The International Nordic Walking Federation (INWA) considers that there are 10 steps to achieving Nordic walking perfection. Ten things before we can consider ourselves elevated to the elite echelons. Sounds so simple – and, actually, it’s probably true. Trouble is, how do we remember to do all these ten things at once, plus talk, plus enjoy ourselves? For me the answer is a combination of mantras and cues. Ignoring my mantra for the time being (that’s for another blog), I thought I’d share the various cues I use to help with the final INWA step – Step 10, Rotation.
I bang on about rotation quite a bit. It’s brilliant for back health which, let’s face it, most of us have had trouble with at one time or another (see my blog: 5 Reasons why Nordic walking reduces back pain). It’s also great if you’re a speed monster as without the twist you can’t max your pace. So maybe one of the following imagery cues might just do it for you (see also the photos at the top of this blog).
Post your shoulder blade in your back pocket
This one helps keep your shoulders down as well encouraging an upper body twist and is probably the most popular with my walkers. Each time you push the pole back, think about posting your shoulder blade in your opposite back trouser pocket. Very simple and extremely effective.
My favourite as it makes me think about power as well as rotation. Recalling your physics lessons, think of the pole and arm as a power circuit. Planting the pole is the trigger. The power then flows up the pole through the strap to your hand, up your arm to your triceps then round to your back. If you don’t send the power round to your back (by rotating) it just shoots up to your shoulder and neck, resulting in raised shoulders and a stiff neck.
Imagine you’re on ski (or train) tracks. You need to rotate your upper body so that your chest is pointing over one track, then the other. It’s no surprise that this is part of the classic Nordic skiing technique too.
LOL with this one. No need to explain, except to say that the tassels need to fly one way then the other…
The forthcoming long walks, walking holidays and 10k’s mean that lots of you will be upping your mileage. With that comes the risk of blisters. Friction, heat, and moisture can all precipitate blisters. Getting one is painful and can spoil your whole walk. Here’s how you can mitigate your chances of getting one:
- Make sure your walking boots/shoes fit you properly and that you’ve worn them in well beforehand.
- Wear good socks – ones without rough seams and which wick the moisture away. There’s some useful information on socks and sock liners in one of my earlier blogs: Which sock is best for Nordic walking? I have different thickness socks for boots and shoes, summer and winter and my favourite are Smartwool and Bridgedale.
- If you are prone to blisters, tape the worry areas with surgical tape beforehand. The Times published a great article about the effectiveness of this just a few days ago (thank you Kathryn) – click here to read it.
- Take your boots off and/or change your socks half way through a long walk. I adopted this approach when I walked four marathons in four days a couple of years ago. Taking my boots off enabled my feet to cool down, plus changing my socks was a Christmas present for my feet – they felt all springy and fresh. I could also brush out the inside of my boot, ejecting any grit ingress.
Whilst prevention is better than cure, if you feel the onset of a blister (a ‘hot spot’) you should deal with it immediately. I’ve always used Compeed which has worked every time. However, unsurprisingly, opinion differs on how best to deal with a developing blister or one that’s actually formed. My son has sent me what I truly believe must be the most comprehensive ever blister bashing bible. No surprises that it’s penned by the army. If you would like this encyclopaedia (it’s in pdf form) please email me. A second-best-but-still-good option is Wikihow’s How to Treat a Foot Blister.
Keeping your brain healthy and happy
Finally, Thursday’s episode of the BBC’s How to Stay Young series was all about brain health. Eating purple fruit and veg, learning new skills, walking and being sociable are apparently key. You can catch the programme on iplayer by clicking here. You might also be interested in a blog I wrote last August about the benefits to your brain of walking – Get out and walk! Your brain will thank you.
If you’re interested in Nordic walking you can find our favourite Nordic walking poles here and if you’re looking for our advice on the best walking kit here’s our recommendations:
walking socks (socks are an important but forgotten factor!).