Nordic pole walking, as opposed to conventional walking, exercises 90% of your muscles when done correctly. It’s low-impact by nature, enjoyable, and keeps you outside, making it an excellent form of exercise for everyone from out-of-season skiers to those recovering from injuries. Begin with this guide to pole-walking equipment, proper technique, and pole-walking location and workout suggestions. It has long been popular in Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. Nordic pole walking is a popular form of exercise with people all over the world as a simple-yet-effective form of cross-country skiing training in the off-season.
The Advantages of Nordic Pole Walking
Walking with Nordic poles engages both the lower and upper body muscles. Traditional walking or speed walking benefits the lower body, while poles work the upper body. Nordic pole walkers benefit from fitness-building stimulation that normal walking does not provide, as the chest, triceps, biceps, shoulders, and abdominals get a workout alongside the leg muscles. As the walker propels forward with the poles, the core is also engaged. Nordic pole walking improves cardiorespiratory fitness, particularly in older adults who do not benefit from resistance training or high-impact sports. It can also help with balance and neck pain. It’s a total-body workout that’s enjoyable and promotes a sense of adventure because it can be done anywhere from parks and roads to hiking trails.
You’ll Need This Gear
Pole walkers have traditionally used fixed-length ski poles to stay in shape for Nordic skiing during the off-season. While fixed-length poles can still be used, specially designed Nordic walking poles provide more benefits. Nordic walking poles are available in two styles: one-piece, non-adjustable shaft versions in a variety of lengths, and telescoping, adjustable-length, twist-locking versions. One-piece poles are generally stronger and lighter than two-piece poles, but they must be matched to the user. Telescoping poles are more portable and “one-size-fits-all.” Choosing the best type of pole is highly personal; different models feature various hand grips and wrist straps. Most Nordic poles have a rubber stopper over the tip that allows them to be used on pavement or sidewalks (walkers take the rubber off for better traction on dirt trails). On pavement, you’ll want the rubber tip, but on grass, dirt, or uneven terrain, the metal tip will provide better traction.
Gathering your equipment is the first step in pole walking. Before you go on your walk, check the size of your poles: grip the pole, place the tip on the ground, and keep the pole vertical and your arm close to your body; your elbow should be bent 90 degrees. Snap-in by sliding the straps over your wrists and lightly gripping the pole. You are now ready to begin! Don’t overthink it: your arm, leg, and body cadence should be similar to that of normal, vigorous walking. However, unlike walking, the range of your arm movement determines your stride – your stride will follow.
The more powerful your pelvic and upper torso swing, the longer your stride and the longer your pole thrust. Begin by holding your poles lightly (but not too tightly). Walk with the poles next to you, moving in the opposite direction of your legs. This may appear perplexing at first, but it will become second nature to you: your left arm and right foot will move in unison. To check your form, strap on the poles if you haven’t already and walk with them at a 45-degree angle behind you. When the angle feels right, re-grip the poles and plant them on the ground rather than dragging them. You’ll still plant at a 45-degree angle backward, with your elbows close to your body and your arms straight and relaxed. Pushing comes after you’ve gotten used to planting.
Push the poles through each step, putting more strain on your plant (the sensation is similar to “launching” or “boosting” yourself with each step). You’ll feel pressure on the strap. Perfect your stride by rolling from your heels to your toes on each step and pushing off with a fuller swing to get the most out of your workout of the arms.
Where Should I Go?
The good news is that you can do Nordic pole walking almost anywhere! Trail systems are ideal for those looking for elevation gains and losses during a challenging session, but any street, sidewalk, or track will suffice. If you know the area well and are comfortable on uneven terrain, you can even pole walk cross-country. You’re ready to benefit from this full-body, low-impact workout once you have your poles and a pair of walking or running shoes. Have fun Nordic pole walking!
The Content is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions about a medical condition, always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider.