPW poles have a comfy “glove strap” and a “barely there” handle. See videos at www.nordicpolewalkingvictoria.ca
NORDIC POLE WALKING MESHES WITH TC10K TRAINING CLINICS
I am pioneering a NPW PROGRAM at the Shawnigan Lake TC10K Clinic. On Clinic Day we focus on NPW technique and strength drills. On Day 2 of training participants focus on two specific drills and technique variations as they flow from flat to up and down hills. On Day 3 of training participants start building endurance by increasing time spent pole walking. Compared to pole walking, plain walking feels hard. The Shawnigan Lake participants LOVE NPW.
I’m a retired Olympic rower who competed in the “four boat”. I have envisioned and tested competing in NPW in teams of four people called QUADS, where 4 pole walkers strategize together, snaking their way through the course, to get their entire team across the finish line the fastest. It is an amazing team experience! We’ve done it. It’s FUN! And those pole walkers can go fast. The fastest single pole walker recorded at the TC 10km is 71 minutes. The quad teams have the potential to go even faster!
HISTORY OF NPW IN TC1OKM EVENT
Speaking of the TC10km, Nordic Pole Walking has been an official category since 2015. There are two divisions: recreational group who are happy to start in the last gate, and the competitive group including quads who start at the 1:20 -1:29 gate. The massive imagined liability issue of poles flailing about did not materialize; the pole walkers have some of the best “road etiquette” in events.
NORDIC POLE WALKING CHANGING PEOPLE’S HEALTH
It is my business to teach people the classic form of NPW. Since 2012 I have introduced over 2500 participants. For the most part, everyone can do it; most people love the feel of it in their bodies even after the first experience. I have heard some amazing health turn-arounds because of a regular practice of NPW!. Doctors, physios, chiros, and surgeons exclaim, “I don’t know what you are doing, but keep it up.” NPW is easy to keep up! It feels good, is EFFECTIVE, affordable, convenient, and has fun elements. It is also a great cross-training for cyclists and runners. When you get the opportunity to try Nordic Pole Walking, give it a shot to see how your body feels about it.
NORDIC POLE WALKING…HOW ARE YOU GOING TO KNOW?
Try it. See if you like it!
B.Ed (UBC 1972)
Retired Olympian (1976 rowing)
Nordixx Canada Master Pole Walk Instructor
-speaking, instruction, & poles-
"Health is a habit; make fitness yours."