Have you seen yourself sideways-on recently? If not, get someone to take a photo of you and have a look at how you’re standing. Where’s your head position? Are your ears aligned over your shoulders or does your head project forwards? The reason for my asking is that I recently read that for every inch your head protrudes from its normal position, you add 10 additional pounds of force upon your neck. This is enough to shift your entire body out of alignment, cause a great deal of neck and shoulder pain and reduce your lung capacity by up to 30%.
For many of us Nordic walking is the time when we ‘switch on’ our postural antennae. So don’t forget to include your head as well as engage it. The perfect head position is where:
- Your head sits level on your shoulders – no tilting left or right.
- Your chin is parallel to the ground.
- Your ears are aligned over your shoulders.
It won’t surprise you to know that lengthening your spine, ‘lifting’ yourself out of your hips (remember that gap between your hip bone and your rib cage?) and opening your chest are crucial for good head positioning. We do all of these things already during our Nordic walking classes, so clocking, and adjusting if necessary your head position should be a manageable extra. If you you do have a forward head posture there are a number of exercises you can do, including a very straightforward chin tuck exercise, although be careful with this one if you have existing neck or spinal problems. Here’s how it goes:
Jut your chin forwards slightly then slide it backwards to bring your earlobes back over your shoulders. Don’t look down – try and keep your chin level with the ground. You know when you’re doing it right as it’ll give you a double chin. Repeat this ten times, several times a day if you think you need it.
Psychologists tell us it takes just 21 days to develop a new habit. You can realign your entire body just by moving your head. 21 days worth of chin tucks might be time well spent.
A quick Nordic walking quiz (just for fun)
1. During walking, for what percentage of time are you on one foot?
2. How many of your body’s muscles do you work when you Nordic walk (if you’re doing it properly!)?
3. Physical inactivity is the:
c) sixth largest cause of disease and disability in the UK.
4. The more dangerous thing to your health is:
5. You can burn up to:
c) 46% more calories Nordic walking than ordinary walking.
5. The Government recommends that we do:
a) 5 hours
b) 2.5 hours
c) 7 hours of moderately intense exercise a week.
6. The International Nordic Walking Federation (INWA), the world’s first organisation to promote Nordic walking globally, was founded in Finland in:
7. Which is the odd one out? To walk faster you you must:
a) speed up your arm swing
b) increase your stride length
c) push off firmly from your toe
1/c 2/c 3/b 4/b 5/c 6/b 7/c 8/b
You can find our favourite Nordic walking poles here and if you’re looking for our advice on best walking kit here’s our recommendations: