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Pole Position

It’s walking…but not as we know it. Nordic walking sounds far too energetic for its own good. But although it’s used as a summer training regime for cross-country skiers, it’s actually is no harder on the joints than ordinary walking. You move in a similar way and swing your arms from your shoulder with your elbows straight.

With the poles taking the weight off the knees and lower body joints you feel lighter on your feet, making Nordic walking an ideal activity for people with joint conditions or who may be carrying extra body weight. 

We caught up with participants at a walk through a park in Liverpool on a particularly brisk morning. Former runner and fitness coach Julie Killen runs sessions across the city, including a beginners’ programme at the Life Rooms in Walton. Poles are included. All you need is comfortable waterproof clothing (plenty of layers) and shoes (walking shoes if possible) Every group will be different depending on personal ability, fitness and health conditions.

Our group gathers in the cold morning air, poles are handed out and the warm up begins. This established group knows the ropes; they want to be challenged so they do not plateau with personal exercise levels. Julie assures us that in a new group the first four weeks of instruction is gentler, calmer and more informative as new participants learn the technique. "We go at an easy pace, we have a laugh, everyone's starting off together."

The pace on our walk is set by 64 year old Eileen. A year ago, still feeling low after losing her husband and feeling the need to lose weight, she was encouraged to come along by friends. “I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time. Who would come out early on a freezing cold dull morning if there wasn’t a reason? I’ve made a commitment and I wouldn’t let Julie down. She has that effect - she’s so motivating. And I’m always glad I came. You go home smiling.”

Julie finishes the hour long walk with a cool down, then it’s coffee and a catch up at the local pub. It was enjoyable, but it couldn’t be described as a breeze, with more than one challenging hill and a competitive edge to stay with the pack (and that’s just us!).

Over coffee 73 year old Derek tells how a back injury eleven years ago left him in pain and struggling to cross his street. Now mobile and heavily involved in his community he says the support from the group keeps him upbeat. “The first step is the biggest…it can be daunting but if I hadn’t got involved I’d be sitting at home. Instead my family joke that I’m never in!”

Paul, 46 began Nordic walking to aid recovery from surgery, but now enjoys the exercise and the friendship. “I’d say to people ‘don’t fear it.’ Everyone in our group knows what it feels like to be at the back of the pack but it doesn’t matter, you’re among friends.”

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