Glide into Summer Fitness with Nordic Walking
One of the distinct joys of cross country skiing, found perhaps when cruising along the crisp classic track cut through a fresh snowfall, is the feeling of total freedom. When you hit your stride right, your body slides into that natural rhythm where you can glide across the ground as effortlessly, as freely as walking on air. There, with only snow and snowcapped hills on the horizon, I always feel singularly free to fly off in any direction, soundlessly skiing anywhere and everywhere, to my heart’s content.
But how to find this sense of freedom when the snow is gone? Luckily, a while back, Finnish cross country skiers in search of some off-season skill-building came up with a simple solution: Nordic walking.
Nordic walking is essentially just walking with poles in hand. And just like you’re classic skiing, Nordic walking has you pole with the hand opposite your forward foot—as your walking pace changes, so does your pole-pace. There is a flow to the pole-step operation that takes a second to click, but once it does, I begin to feel that same stress-relieving freedom of motion I do on skis.
Walkers, especially older folks, often use Nordic walking to loosen shoulder and neck muscles: the gentle swinging of one’s dangling arms is the perfect way to work out all the kinks. What’s more, walking with poles forces you to pull your shoulders back with each stride, opening your rib cage and increasing the air getting to your lungs. Breathing deeply, freely, arms and legs working in simple unison: can Nordic walking rival yoga for its state of freedom and clarity?
Of course, there is one major difference between yoga and this Finnish pole-assisted walking: in one you are stationary, while in the latter you are, by definition, on the move. But I would argue that this peaceful form of exercise is only enhanced by its being dynamic rather than static. The movement automatically increases one’s heart rate, encourages calorie burn, and strengthens joints (which of course yoga also does quite well). Plus, if you live anywhere near forests or fields or even a slim strip of green space, Nordic walking allows you to tour the wonders of the natural world and allow their magic and energy to revitalize and soothe.
In some respects, Nordic walking outdoes its winter counterpart. Whereas when skiing you are totally free to roam only within the snow-covered—and preferably groomed—world, with walking anything that even sort of resembles a trail is fair game. Start out your front door, onto the sidewalk, then perhaps meander onto a bike path, which might lead to a single-tracked mountain bike route, or a hiking trail… you get the idea. With the poles in the mix, Nordic walking enhances one’s traction and climbing power making accessible terrain that previously was too rugged.
This summer, as you’re trying to hold on to those unexpected gifts of time to yourself, out in nature, which the pandemic brought along with all its tragedy, consider taking up Nordic walking. The gear is minimal and affordable, the options are endless, and the health and wellness benefits can be enormous.
Below is a short video on Nordic Walking and the more advnaced bounding.