'Nordic walking' without poles

Katharine Green
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My blog this week is partially inspired by one of my regular walkers who fell and chipped her elbow, and as a result couldn’t properly straighten her elbow and put pressure through it. Determined not to give up on her fitness drive, she took to Nordic walking without poles.

As I say to people, particularly when they are first learning to master the technique, there are many things you can practice when you walk without poles that will improve your posture and help educate your body into walking correctly. It is easier to think about what you are meant to be doing when you haven’t got poles.

Some aspects of the Nordic walking technique are common to both Nordic walking and ordinary walking. As with learning the British Nordic walking 10 steps, the very first one is posture. When you are walking, whether it be with the dog, or doing the shopping or getting from A to B, think walking tall. Try and lift your head, increasing the distance between you ear lobes and shoulders and this will automatically lift your waist. Shoulders slightly retracted, chin level with the ground and picture that imaginary thread pulling the top of your head up. Immediately you will have grown an inch.

One of the first aspects of the Nordic walking technique we teach is the heel/foot roll. If you can get this right and assimilate it into your regular walking, your balance, posture, joints, circulation and lower body tone will improve dramatically. The focus is to land on your heel and roll over the arch of your foot onto the ball of your foot, ending up pushing off from your toes. We often refer to the image of squeezing a lemon or a toothpaste tube. The whole action should be one fluid motion and be as flexible as possible. This action helps cushion the impact on the body, spreading the force and reducing the jarring whilst strengthening the muscles in the ankles, feet and shins. Heel/foot rolling should put a spring in your step and help increase your speed. You can really notice it when walking up hill.

The other action that can be practiced when walking without poles is the arm swing. Walking with an exaggerated swing, similar to a normal walking arm swing, but in this case think more behind than in front. Start with the hand just in from of the hip, and swing behind you to a fully extended position, with a slight natural bend in the elbow. Imagine your shoulder sideways on as an A frame and the shoulder as a pivot point. Swinging you arms helps with momentum and propels you along faster. I have even had one client who admitted to practicing her arm swing in front of the mirror so she could see how far she was extending! You can add on the hand release too, starting with a relaxed closed hand, and as you swing behind you opening fully, with the little finger pointing upwards, then closing again as you swing your arm forward. It may sound trivial, but once you get into the habit you can do it without thinking.

Rotating your torso as you walk is the final part of the INWA Nordic Walking technique and is a great way to tone the obliques and trim the waist. Although you won’t get the added benefits when you push through the poles, if your core is engaged is will still help. The aim is to allow your torso to gently rotate as you swing your arm backwards. It is also fantastic for your spine and back health.

So if you find yourself walking without poles, think look at the horizon, grow tall, swing your arms and ‘Nordic walk’……

Walk you way to fitness in Suffolk.

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