In February, we’re launching our newest Couch to Coast project and this time, we’re going to be Nordic Walking in North Devon. The aim of this project is to help people aged 55 and over, get more active and meet likeminded people in their community.
Not sure what Nordic Walking is? Fear not! We caught up with Gill Stewart, Director of Nordic Walking UK to find out more about this increasingly popular form of exercise.
What is Nordic Walking?
Nordic Walking is an enhanced version of ordinary walking. It includes the use of specially designed poles that effectively turn you into a four-legged walker, allowing you to go faster and further than you could normally. Using a special technique, you engage all your upper body muscles and propel yourself forward, meaning you’ll work harder but it will actually feel easier! It’s great for anyone wanting to improve their fitness and mobility.
What’s origin of Nordic Walking?
It began in Finland around the 1930s, when competitive cross-country skiers wanted a way of training through the summer months. They discovered how effective it was as a way of keeping in shape and by the 1980s, its popularity had grown across mainland Europe. We introduced Nordic Walking to the UK in 2001 and a few years later we formed Nordic Walking UK. Now, it’s one of the fastest growing exercise activities in the country and there are currently over 2,500 qualified instructors delivering thousands of classes a week.
Who can do it?
Absolutely anyone can Nordic walk. When used properly, the poles take the weight off the knees and lower body joints to make you feel lighter on your feet. So even if you’re a complete beginner, unfit or have difficulty walking normally – you’ll be able to have a go. We’ve even had people who have had a stroke, or suffer from diseases like Parkinson’s, use it as a form of rehabilitation.
What are the benefits?
Nordic Walking is really unique because it provides a full body workout. It uses 90% of the skeletal muscles, helps to tone the upper and lower body at the same time and burns twice as many calories as normal walking. Like other cardiovascular exercise, it’s great for the heart and lungs and lowers your risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes. People often lose weight and see a rapid improvement to their general fitness level, breathing and posture. And it’s really good fun!
Can you use normal trekking poles?
No. The poles are specially designed to work in harmony with the Nordic Walking technique – ensuring the movement is fluid and the poles become an extension of the body. Unlike traditional trekking poles, they have straps that sit loosely allowing you to swing your arms from the shoulder with your elbows straight, giving you the support and propulsion you’re looking for.
Where’s the best place to do it?
You can Nordic walk anywhere, as it can be adapted to any type of terrain from tarmac to a rugged footpath. The South West Coast Path is of course a great place to Nordic walk as it offers such a huge variety. For example, in Dorset we do a flat walk out to Old Harry’s Rock, as well as rugged fitness training on the 200 steps at Chapman’s Pool. If you ever struggle with the ups and downs of the Coast Path (of which there are many!) Nordic Walking can really help as it reduces pressure on your joints when going down and helps to propel you up the steep inclines.
Couch to Coast – Nordic Walking in North Devon
As part of our Couch to Coast series, we’re working with Nordic Walking instructor Jane Cumming to teach you everything you need to know in just 12 weeks. Thanks to the help of Active Devon, we’re offering this as a greatly reduced rate of £50 (usual price £104) to help over 55s in Devon get more active.
The programme starts on Tuesday 25th February and we’ll meet on a weekly basis to first learn how to use the poles and master the technique that helps you go further and faster than you usually could walking normally. This will take place in Rock Park in Barnstaple. We’ll then put our new learned skills to the test by exploring some of North Devon’s amazing South West Coast Path.
We’d like to say a special thank you to Brend Hotels who have kindly donated a meeting room for us to use at The Park Hotel in Barnstaple for our introductory session. There are only limited spaces available, so make sure you book your space as soon as possible by registering. More information is available here.
Why not also make a #CoastPathPledge?
Deciding to get more active or learn a new skill, like Nordic Walking, is a great way to kick off the New Year. Right now, we’re running #CoastPathPledge where we’re asking you to pledge to make positive change for the year ahead.
If you’re thinking about joining our Nordic Walking programme, why not make this your pledge? You could be in with the chance of winning a two-night stay at one of Devon & Cornwall Holidays’ five stunning hotels located a stones throw from the Path.