After taking an introductory group class in Nordic Pole Walking I decided it was for me. So I booked a private lesson to find out more. I was in luck, my physiotherapist knew someone in the area who’d come to my home. This saved a trip to town.
It may sound crazy to pay for a lesson on how to walk, but for those who struggle they’ll understand. So with my thrift store purchased poles in hand I awaited my private lesson. The experience turned out to be a positive one. The individual attention and the fact my husband joined in encouraged me. I learned there is more than one way to use these poles. To the flat paved terrain I’d been hiking on so far we added hills and valleys, and we discussed trails.
The important nugget I learned this time is the fact that pole walking is not just for those over 60 but all ages. It’s for anyone who likes to hike or walk but wants to get a full body work out; not just exercising the lower extremities. The poles add in the upper body and arms as well as the core which keeps our back upright.
The poles themselves can come with a glove attached, a strap, or nothing but the handle. The two types we tried out were ones with no strap and a large comfortable grip, and the one with a strap. Our trainer explained its personal preference, but the ones with a strap are nice for long hikes because you can relax your grip. The instructor herself uses both types depending on the length of the hike.
There are also three types of tips: boot, round, and using just the point of the pole. The boot type is what we used as we were on paved ground. When it comes to hills the boot type gives a boost and prevents slippage. My understanding of the round tips are they are used more for rehabilitation on level ground. When you remove the tips to use the point it will be to hike trails.
With some understanding of the equipment we headed out to the gravel drive to practise pace and gait. The method is to plant the pole forward to opposite leg like the photo. Sounds easy, but it took some thinking to reprogram the brain. It’s a bit like rub the tummy while patting the head. Once we got our timing and gait ironed out we tackled hills.
Advantages of pole hiking are it takes about 30% of our body weight and raises the cardio quicker than walking without poles. Up we went, no problem as our poles save wear and tear on the hips. Coming down was another story. We had the choice to continue on at the same pace or, if we wished, slow our descent. We are told going slower saves the knees and gives more control. To do this the poles were placed a bit further forward and used more heavily. One of the wonderful things about pole walking is it’s tailored to the individuals need.
We wound down our time together with stretches. The first one is to plant the poles firmly at arm’s length in front of you and bend from the waist to stretch out the back. Next, with poles planted to the side, we gently stretched our necks from side to side. Lastly, with our core held tight and back erect we tried to touch our shoulder blades together.
Now armed with our newly acquired knowledge and poles we’re ready for the open road.
Photo by Moira Gardener – All Rights Reserved