How to improve your health and shape without shortness of breath and muscle pain
Nordic walking is called quite natural walking with the help of special poles resembling ski poles. It is also known as Nordic or Nordic walking.
Although natural, Nordic walking is not named so by chance. It is specific, with certain features and with many benefits.
Finnish professional skiers are considered the founders. Back in the 1940s, they developed a methodology that allowed them to stay in shape in the off-season.
In the mid-20th century, the Finnish Sports Recreation Association became deeply interested in walking and movement as a form of fitness training. As a result of empirical and scientific research, under her guidance, together with a commercial company, special poles have been developed for this specific walking. They are shorter than those for skis, they have a special glove-strap that allows the wearer to relax their hand. The poles are supplemented with attachments for moving on land, snow and asphalt.
According to the intensity of the impact on the body, Nordic walking is a mixture between a vigorous walk and a run. It stresses not only the legs, but also the muscles of the upper body. It is extremely important that there is no shock load on the joints.
With its benefits and comfort during exercise, this walking became popular first in Finland and the other Scandinavian countries, where its name comes from. After that, it quickly spread to other countries of Europe and the world.
Nowadays, this sport enjoys great popularity all over the world and even competitions are held. Its popularity has been growing in Bulgaria for several years.
Who is Nordic walking suitable for?
- For anyone looking for an extremely gentle form of fitness. These are people with multiple health problems and/or deteriorating joint conditions.
- For those who have not engaged in physical activity for a long time. Many people want to do sports, but they are short of breath or have too weak muscles for running or cycling. Nordic walking for them can be the perfect start, and a great exercise to strengthen the endurance of the arms, shoulders and core muscles and beyond.
- For people who are overweight. Unlike running, Nordic walking does not impose the shock load on the joints, which is dangerous if a person is overweight. And this applies to training on any surface, be it forest trails, snow, pavement or asphalt. At the same time, walking with poles spends 18-22% more calories than standard walking, helps to lose weight, reduce fat and waistline.
- For old people. Nordic walking is usually associated with middle-aged and elderly people. This is not accidental. Low joint stress, natural body movements and slow pace make this type of aerobic training safe and comfortable for people of all ages.
- For people with specific medical conditions. Nordic walking has shown significant benefits during rehabilitation after coronary heart disease, for people with peripheral vascular disorders, with chronic neck and lower back pain . Nordic walking significantly improves the quality of life of people with breast cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Parkinson’s syndrome and depression. However, if you have a serious illness, you should still consult your doctor before starting to exercise.
Who is Nordic walking not suitable for?
- For people with a viral disease in the acute phase – acute respiratory diseases, flu.
- For people after abdominal operations – until medical permission.
- For people with degenerative or inflammatory processes of the musculoskeletal system – until a doctor’s permission.
- For people with high blood pressure during a hypertensive crisis and impaired heart activity – after the crisis has passed – until medical permission.
How to choose poles for Nordic walking?
Poles are the only thing you need. Besides comfortable clothes. Their price depends on the brand, materials and design and can vary significantly.
We will quickly pay attention to these several criteria when choosing a particular model.
Poles can be made of aluminum alloys or fiberglass with the addition of carbon fibers. Fiberglass makes them lighter and stronger, but at the same time increases their cost. The higher the percentage of carbon, the higher the cost of the poles.
There are fixed length poles and telescopic folding models with two or three sections. Fixed ones are stronger and cheaper, and folding ones are more convenient for storage and transportation. Another advantage of telescopic poles is that they can be used by people of different heights.
Those with a fixed length must be adapted to the height of the person using them. The formula is applied: the height of the person (cm) × 0.68 = length of the poles. For example, a person 170 cm tall will need poles 115 cm ± 5 cm long.
If it is possible to try the poles before buying, by securing the poles in your hands and placing them next to your feet, the elbows should be bent at a right angle.
- Strap Type
Unlike hiking and ski poles, Nordic walking models have special gloves-like straps. This makes it easier to grip and prevents them from falling out of the palm when the fingers are fully open.
Some models have special strap holders, so you don’t need to remove your hand – just press a button and release the part of the stick in one movement.
The kit should include attachments for different surfaces: rubber “shoes” for asphalt, attachments with a deep tread for uneven terrain and a snow option reminiscent of ski poles.
You don’t need special shoes, but they should be comfortable and suitable for long walks.
How to walk properly?
Nordic walking is a natural movement. It requires almost no mastery and can do no harm if performed incorrectly.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind for maximum performance.
Take the poles in your hands, fasten the wrist straps. Straighten your back and relax your shoulders.
Step forward with your right foot. Step on your heel and move slightly on the sole towards the toes without stepping on the whole foot. Simultaneously with the step, bring your left arm forward with the pole.
Place the end of the pole on the ground where it was when you brought your arm out in front of your body. Lean on the pole and step forward to take the next step.
As the body slides forward, straighten your elbow, open your palm and keep your fingers relaxed.
Continue walking, alternately extending the opposite arm and leg in front of you. Move naturally and without tension.
There are countless Nordic Walking videos on the internet where you can get a visual idea of what it’s all about.
Breathe freely, calmly and evenly, synchronized with the movements. A good option is one inhalation every 2 steps and one exhalation every 3-4 steps. Inhalation is through the nose, involving the diaphragm, and exhalation is through the mouth, retracting the abdomen.
For yoga practitioners, we recommend full yogic breathing – inhaling with the belly, moving to the diaphragm and ending with the upper part of the lungs, and exhaling in the reverse sequence and twice as long as the inhalation.
Eating for Nordic walking is similar to eating for cardio. Contact our trainer to prepare a personal nutritional regimen tailored to your lifestyle and individual characteristics.
What mistakes should be avoided in Nordic walking?
Technical errors will not cause injury, but may reduce efficiency, delay results, or cause discomfort. So try to fix them in time.
- Movement with leg and arm of the same name. It is difficult to achieve because it goes against the natural movements of the body when walking, but it is not impossible. Some beginners in their efforts do not coordinate the movements and move forward the arm and leg of the same name. This makes the gait unnatural and breaks the pace. To restore proper walking, just relax – the body will just return to natural movements.
- Tight hand movements. During Nordic walking, the shoulders should move freely forwards and backwards. Keep your elbows away from your body, limiting the range of motion of your arms.
- Stick the stakes vertically into the ground. You don’t need to lift the poles high and stick them in front of your feet like hiking poles or to help pull loads. The arms move freely, the sticks are angled and rest on the ground where they reach when you extend your arm forward without sticking them vertically.
- Asynchronous operation of arms and legs. This mistake disrupts the pace and prevents the body from moving naturally. To restore the correct work, try to count in your head – “one-two, one-two” – and adjust the movements to this number. Another option is to turn on fast-paced music and walk to the beat of the music.
- Backward body tilt. Don’t lean back, keep your back straight, but don’t look down at your feet – look straight ahead.
How often should we practice Nordic walking?
During the empirical and scientific studies that proved the benefits of Nordic walking, cardio sessions were organized two to four times a week for 20–70 minutes.
Training with three sessions a week for 30 minutes is most effective. You can start with this mode and change it according to your own taste. Each person is different, leads a different lifestyle and has a different degree of training, possibly overweight and other diseases. If you feel good and all is well, gradually increase the duration and frequency of your sessions. There is no upper limit to how much you can exercise, you can walk as long as you like as long as it feels comfortable and enjoyable.
Have you ever tried Nordic walking? Please share in the comments, this will benefit everyone and support the wavering.