Even if it is often mocked, people everywhere do it. You still see people walking with sticks in every park and around every lake. So there must be something to it. Nordic Walking is often smiled at by the self-confessed joggers and athletes, as it admittedly doesn’t look super-exhausting in most cases.
We spoke with Harald Fichtner, the “Dalai Lama of Nordic Walking”. He was trained as a Nordic Walking trainer in Finland and is now one of the most renowned and sought-after running trainers in Germany. He explained to us why Nordic Walking is good for every athlete:
What is Nordic Walking?
Nordic Walking is simply said a brisk walking with the support of walking sticks. The trend sport was by no means, as many think, “invented” only in the late 90s – the sport, then known as ski walking, was already developed in the 50s by Nordic cross-country skiers. After all, they also had to train in the summer and kept fit with their skiing in nature. In addition, jumps and mountain runs in the so-called diagonal step were used to train speed and endurance.
And it was exactly there and from this that Nordic Walking developed. In 1997 it was first introduced as a popular sport and since then the sport has been very popular: after all, around a fifth of Germans walk!
Nordic Walking can be everything: relaxed walking, but also tough sport. © Pixelrain / Shutterstock.com
Harald Fichtner, founder of the VDNOWAS (Association of Nordic Walking Schools) limits, however: “What you see in the park or in the forest is in most cases not Nordic Walking. Often the technique and the intensity are simply not right”. Because: Nordic Walking is much more ambitious and quite strenuous. The coordination of legs and arms in combination with the poles must be learned.
And above all, it has to be done correctly, otherwise it is more like walking with the poles being dragged behind you.
“The cross-country skiers have done special uphill training with poles – believe me, you can’t even begin to climb these mountains without poles! That’s when your pulse is fast in the upper range,” says Fichtner. And even today, the poles are used for support and whole-body exercise. Nordic Walking is by no means only about the legs.
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What is trained during Nordic Walking?
Nordic Walking is a gentle, joint-gentle way of putting strain on the entire body. Besides the legs, the hips, spine, arms and endurance are also trained. Walkers should not be smiled at in the park, because this workout can also be quite a challenge if done correctly.
Harald Fichtner: “Nordic Walking is a whole body training. If you use the poles dynamically, you also have the upper body in action.” This means: Biceps as well as the back and arms are trained optimally. “The shoulder joint becomes more flexible and the chest is stretched. And, of course, the legs are also trained by constant walking.” Nordic walking also improves endurance. That’s why Fichtner Nordic Walking also trains with professional ice hockey players, for example.
Is Nordic walking better than jogging?
Depends on the training goal. If you really want to get your pulse rate up, Nordic Walking is not quite right. Sure, you can walk fast, but you can’t reach speeds like jogging. The ideal speed is about 5 km/h. Harald Fichtner says: “Nordic Walking is a nice, gentle introduction for anyone who wants to start with endurance sports. If you are used to walking and want to increase intensity, speed and pulse rate, you can slowly move on to jogging”.
However, Nordic Walking has one very important advantage over other endurance sports such as jogging or cycling: it is very easy on the joints and therefore suitable for almost everyone who wants to exercise regularly.
So you too become a runner Nordic Walking is a gentle, joint-gentle whole body training. © Jacek Chabraszewski / Shutterstock.com
Who should not do Nordic Walking?
Nordic Walking is a sport for the masses, almost everyone can try walking with poles. Even very overweight people can do Nordic Walking well. “That’s the beauty of Nordic Walking! Even if you are overweight, you can walk. This is not the case when you are jogging, because the strain on the joints is simply too great for overweight people. Anyone who puts a lot of weight on the scales should start exercising slowly, getting the body fit first by walking or aqua jogging,” says Fichtner.
In general, of course, as with any new sport, anyone who has physical problems should consult a doctor before walking.
How many calories does Nordic Walking burn?
Nordic Walking will not burn as many calories as jogging or riding a spinning bike. But: If you are fit, run reasonably fast and do your walking laps in the mountains, you can burn up to 500 calories per hour. After all, that’s a whole piece of cake and more than just a walk!
If you are training very fast walking, walking on the mountain or jumps, you will also like to reach 700 calories burned.
What equipment do I need for Nordic Walking?
If you want to start with Nordic Walking, you don’t need much at first. Harald Fichtner recommends three things: breathable clothing that transports sweat to the outside, normal running shoes and walking poles.
“I would seek advice on running shoes at a specialty sporting goods store. The local experts usually do a running analysis and find the right shoe for you. I don’t recommend walking shoes, though. They’re far too heavy and clumsy.”
Care should also be taken with the sticks: Fichtner strongly recommends using only walking sticks and not trekking poles. Walking poles have a different loop system, are lighter and have a nicer pendulum behaviour. Very important: the poles must be the right length for you. It is best to have them adjusted by an expert in the shop.
How do I move during Nordic Walking?
The exact sequence of movements is best explained to you by an experienced walker. Just the most important thing: You move in the so-called cross shape. This means that arms and legs move “crosswise”. So if your right leg is in front, your left arm must be behind your body and vice versa.
Also heels and poles should always have crossed contact with the ground at the same time, i.e.: If the left pole touches the ground, the right heel should also do so. Also important: Don’t prick the pole too far forward, then you won’t be able to push yourself off as well and will tend to brake yourself out. It is best to place the stick approximately at the height of the opposite heel or a little further back.
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How to start with Nordic Walking as a beginner
Even if in the end it is “only” walking with sticks: Harald Fichtner recommends one or two hours with a trainer. Or you can join an appropriate running group. “It’s enough to walk with a coach once or twice, it doesn’t have to be 20-hour courses.” Fichtner wouldn’t recommend an app. “An app can’t adequately explain the movements and wrong movements won’t be corrected.”
On your sticks, ready, go! Try it! On the side of the VDNOWAS by the way, you can find a trainer or a running school near you. So your start in Nordic Walking is guaranteed.