the ultimate guide to nordic walking

Nordic walking allows you to get outside and explore, without overexerting yourself!

Don’t let the name fool you, this outdoor activity is great no matter the season. Similar to how some hikers use walking sticks, Nordic walkers use two poles, which gives you better stability. The sport utilizes your upper body muscles without overexerting them. Nordic walking is popular with Europeans, but clubs are starting to pop up around the United States. It's no surprise to find out why! You can burn 30% more calories as plain old walking, sculpt your back, chest, and shoulder muscles, and improve your heart health. You receive all these benefits, without putting too much pressure on your joints.  

What You'll Need:

1. Walking Sticks: Nordic walking poles have a similar design to ski poles, but instead of a sharp point, they have a rubber tip at the end. They are perfect for walking on pavement and are specially designed to increase stability, while taking pressure off of your joints. Typical cost is around $56-$150. 

2. Running Shoes: A decent pair of running shoes is essential for this activity. You need to look for shoes that have good arch support, fit comfortably, and feel firm but flexible. Make sure the shoes aren't too snug, as feet swell when you walk. A pair of shoes can run anywhere from $35-$300 dollars. 
3. Water: Water is essential to any physical activity. Since your hands will be busy with the walking sticks, it would be best to either bring along a backpack or invest in a hydration pack. Water bottles are usually $8-$50. Hydration packs can be $20-$60. 

How to Do it: 

Step 1. Walk as you normally do, with the straps of the walking sticks on each wrist. Notice how your arms sway at your side, the poles dragging on the ground. Once you adjust to the extra weight, grip them in each hand. 

Step 2. Lean your upper body slightly forward. Firmly plant the poles as you move forward. Make sure your arms stay at a 45-degree angle when the poles go backwards. Keep your elbows close to your body. 

Step 3. With your arms in front of you, clench the poles. When the poles go behind you, slowly relax until you have an open palm. As your arms swing forward, tighten your hands back into a fist around the poles. This gives you more power when you plant the poles on the ground and works out your torso and arms. 

Helpful Hints: 

  • Don't swing the poles too far away from your body. A trick is to pretend you are going to shake someone’s hand. 
  • By leaning slightly forward, you are working out your chest and back muscles, so watch your posture as you walk. 
  • If you tightly grip the poles the entire time, it will restrict your blood flow. If you leave your palm open, then you are not fully utilizing the poles, leading to an inefficient workout. Try to find the right balance of loosening and tightening your grip on the poles.

Walking Abroad: These Nordic Walking destinations will take your breath away.

  1. Nærøyfjord, Norway: Norway is famous for its fjords and this is no exception. Hike along the Aurland Selva River as you take in the wildlife around you. 
  2. The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee: Abraham Trail is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains.This winding 5-mile trek is perfect for a day of hiking. 
  3. Gros Morne National Park, Canada: This Canadian gem boasts over 62 miles of trails, mostly flat or rolling hills. If you are feeling brave, you can hike up the summit of Gros Morne Mountain. 
  4. Bokeo Nature Reserve, Laos: Located near Huay Xai, this beautiful reserve in Southeast Asia offers exotic animals, waterfalls, and zip lines through the rainforest. 
  5. Blyde River Canyon, South Africa: One of the most popular hikes is Leopard Trail, but this region offers dozens of trails to choose from. No matter which one you choose, all will have a beautiful view. 
  6. Quebrada de Humahuaca, Argentina: This desert attraction has colorful hills and plenty of day hikes. Home to The Painter's Palette mountains, this is a must-see sight for any world traveler.