Spring has most definitely sprung this week. The sap is rising and so is our energy. Now is the very best time to put on your walking shoes and get out. It is also the perfect time to take your walking fitness to the next level. Don’t rush yourself with this but do push yourself – you may be surprised with what you can achieve. Here’s seven reasons to help motivate you both to get out and get ambitious:
- All aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and lungs and helps protect you against a whole range of modern-day diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. The more you do the greater the benefits. Don’t forget both the government and World Health Organisation recommend we achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week.
- The more you Nordic walk the more your posture improves (a key value of Nordic walking is it’s strengthening of postural muscles). Expect to see positive changes in your breathing, back health and joint aches in particular. One Nordic walk a week is not enough for your body to assimilate these benefits.
- Exercise generally works as an anti-depressant and reduces stress and anxiety. Exercising outside in nature provides an extra boost. Exercising with others benefits you even more. That’s part of the magic of our Nordic walking groups. You can switch off from the stress of the day and get out. Chatting if you want or walking by yourself, refocusing your attention from your daily problems to the challenge of mastering the technique. A certain amount of stress is good for us and different people have different tolerance levels. But too much is bad for both our physical and mental wellbeing. How much stress is in your life?
- Aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises help you lose weight. Nordic walking is both these things. The more effort you put into it and the better your technique the greater your gains. An energetic Nordic walker with good technique can burn up to 46% more calories than ordinary walking.
- Our bodies are clever and adapt to change. What challenged your muscles, heart and lungs when you first started Nordic walking may not be challenging you now. Don’t get stuck in a rut. Push yourself and see what you can achieve. If you’re normally at the back of the group, aim to be somewhere in the middle. If you’re in the middle-to-front of our Downs walks why not think about trying our hillier venues – Ashton Court, Blaise and Leigh Woods. Or try our faster Downs walks (such as the evening classes); one of our Nordic walking workout classes; or even set yourself a Nordic walking challenge – 5 and 10k, half and full marathons are all up for grabs.
- As well as keeping our heart and lungs in shape it’s crucial that we keep up our muscle tone and strength. Not only from an aesthetic viewpoint but also because this helps keep our bones strong. Nordic walking is a resistance training exercise for both your upper and lower body. It’s great for bone strength. Equally as good if not better are our Nordic walking workout classes. These combine walking with additional muscle toning and core strengthening exercises using a combination of body weight, bands and occasionally free weights. Remember the government recommends that all adults do strength exercises at least twice a week.
- If the above isn’t enough to tempt you outside, take a look at this one minute clip I put together whilst Nordic walking in the Lower Failand fields this morning. A taster of the beauty that’s all around us (and a walk I’ll be doing on Sunday 21st May).
A snow-shoeing trip to the Pyrenees
I know the sun is shining and we’re looking towards the summer months but I have an exciting trip to offer you next winter. Our snow-shoeing day in Finland was such a success that with the help of the fabulous Miguel Ibanez, I have put together a snow-shoeing holiday to the Pyrenees for the end of next February.
The holiday starts in Barcelona where Miguel will meet us at the airport and drive us to Pallars Sobira high in the Catalan Pyrenees, far away from the more frequented routes. It is a dramatic setting for snow-shoeing and we will be walking through ancient forests, across valleys and through tiny forgotten villages surrounded by soaring peaks and extraordinary views. Visits to local producers of cheese and wool have also been built into this 4 night trip. Here are rough details and prices:
Dates: Wednesday 28th Feb – Sunday 4th March
Accommodation: Lo Paller in Valencia d’Àneu, a small village perched high in the mountains. It caters for vegetarians. Breakfasts and dinners are excellent and this inn has the reputation of producing some of the best cuisine in the High Catalan Pyrenees. WiFi is available throughout.
Day 1 (Wednesday): Transfer via minibus from Barcelona to our hotel. Walk to Esterri d’Àneu, a small village with local shops (the only ones we’ll come across during our trip!). Dinner in the hotel.
Day 2 (Thursday): Transfer to Farrera (35 mins) to walk through La Coma Valley. We will be walking through deep forests and two small villages, both of which have fewer than 100 inhabitants. It should be a memorable insight into a traditional way of life in the remote countryside. Distance approx 7.6km. After the walk we transfer to the village of Surp in the Assua Valley and visit cheese producer Clara Ferrando, who left her home near Barcelona to set up this sustainable and traditional cheese production in 2007. We will be able to try some of her award‐winning produce, accompanied with traditional wines and marmalades typical of the Pallars Sobira region. Picnic lunch out snow-shoeing. Dinner in the hotel.
Day 3 (Friday): Transfer to the Aiguestortes National Park, known as much for its crystal clear lakes as for its snow-clad forests and mountains. This walk takes us to some of the most idyllic of these lakes as we make our way to the Sant Maurici lake. The route depends on the amount of snow and road closures. It will be somewhere between 12 – 14.5km. Picnic lunch out snow-shoeing. Dinner in the hotel.
Day 4 (Saturday): Son, a nearby village at 1390m famous for its Romanesque bell tower provides the backdrop to our starting point today. We will walk through the Fogueruix Pass which lies between the Son Valley and the Aiguestortes National Park. The views are breathtaking. Distance approx. 11.4km. Picnic lunch out snow-shoeing. Dinner in the hotel.
Day 5 (Sunday): Depending on whether there is a late flight option from Barcelona to Bristol we will be able to go on one final snow-shoeing trip. This time to La Mata de Valencia, the most important silver birch forest in the Catalan Pyrenees. We will picnic lunch and aim to leave for Barcelona airport around 15:00.
Price: 635Eur per person. This includes:
- 4 nights accommodation (twin room).
- dinner bed and breakfast plus house wine with the evening meal.
- Four picnic lunches.
- All transfers in Spain.
- Personal guide (Miguel)
- Snow-shoe and pole hire.
- National Park admission fees.
You will need to buy your own return flight to Barcelona.
There is a single room supplement available for 150Eur.
If you want to experience complete silence, broken only by the sound of snow crunching underfoot as you walk, then this is the trip for you. Please email me if you would like to join this trip. It is subject to details being changed once we know flight times (which will be published at the end of April) so you will not be committing yourself at this stage. I will need a minimum of 11 people in order to run the trip, which is for a maximum of 16 people.