Why is Nordic Walking such a good training modality for long distance treks and trail running?
Nordic Walking provides a form of low impact, high results, total body conditioning which improves aerobic conditioning, muscular endurance and joint strength, whilst at the same time reducing the risk of repetitive strain and potential injury.
So how does Nordic Walking achieve more of the desired positives, with less of the undesired negatives?
Nordic Walking is a form of fitness walking which utilises specially designed poles and a technique which mimics that of cross country skiing to create a total body workout. More specifically, the Nordic Walking technique uses poles in a way that transforms them into a resistance exercise for the upper body whilst decreasing the load (thus impact and stress) to the lower body. As many more muscles are used, the exercise gives far greater aerobic fitness, body conditioning and weight loss benefits than what regular walking without poles or walking with trekking poles offers.
Contrary to the traditional understanding as to what walking/ trekking poles are used for, the Nordic Walking technique utilises poles to INTENSIFY a walking workout as opposed to just reducing stress on the knees. Due to this significant difference in purpose it is important to emphasise that Nordic Walking is a time-effective and ideal TRAINING modality for the period leading up to the event but the technique and the way they poles are used should be altered for the actual long distance walking event (where the aim is to CONSERVE energy, minimise fatigue and maximise performance longevity).
The Nordic Walking technique and equipment
Nordic Walking originated from Scandinavia (hence the name) and arose out of the need by elite cross country skiers to maintain their upper body fitness during the summer months. Without snow and skis they modified their upper body technique so that maximum fitness benefit was possible from a walking or jogging gait.
The resultant Nordic Walking technique involves an alternate arm action where the pole is planted and then pushed down and back behind the body (this transfers power down the arm and through the pole to the ground in order to propel the person forward). A high or low intensity workout is determined by how strongly this pole action is performed. The upper body work can be performed gently or as demanding as strong kayak paddling.
The technique is a new movement pattern so it does require proper tuition, learning and practise to ensure the correct action is achieved and maximum benefits are gained. ‘Correct’ technique often varies depending on the learner’s physical condition/ limitations (egs. shoulder ROM, spinal health, feet pain). Therefore in many cases, ‘correct’ technique needs to be tailored to ‘best’ technique (which is why the teaching of Nordic Walking needs to be provided by health professionals who have themselves undertaken Certified Instructor training).
Once a person’s ‘best’ base technique is achieved, variations like up and downhill, striding, skating, jogging and double pole actions can be used to bring interest and extra challenge to a Nordic Walking training session. (There is a level of intensity and challenge to suit everyone and every training program).
Nordic Walking poles have a supportive hand-wrist strap to enable an effective push action and power transfer, but are also more comfortable when the poles are just used for trekking (as the hands are strapped in the user doesn’t need to be holding the poles for hours on end).
To learn more about Nordic Walking
Nordic Academy is Australia’s recognised authority and leading national provider of certified training and quality equipment. Its founder, Patrick Burtscher, provides support and resources to health professionals in order to set up and sustain successful Nordic Walking programs. To find out more, enquire using the form below.