Like Cross-Country Skiing - Without the Snow
While cross-country skiing provides excellent fitness benefits, not all of us have access to the snow, terrain, or equipment required. However, you can get a similar workout with Nordic walking. Developed by cross country skiers for off-season fitness, the movements involved in Nordic walking are similar to those involved in cross-country skiing, but can performed in a variety of weather conditions and terrain.
Nordic walking is a low impact workout that can greatly improve your aerobic capacity. It can also increase strength and endurance, and improve balance and stability. Not to mention, it is a great way to spend time outdoors with friends and family.
What you will need:
Nordic walking doesn't require much equipment. Here's what you need to get started:
Poles - Nordic Walking poles come in fixed length and adjustable length with telescoping shafts, and have hand grips with a special strap system to hold the hand in place and allow for a very light grip. Pole shafts are typically made of lightweight aluminum, carbon fiber, or composite materials, and have hardened tips for navigating dirt, rocks, sand, snow, and ice, and removable rubber tips for hard surfaces. Nordic walking poles differ from trekking and hiking poles. Among other differences, Nordic poles have angled hand grips, no finger grooves, and are designed to be planted behind the body rather than in front.
Shoes - No special shoes are required. Just wear comfortable shoes that are appropriate for the terrain and that will protect your feet.
Where to do it:
Nordic walking can be done on trails, country roads, streets, beaches, parks, and just about anywhere your imagination takes you. In the purist form, it is typically performed on flat surfaces or gently rolling hills. Different terrain types offer a different workout. For example, and hilly, winding trail might require more balance and agility, while a sandy beach can give your calves a good workout.
How to do it:
- With a pole in each hand begin walking with your natural gait.
- Swing forward the arm and pole that is opposite your forward leg while keeping the pole at about 45 degrees so that the tip remains slightly behind you. For example, when your left leg is forward, your right arm and pole should be forward.
- The tip of the pole should touch the ground behind you when your arm is extended in front of you with a slight bend at your elbow.
- Relax your grip. In fact, the swing forward requires almost no grip.
- As you warm up, work on lengthening your stride to increase flexibility, heart rate, and breathing.
- Concentrate on maintaining good posture.
- Nordic walking helps improve heart and lung function through both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning.
- Helps improve dynamic balance and stability by activating fast twitch muscles.
- Helps build muscle and bone strength in both upper and lower body.
- Improves your flexibility and agility (such as quickness and maneuverability).
- Improves coordination.