Category Archives: Nordic/Ski Walking

Picky, but easy.

It’ll be a Christmas for kids this year. Credit crunch and reduced sick pay (Grrrrr) means things are a bit tight. It also means I’m pretty upset – but I leave that for now, as I’m angry too.

Luckily Alex has very simple, but specific tastes. He loves his toy cars, and I mean loves them! He doesn’t care if he has two or three the same, as long as they are realistic. Yup, he’s picky too! He isn’t keen on toy cars that look like toys. Matchbox type cars are top billing for him – and as the supermarkets have own brand cars for low prices, I can’t grumble!

Today after Physio we did a little shopping – Sainsbury’s are doing toys 1/2 price at the moment, so we picked up a half price “Little Tykes” car mechanics set, with bench, tools and engine/car to work on – but don’t tell Alex, as it’s his Christmas present!

Alex was treated to a couple of car sets – under £3 the lot! They kept him occupied whilst Chris did the heavy work and loaded up the trolley with the work bench! Usually on a shopping trip Alex will get one toy car as a treat, and that keeps him happy for the duration – and these two box sets did their job perfectly…. maybe too perfectly, as he held them all the time, even in the car on the way home…where he fell asleep still holding them tightly!

As for my back, I can feel things getting better – or at least changing for the better – so many thanks to Judith. A trained finger pressed in “just the right place” can be a very, very painful thing – so always keep your phsyiotherapist on side! Annoyingly though I hit a set back the other day as I sat up to eat. Whilst upright I sneezed, which has left my lower back aching constantly again, but also tightened up my shoulders and neck. Where I’ve been holding myself a  bit taut to avoid hurting my back, the sneeze jarred me a bit harder than the usual relaxed sneeze. A sneeze!!! Damn it!

If it wasn’t for a few things I’d be going mad! Chris and Alex keep me going (Alex is a real star as he keeps me smiling with his intensity as he plays!). The Nordic Walking gives me a bit of freedom, and physio from Judith keeps my recovery progressing (progressing is the thing here – if nothing was happening I’d be more than a bit worried). The iPhone just keeps me in touch with the World (cyber speaking, that is), with twitterings, textings, Facebook and blogging.


A little gift to my blog followers

The Tortoise and the Hare running specialists (see link in top of left hand column) have come up with a great deal for followers of my blog!

Expert advice comes as standard from these people that have just celebrated ten years of being in business. But besides the free advice you can now print any blog page from my blog – Sometimespace – and present that to the staff, and you’ll get 10% discount.

Yes, just print off a page from my blog and present it to The Tortoise and the Hare staff to get your discount. Don’t say I don’t do good things for the readers of this blog!

Besides having a great range of quality sports products, the team will make sure that the gear you buy specifically suits your needs.

Running shoes and Nordic poles etc, aren’t just things that fit all people perfectly, and the expert help at Tortoise and the Hare will ensure you get the right gear for you. Many sports shops are only concerned with a shoe being roughly the right size – but Tortoise and the Hare make sure it suits the way you physically walk and the shape of your foot – and unlike many main stream “sports shops” they actually get you the correct size (half sizes too), rather than trying to sell you whatever they still have in stock.

Proper gear doesn’t cost the earth either. I found that the correct running shoes for me were a lot cheaper than the “fashion” trainers that the high street sports super stores sell.

So, expert advice, great quality products (from major named manufacturers), and now 10% off. Can’t grumble at that!


Radio Head and a Nordic “adventure”

This was the start of a less than interesting “adventure”.

Whilst out exercising my back with some Nordic Walking, and clocking up some more miles on the excellent LEKI speed pacer varios, I spotted a cable. Well, what harm could come from following it!!

I followed for a short distance, then noticed it went up into the trees, dug under pathways, and yet in other places it was just laying over dirt tracks. It wasn’t going to be kids, as it looked like it had taken some effort to position, so it must be military.

I finally found the end of it…but no answers to what it was for.

So I carried on walking. Eventually I came across a Land Rover with some troops setting up a radio station. After a quick chat I find that they are doing comms training. The cable was a telephone line about 1.5km long. I carried on walking, and as with buses, you find one military radio station and then three more come along. Every way I turned there were temporary comms masts. Eventually I came across a well hidden encampment which I presume was the base for the exercise. Very well hidden!

As I stand here writing, yet another comms mast is sprouting up behind me… All quite a diversion from my usual walk! I must carry on, as I think I hear a beach exercise going on at the lake. You don’t get this in publicly owned woodlands!


Big bangs are a washout

It has been suprisingly quite for a Guy Fawkes evening. Only a few whizz bangs could be heard as Alex took his bath – any excuse to publish a photo that his future best man can use!

It seems more people are going to organised displays – such as the NRA Bisley one we took Alex to. They are so much better than back garden events, with major orchestrated fireworks going off to music. A back garden display wouldn’t even be able to get hold of the pyrotechnics that those organised events launch.

I remember a display at a Hells Angels run bike show. You wouldn’t expect it to be tame – and if you had done, then you would have been shell shocked! It still stands as the only display where I’ve felt the shock wave of an explosion really knock the air from my lungs, as for a split second the black of night became as bright as a summers day. I’m sure there are people with post traumatic stress, shell shock and arc eye from that show!

Hells Angels and the UK National Rifle Association… Let’s face it, if anyone is going to pull the stops out with big bangs, then these two must be on the top five!

Alex chattered away about the fireworks, but after his bath there wasn’t much to see out of the windows of his room. Maybe there will be more shows come the end of the week – I’ll keep an eye out, as I’m sure Alex would love to see more!

I suppose that the drizzle and rain hasn’t helped with fireworks tonight though. It was so miserable and cold today I didn’t even do my Nordic Walk – which means I’ll need to put in some extra tomorrow. I woke up cold though, and my back was particularly painful, so I guess a day of rest with some physio prescribed exercises before bed will suffice for one day.


Tortoise and Hare saves the day with LEKI

I’m talking poles again… and not the dancing type you’d find in a “gentleman’s club” – I’m talking about Nordic Walking.

This is a review of sorts – or at least as much as I can at the moment. Nordic Walking is something that the Physiotherapist and GP have said I should do (See here – earlier Back Injury blog), but with the wet leaves and foot design of my first set of Nordic poles I didn’t want to risk going for a walk. One slip and I would end up in a boat load of pain and putting my rehabilitation back – Nordic walking may be good for repairing my slipped disk, and it gives me some supported freedom and a break from looking at the ceiling – but there are limits when you have a trick back.

My original poles had a foot and spike design that just wasn’t sure footed, but luckily for me LEKI have a foot design that works well on wet leaves, dirt, tarmac and most other surfaces. Ardblair Sports Importers, through “Tortoise and the Hare” running supplies came to the rescue. They supplied me with a new pair of poles with attachments to help keep me walking in all conditions. (See bottom of this report for their details).

Today I took my first trip out (a gentle 6km) with these new poles and feet. The poles are LEKI Speed Pacer Vario Carbons. They are 100% carbon poles with a 10cm adjustment at the very top. This means I can adjust for different types of Nordic walking (fast, slow, soft ground, etc), and this is why an adjustable pole from a reputable supplier and manufacturer is the best buy for the all round walker. These particular poles are each rated to 140kg load and meet the top criteria of pole design – better than many fixed one piece poles.

I’ll start at the bottom, seeing as I have already mentioned the foot design. It is a sloped gripped rubber “boot” that makes the most contact on smoother roads then the flat ended hiking pole type pads. Nordic walking is about “pushing”, and as such, the poles are mostly behind you and at a steep angle to the ground – hence the need for the sloped boot.

The standard boots don’t have the studs as seen in this picture, although they still have the deep cut rubber grooves. These studded boots are LEKI’s new “Silent Spike” design. These studs are much quieter on hard surfaces than just using the spikes, and have the advantage over the stud-less design as they bite through the wet leaves and foliage. This makes them great if you are walking over a wide variety of terrain in one go. Other manufactures smooth bottom boots just don’t cope on a tarmac and scattered foliage surface.

The LEKI Speed Pacer Vario Carbon Pole itself is a very high strength, incredibly light weight 100% carbon pole. The swing is well balanced and for me with my back injury I felt that these poles made walking even more comfortable than my previous aluminium poles. I can see in the areas of lacquered but otherwise naked carbon weave that the manufacture of this pole is very high quality. It is not just some cheaply thrown together pole.

Coupled to this light weight full carbon pole is a tested and certified adjuster right under the hand grip. It is only a 10cm adjustment, but that is spot on for a pole that only one person will be using. Instructor poles have a larger adjustment range which allows the poles to be set up for different height users. In my case, I only wanted something that would adjust for the different walking styles and conditions I will encounter, so a 125cm to 135cm pole is perfect for me. The lock design is all part of that TUV tested 140kg per pole load certification.

Having the adjustment at the very top of the pole also aids balance and strength. Many other adjustable telescopic poles have the adjustment parts lower down, and as such the balance and swing can be affected. By placing the adjustment at the top it leaves a longer (and stronger) one piece lower section with superb balance qualities. It’s also in this adjustment area at the top of the pole that you can see the meticulous manufacturing that has gone into the carbon weave alone! This is a well designed pole – both functional and attractive.

I have a pet hate with my older poles. The hand grip and “glove” are all in one. The “glove” is actually a wrist and hand support that you wrap around your hand and is attached to the top of the pole. It is vital in Nordic walking, as it is through this that the backwards pushing force is applied. On a pole with the glove permanently attached, it means once the poles are strapped to your hands, you can’t easily do anything other than walk. You need to unstrap if you need to do anything else.

These new LEKI poles have a great “Shark” design. It is a strap/glove with a sewn in tough cord loop between the thumb and first finger. The loop slips into the “shark mouth” design jaw and locks in place. By pressing the button in the end of the grip this strap can be removed easily without actually unstrapping the glove from your hand. This is a major plus point, as it means the poles can be quickly released from your hand if you need to answer your mobile phone, grab a water bottle, tie your lace etc. The shark mouth and loop design is very tough, very positive and very quick to operate – Top design work.

The handle itself is a thin cross-country style grip. It is designed to swing between your thumb and fingers during the forward pole swing.

As mentioned earlier, the gloves are designed to push the poles back, and in the poles most rearward position, the walker actually opens their hand, lets go of the pole and all the force is on the glove. As the pole swings forward again it should slip easily back into the users hand. A bulky grip would mean having to hold your hands wide open on forward swings – and it would just get in the way.

Today’s walk was over gravel, tarmac (with dry and wet leaves covering), sand, mud and loose packed forestry roads – add to this the snow and you can see that these poles had a good testing over the 6km.

I felt very stable and secure with these LEKI poles, and the “Silent Spike” boot was fantastic over varying terrain. I did cover some distance without the boot on, and just used the bare spike.

Even the LEKI spike is of a design that holds very well – even on smoother surfaces. If you take a look at the picture, the LEKI spike is on the left, with my old pole on the right. As you can see, the old pole had a metal spike that looked like a 5mm round meat tenderiser – it looked grippy, but really didn’t do much. The LEKI “Hollow point” looks the slippier of the two designs, but actually bites in a lot better.

All in all, the LEKI Speed Pacer Vario is a superb pole. Very well balanced, very strong and incredibly light – and the adjustment system is just enough for a user to be able to set up for all types of Nordic walking. The Silent Spike boot is great – perfect for those walks over varied terrain or slippery tarmac where the walker doesn’t want to keep putting the boot on and off – and it really is quiet.

I can’t wait for my back to be fit enough again so I can go out and really put these poles under pressure. There are some great hills and steep climbs to be had nearby – and some streams that are crying out to be bounded over with the poles – and as these are so highly rated and certified, I have full confidence in their ability to take more than I can throw at them.

If you want to order some Nordic poles or other running equipment and you want good advice from people who know what they are talking about, then contact “Tortoise & the Hare” on 01483 273372 – or visit them at 6 Smithbrook Kilns, Cranleigh, Surrey, GU6 8JJ. Their website is www.tortoiseandthehare.co.uk. Tell them I sent you and there could be a discount waiting for you – I’ll update this blog with more details on that shortly.

If you are are a store owner and you want to sell LEKI poles (among other equipment), then contact Ardblair Sports Importers via their website, or call 01250 873863.

LEKI (America) website: www.leki.com

LEKI (Europe – Main Leki Site) www.leki.de (Note: Language can be selected at the lower right of the screen)


Ever heard of traction, Mr Black…?

That’s what the Physiotherapist asked me on today’s (second) session…. and the first thing that came into my head was Sean Connery as James Bond in Thunderball. The famous scene where he is in a traction machine and left for a while by the therapist… only to have the baddie (Count Lippe) put it on a top setting to try to kill Bond…

Then that thought turned to the medieval rack…

I replied to the Physiotherapist that I had heard of it… but needless to say I didn’t think for one minute it would be anything like I had seen before….

As it was, I lay on my back with my knees bent, feet flat. A strap was placed around my lower leg just under mt knee joint, and the Physiotherapist must’ve have worn the other end of the straping around her (I couldn’t actually see anything apart from the ceiling!!!). To apply traction the Physiotherapist pulled her weight against the straps – and by heck…. ooof! Not the nicest thing in the world, and I hurt a fair chunk now.

I have to go back for more next week (Happy happy joy joy…) – but until then I have to use a TENS machine on my lower back to try and get some relief. She did say I need to make sure I keep up the Nordic Walking, as that has helped get rid of the constant pain (Now I just hurt when I move, and not all the time).


Cottage pie with fish fingers and cat food

It’s miserable out, my back feels like it is about to lock out and I can’t go for a Nordic walk to help free it up because the ground is too slippy. It wouldn’t be an issue normally, but I’m not risking my back any further with the potential of a pole slipping.

I’ve been horizontal all day, until I had to prepare Alexs lunch. Bit of bad luck as I had to do it twice. First time ended up as floor food as I dropped the lot. I’d swear now, but I’ve kept the more colourful language out of the blog so far, so let’s just say my jolly old back sent a whizz bang of a jolt to me, and I ended up dropping the darn lunch.

Floor cottage pie and fish sticks with chips isn’t good – especially as it landed in the cat food bowls.

Sausages are in the grill now, and more oven chips. Pah!

Alex has kept me sane though, as he’s being so lovely playing with his toy cars and led windmill…which may just burn out from over use!!!

All of this from trying to move a machine in the back of my car. Frack.


A Peaceful Walk

I went out for a gentle potter on my Nordic Poles today. I have noticed a problem with these autumn/winter walks…..leaves.

The bottom of the pole is fitted with a special metal tip. This allows it to dig into loose gravel and dirt, but isn’t so great on paved areas and roads. There are attachments for the pole tips to fix this though – curved rubber boots. These quieten the tap tap tap of the pole and give better grip. They work quite well on unmade roads and firm packed dirt too.

Due to my route I generally use the rubber boots, as they are better suited for most of the distance – but now the leaves are on the ground the boots have a tendency to slip (not great for a bad back).

So, I’ve had to go out with just the spikes. This is okay now I’ve got to grips with using the spikes on Tarmac, but not ideal. Luckily LEKI have bought out a new innovation that should solve this problem. I’ll be getting some of these new feet and will review them for the blog.

As for the walk today, it was taken at a much reduced pace as I had slept awkwardly. I’m still glad that Nordic Walking is allowing me to at least get away from laying on my back all day, but I am getting a bit depressed about my reduced abilities. I want to take my exercise up a notch, but I just can’t right now.


Nordic Poles – Let’s clear up a myth

You should only use one piece poles – Telescopic poles are not safe and not any good“…..

Well, this is the type of statement that falls into the same line of thought as:

I don’t fly – aeroplanes are not safe” or:

I’m not going to cross that bridge because very early bridges weren’t safe…

80 years ago you might have been right about flying – but things progress. Flying is the safest form of transportation available today – but certain Luddite thinkers still can’t get around the idea – or are scared. A lot of the time it is a lack of facts and knowledge about the subject that creates this attitude.

Things progress, technology improves…Modern telescopic poles made by reputable companies are not dangerous!

I have heard people say that telescopic poles are dangerous – and yet THEY STILL SELL THEM!!!!  I’m sorry, but if telescopic poles are so bad, then don’t sell them – otherwise you sound like a Hypocrite. May as well wear a Leopard skin coat with ivory buttons and say hunting is bad. It’s sales talk – preying on those that don’t have the knowledge or advice from people who really understand what is going on.

I will say that a cheap telescopic pole is not going to be as good as a cheap one piece pole – BUT that is the bottom end of the market. If you buy the proper equipment though, and it has been tested, then there is no reason to say that a telescopic pole is more dangerous. In fact, it is safer and better for you in several cases.

I’ve had no trouble with my lower end telescopic poles – but that’s because they are properly locked and well maintained. You have to use your common sense. If the adjuster isn’t locking, then it needs tightening internally (easy enough to do with a bit of common sense and a screwdriver – in most cases).

For different terrains and different speeds or walking styles, a Nordic Walker needs to have different length poles. If you want to do speed work, you need a longer pole – so some adjustment is required UNLESS you want to carry around several sets of poles.

LEKI are German manufacturers of ski poles and other equipment used by Olympic champions. They are also one of, if not the leading manufacturer of Nordic poles and have been in this line of work since the 1940’s. They are world leaders – and at the top of their range of poles are telescopic adjustable poles….. Why would they do that if they were dangerous in any way?

LEKI have their equipment stringently tested by TÜV* (See bottom of this post). These tests have shown that the telescopic poles are each individually rated to over 140kg loading – and have a lifetime guarantee…. Not something a company would give if the product was dangerous or prone to failure, is it?

Look at it from another point of view. A driving instructors car is not going to be a dangerous car that is illegal to use on the road – The instructor needs to set an example after all. Well, have a look at the poles that a very large majority of instructors use… Yes, they are telescopic poles – and are rated for very serious use.

The type of use is important when choosing a pole, as materials used in the poles are designed for specific uses. The LEKI Speed Pacer Vario for example is a class leading pole that can take whatever you throw at it – and once more, it is adjustable…. and incredibly light weight – Perfect for a Nordic Pole.

To make sure you get the best support for your poles, I cannot recommend enough the use of a store or shop that is supplied by the manufacturers main importer. Buying from an individual from eBay or through the second hand pages in a newspaper is not going to give you the customer service you require. In the UK, Ardblair Sport Importers (ASI) are the importer for LEKI (and other manufacturers). I buy my poles from  “Tortoise and Hare”, near Guildford – there will be more on them in future blogs – so make sure you check back, as readers of this site may find they’ll be getting some good deals.

So – to sum up – A cheap one piece pole will generally be better than a cheap telescopic pole – but when you use the reputed manufacturers who have been making ski and Nordic gear for decades and actually have their equipment rated by independent tests houses, then the difference between telescopic and fixed length is zero.

The type of pole you choose is down to what you need it for – so if you need pole that is only ever going to be used for one type of walking, and only you are going to use it – then yes, go for a one piece pole – it will generally be cheaper as it has no mechanism – But don’t buy a one piece pole because you think it is safer – A cheap one piece pole can just as dangerous as a cheap telescopic one.

*With over 50 years’ experience, TÜV Product Service is a leading international expert in providing testing, certification, qualification, training and consultancy services to a range of industries covering the Aerospace, Defence, Medical & Health, Radio & Telecoms, Rail, Trade, Electronics & Consumer sectors.


Spongebob Exercisepants

Call me crazy, but Spongebob is helping me keep fit, exercise my back and lose weight…

As you know, I have damaged a disc in my lower back. I can’t sit up, or even walk very well without something to keep me stable. Using Alex’s pushchair or my Nordic walking poles allows me to walk and gently exercise and rehabilitate my back .

The poles have proved to do much more for me as well – as mentioned in other blog posts. It burns 30% to 40% more kcal than running or jogging, as it uses the upper body as well – and it also raises the heart rate into a different sport zone without having to go as fast as you would running or jogging.

Because of the slower speed and stick aided stability, the body impact is greatly reduced – which benefits the back, legs…heck, any joints! Great for weight loss, improving fitness – and rehabilitation when you can’t run or jog…. or walk easily unaided.

Proper training is a must as with all sports (even simple jogging – if you do it wrong, you can screw yourself up)- but it isn’t expensive and not too time consuming. I initially had 10 to 15 minutes of coaching to make sure I knew what I was doing (and not damaging myself any further!). A fortnight later I had some follow up training to make sure I was still on track. I did this with Helen Wallace from the Alice Holt Forestry Commission (see my links on the lower of the left hand column).

One of the things that has oddly helped me get to grips with getting the most from this exercise is Spongebob Squarepants…

I have endured the theme tune so many times now, as Alex loves the show – and as such the tempo of the tune has stuck in my head! Where I  exercise and breath in over two strides and out over two strides, I now have Spongebob’s name – as sung at the pace of the song – going through my head as I exercise…. breath in over 2 strides “Sponge-bob” and out over two strides “Square-pants” …. I did say you could “call me crazy…”

Now this chant helps keep my heart rate in a set zone and keeps me walking comfortably. The actual speed of my foot fall doesn’t change, but the speed of the walk itself can, simply by increasing the stride, but keeping the same time beat going. It’s like a walking metronome… constant tick-tock-tick-tock sponge-bob-square-pants…..

Crazy…maybe, but thanks to Alex’s love of the TV show, my pole walks, my back and my overall fitness is improving.


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