A form of exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise! Frankly, who doesn’t like the sound of that! Which is why I signed up for a free West Sussex Nordic Walking taster session – 45 minutes of walking, talking and fresh air but with poles.
There is a choice of Nordic Walking groups in Sussex, all of which are based at locations where they can take full advantage of the stunning local landscape. Numbers vary but mine was a pleasantly small group. Before we started, we had a warm-up session and an explanation of how to use our poles and position our bodies. Then we set off, learning as we walked.
A fun and relaxing walk
The pace was comfortable. The atmosphere was relaxed, and we talked as we walked. And if I was apprehensive about my ability to be sufficiently coordinated not to injure someone with a flaying pole, I should not have been. There was a little “tick tocking” (what it’s called when your poles get in a muddle and click into each other) and there’s clearly a level of skill involved but it’s not hard and it wasn’t a problem. Throughout the session our instructor Denise gently corrected our position and handling of the poles, encouraged and congratulated us.
A number of health benefits
Here in the West Sussex Nordic Walking certainly seems to be increasingly popular and I can see why. According to our instructor, with the use of the poles and your upper body, it uses 90% of the body’s muscles as compared to ordinary walking which only uses 70%. A Nordic Walking session can also almost imperceptibly include a whole range of other activities and is surprisingly anaerobic.
In fact, doctors are starting to recommend it as an effective way to rehabilitate (for example, if you’ve had a stroke or hip or knee replacement) and stay active if you’re waiting for that op and are struggling with pain.
Suitable for all abilities
I was curious to find out how a session could cater for different abilities, and our instructor explained stronger walkers are encouraged to go on ahead and do more. “We’ll play games. I’ll tell them to turn left when we’re actually going right, so they then have to catch us up. They’ll go up and down a hill twice instead of just once.”
There are also different types of walks you can choose from such as the Wellbeing Walks which include exercises along the way to help with flexibility, balance and strength. And there’s the fast-paced Workout Walks for when you’re a more experienced walker and these are designed to help you to accelerate your fitness levels and include drills along the way.
A step up for the more competitive
There are even different “gears” of walking. In our taster session, we stuck mainly to gear one, but I had a go at gear two which has a longer stronger stride and increased cadence, and it was certainly a challenge. Even though I’m reasonably fit, I certainly wasn’t ready for gear three which you do in short sharp bursts!
And Nordic Walking doesn’t stop at a weekly session. For those with a competitive streak or who relish a challenge, you can take part in an increasing number of organised events which include the Chichester Half Marathon, the Beachy Head Marathon as well as a variety of 10 km and relay events.
A chance to form lasting friendships
According to Denise, although most people initially join for health reasons what quickly becomes apparent is that they keep coming back not just because of the startingly impressive improvements in their fitness but also because of the friends they make. There’s something refreshingly intimate and powerful about being out in the fresh air and most of the walks finish with a visit to a local café. Some groups have even formed their own social committees.
Nordic Walking is something that caters for all abilities and all levels of fitness (and coordination). Friendly and supportive, you’re made to feel instantly welcome. It’s an ideal way to start getting active if you have a sedentary lifestyle or are generally looking to increase your fitness levels but it’s also a fantastic way to enjoy the great outdoors that we’re blessed with here in the south.
In Sussex, you can find groups in Arundel, Amberley, Pulborough, Barham, Littlehampton, Chichester, Haywards Heath and Crawley. Denise Page is the Training Director for the NWUK Training Academy and all walks are led by a trained instructor.
You can find details of walks in West Sussex by visiting Nordic Walking UK and Nordic Walking Coast and Country at https://exercise-anywhere.com
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