Walk tall naturally with purpose

Make Every Stride Count for More ! Nordic Walking for Health’s guide to Nordic walking for effective exercise.

This guide can be used by Nordic Walking for Health clients who, having completed a beginner course, then successfully extended it beyond the foundation level to the higher health and/or fitness levels of technique some time before 23 March 2020.

Nordic Walking for Health’s first guide, posted on 31 March, was about how to get better exercise out of walking naturally with much of the content being relevant to using trekking poles and to Nordic walking as well, especially when learning the technique on a beginner course and then bedding it in through regular practice.

Some of the tips in the previous guide are repeated below. More developed tips are included for keeping physical distance and keeping moving whilst Nordic walking.

If wanting to Nordic walk in company, we only go with members of the household and not with others, be they relatives or not. If in self-isolation, household isolation or quarantine due to being COVID-19 positive ourselves, to having been in close contact with someone else who’s tested positive, to experiencing possible COVID-19 symptoms ourselves or having been in close contact with someone experiencing these, we hold off such outdoors exercise until the isolation period ends.

If shielding at home and wanting to take walking-based exercise that is now widely known to have a positive impact on living with many health conditions, it’s advisable to take a moment to think through the risks in our particular situation.

Revise the warming up exercises & the stretches before setting off …

  • read through the written description issued at the end of the course
  • good technique when stretching will help avoid discomfort and potential niggles
  • no particular version of a stretch suits everyone, so use the one that was recommended on the course and is in the description.

Find somewhere quiet …
Depending on the locality, start from home or, if we have a car, drive the shortest distance possible to a start point avoiding popular car parks near honeypot, or busy, locations. Park safely so as not to obstruct the roadway. Whilst such driving may not be viewed as essential travel for everyone, guidelines are nuanced depending on the reason for leaving home.

On 16 April, it was reported by BBC news that the National Police Chiefs’ Council/the College of Policing, drawing on Crown Prosecution Service guidelines, published further guidance for local police entitled “what constitutes a reasonable excuse to leave the place where you live”. On outdoors exercise, “the guidance lists driving to the countryside for a walk as ‘reasonable’ if ‘far more time’ is spent walking than driving.”, but that “driving for a ‘prolonged period with only brief exercise’ is not reasonable.”

The key thing remains to ensure staying two metres away from other people, so think about how densely populated the direct neighbourhood is on leaving the front door and when it is least busy if there is no option but to take exercise very locally.

Get ready before you set off …
Be prepared for the weather by wearing appropriate clothing for the local forecast. Gloves can be a useful precaution even if it’s not cold enough to need them.  At the start point, set the body up, and free up the mind, by focussing on:

  • standing tall taking care not to lean back
  • looking straight ahead
  • relaxing shoulders, arms and hands.

Use your whole body …
Rotation, or twisting, of the whole upper body from side to side to make the arms swing forward loosely is central to effective Nordic walking technique. By engaging upper body effort, more muscles are being recruited to make the body walk. The better the upper body technique, the more muscles in the body are engaged in the activity. This is the reason why Nordic walking is such good whole body exercise.

Learn what MORE THAN two metres looks like & plan ahead … take care when touching hard surfaces
Not many of us carry a definite idea in our heads of what two metres looks like on the ground, do we ? So, grab a tape measure, mark it out the ground and count how many of our normal strides it takes to cover. Three steps has been mentioned in the public domain. If it takes us three normal strides to cover two metres, then three exercising strides will do the job ! Or, count four as a failsafe to cover more than two metres.

Look ahead and plan in advance, as the exercise benefit will be greater if movement is continuous and not stop-start:

  • is the track, trail or path more than two metres wide ? More than 2 metres is actually needed to stay 2 metres apart
  • look ahead, as if driving along a single track road looking out for passing places … can we move to the side and detour around oncoming traffic ? Make eye contact with whoever is approaching and use hand signals to give them prior warning whether we’ll be moving out to the left, or to the right, to help create the required physical distance
  • if neither party can, we can be considerate and back track to allow the other party to pass or politely ask them to do the same
  • look back behind and listen out, in particular, for people on bikes and people running, so that we can physically distance in time with them moving at higher speed
  • if a stile or gate is coming up, protect skin against contact by using gloves, for example, to climb over or open/close. Gates can often have dual closing mechanisms when one will usually do to prevent it opening again, but check first, as local farmers appreciate the public closing gates to protect their livestock.

Repeatedly run through the checklist to keep the Nordic walking technique at a high level …

  • if needed, email peter@nordicwalkingforhealth.co.uk for a reminder
  • the first four points are standard: stand tall – relax from earlobe to fingertip – build upper body rotation – wait for consistent pole landing and appropriate angle of pole-to-ground contact before using upper body twist to start pushing straight back though the glovestraps beyond the side of the body with the arms held long in order to propel the body forward
  • points that follow tend to be personalised and will mainly relate to corrections made to normal walking style for better exercise, e.g. head position, hand position, range of upper body rotation to one side compared with to the other, uphill & downhill technique etc.
  • check & correct … check later, correct again or sustain.

Imagine the upper body as the engine, go up through the gears … listening to the body !
Whilst Nordic walking, keep the upper body in charge to reach the appropriate aerobic level of exercise:

  • gradually, over a few strides, make upper body rotation a bigger or fuller movement
  • imagine, or find, a route ahead that is a long but gentle uphill slope suitable to individual health and fitness needs
  • being stronger with the upper body twist will help the body pick the legs up and stride out longer
  • monitor the body’s physiological reaction to increased physical effort through the standard indicators: breathing harder, feeling warmer, starting to sweat but not so out of breath that it’s no longer possible to converse with the real, or imaginary, companion at our side
  • pause, or simply slow back down, at the end of an aerobic stretch for our breathing rate to recover.

We can stay in charge and increase aerobic exercise as strength builds and fitness improves by …

  • using the same routes to become familiar with terrain and what’s coming up
  • exercising aerobically for longer distances, or for a longer period of time, depending on our level of fitness at the time
  • identifying natural features to mark out the start and finish of a distance coming up for real aerobic exercise
  • changing gears by focussing on pushing back through the glovestraps with more strength to extend the movement
  • monitoring the body’s reactions as described above as well as the time it takes for breathing to return to our resting rate.

Follow these guidelines to make every step count for more … and exercise in safety ! If we all stay safe, we can all stay well: remember to follow the guidance when washing hands !!!

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