Are you tired of walking on the treadmill? Winter means indoor walking is ideal for escaping the cold elements, but spring brings more excellent weather, bringing fresh air to your workouts. If that sounds delightful, try the Finnish exercise called nordic walking.
Never heard of nordic walking? You’ve come to the right place. We’ll explain the nordic walking techniques, describe the difference between nordic and normal walking, describe benefits, and speak about nordic walking equipment. Before you know it, you’ll be a nordic walking champ, and regular walking will seem lame. Ready to get started?
History of Nordic Walking
Nordic walking originates in Finland, where cross-country skiers walk with poles during the offseason to mimic their sport and stay in shape. Throughout the 1900s, cross-country skiers grabbed walking poles to keep in shape when the snow was gone.
In 1979, a book called Hiihdon lajiosa, meaning cross-country skiing training methodic in English, published by a man named Mauri Repo, became popular. It showcased the nordic walking technique to keep cross-country skiers fit year-round.
Learning How to Perform Nordic Walking
Nordic walking is different from regular walking for several reasons. For one thing, nordic walking involves walking poles to increase breathing and power. Pushing through nordic walking poles promotes upper body strength and longer, more powerful strides.
Hold the poles in your hands to start nordic walking, but ignore them as you walk normally. Your upper body is straight with your abs tight. Start swinging your nordic walking poles like a pendulum in opposition to your leading foot as you walk. Ensure you lead with your heel and roll through the ball of your foot at your walk.
Slowly, pick up the pace and begin pushing the poles into the ground at a 45-degree angle. Grip the pole as you push back, and then release your hand as it comes forward to initiate power. See? You are nordic walking!
Nordic Walking Technique
Now that you understand how nordic walking on a flat surface, here are some different techniques for nordic walking to keep things interesting.
Up and Downhill Nordic Walking
Focus on the heel-to-toe roll when you walk up or down a hill. It is more challenging when you are on an incline or decline, so make sure you don’t start stomping or walking with a flat foot. The heel-to-toe walking technique expends more energy, leading to increased cardiovascular fitness.
Your stride length increases with uphill nordic walking. If it becomes exceptionally steep, use both nordic poles to push off simultaneously. Never try nordic walking without using your poles. Always keep your arms pumping regardless of the vertical, uphill incline. Nordic walkers lean into their ankles, not their hips, when ascending a hill.
For nordic walking downhill, your stride decreases as you descend. Keep your knees bent to help absorb the impact as you walk. Keep your trekking poles behind you for extra support, and lean into them as you walk. Your upper body stays tall, and tightening your glutes and core promotes better stability as you descend. If a slope becomes too steep, zigzag or place your walking poles in front of you to add more stability to your walk.
Striding with nordic walking means shorter, quicker strides. Your upper body is straight, and your arms are at a 90-degree angle, holding the nordic walking poles in front of you. As you walk, push off your back foot and use your pole for extra power. If you want extra upper body work change the position of your hands on the nordic walking poles to activate different muscle groups.
Once you have mastered nordic walking, why not try jogging? Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart to begin. Start jogging with long strides landing heel first. Use your poles with a normal arm swing and avoid bouncy or jerky movements. Keep your chest lifted and your eyes forward as you jog.
Double-Pole Nordic Walking
We’ve gone through some nordic walking where your poles swing in opposition to your feet. The double-pole nordic walking technique involves both poles working simultaneously to power you forward. This nordic walking increases upper body strength and works the core muscles. This technique focuses on arm extension and hand release. As you walk, throw your arms behind you and extend through the upper. When you release your hands, move them from the handle to the strap. This full-body workout has us breathing hard already.
The double-pole nordic walking technique is excellent when ascending or descending a hill, navigating narrow paths, or walking through tall grass. Always keep your chest open and your eyes forward during this exercise.
Benefits of Nordic Walking
Nordic walking burns many calories and is an excellent cardiovascular workout. Using the ski poles engages more of the upper body to work for those muscle groups, specifically neck and shoulder muscles. Learning to walk this way with more significant strides and using walking poles increases balance and coordination.
Nordic walking is easy on your joints, promoting longer strides and heel-to-toe landing. Walking with your chest lifted, and eyes straight ahead encourage better posture, which leads to a tighter core and fewer back problems in the long term.
Among the many benefits of nordic walking, a vital one is it uses 80% of the muscles in the body. Now that’s a full-body workout we can get behind.
Nordic Walking Poles
Now that you love nordic walking, ensure you get suitable poles for your size and height. We like the brands listed below for your nordic walking adventure.
- Leki Trekking Poles
- Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles
- REI Co-op Flash Carbon Trekking Poles
No matter what hiking poles you decide on, ensure they hit the ground behind you at a 90-degree angle without putting pressure on your elbows. You want a pole that has shock absorption to reduce injuries.
Let’s Go Nordic Walking!
You have the equipment and know the techniques. It’s time to start nordic walking to work for more muscle groups and fight heart disease with this cardiovascular fitness walking. If you’re a cross-country skier, we highly recommend the nordic walk to keep you in shape during the off-season. Your coach will thank us!
Kristen holds a bachelors in English from Louisianna university. With a longstanding passion for fitness, she owns and operate her own gym and is a certified jazzercise instructor.