Nordic Walking

I’ve split my action, health and fitness blogs to TWA2LB – You can still find it all here at Sometimespace, scattered over the multitude of pages and posts, but TWA2LB will be more focused under those headings. Sometimespace will still contain EVERYTHING I blog about…. you lucky people!

If you want to take up Nordic Walking, then you’re going to want equipment. I go to “Tortoise and the Hare” where I get expert advice and top quality products from these running specialists.  So good I am evening plugging them!!!

TORTOISE AND THE HARE

Unit 6, Smith Brook Kilns
Horsham Road
Cranleigh
GU6 8JJ
Surrey, UK
Telephone: 01483 273372
www.tortoiseandthehare.co.uk

Is Nordic Walking really any good?

If you want to know more about what Nordic walking is (sometimes called Ski or Pole walking), then check out www.nordicwalking.co.uk. If you want to know WHY you should look into Nordic Walking, then read on. I have put this page together from some of my blog entries. (Go to the CATEGORIES selector on the right side menu and select “Nordic/Ski Walking” to find all of my other blog entries on this topic).

I read up on the effects of Nordic walking – and the fact that some doctors and physiotherapists use this as way to help people with very serious back injuries (and other injuries) to recover.

There were all sorts of claims as to how it burns more calories – takes the load off of the back and legs – and shares it over the rest of the body – and allows you to exercise for longer as the legs don’t tire so quickly…

To start with, here’s a look at an identical distance Nordic lake walk versus one of my last C25K Interval (Run/Walk) training before I injured my back. The C25K was around the lake with a 90 second run followed by 2 minute rest, repeating for the full distance.

The kcal burn pretty much speaks for itself – but what you don’t see is the fact that after the Nordic walk I felt like I could just keep going – and I felt comfortable in my back, which is great – as even normal walking around and sitting is leaving me in discomfort at the moment.

So on to those figures…. The top two tables show the data and training heart zones from the C25K interval training. You can see my heart did get into a higher (red) zone – which has certain advantages – but the best zone to be in (for me at the moment – and people exercising in general) is the orange zone. In the lower two tables you can see that for almost the whole distance I was locked into that one zone for the duration – and I didn’t do that on purpose – that’s just as it happened.

INTERVAL TRAINING CHARTS:

NORDIC WALKING CHARTS:

Yup…. that’s only 56 seconds outside of my optimum zone!!!!

When it comes to equipment, you need poles and good trainers (not stiff bottomed hiking boots – you need a flexable sole) the poles have special binds on for wrist support and ease of pole use – It is a glove like design that keeps the pole between your thumb and first finger. Hiking poles just have a wrist loop – and this is no good. As for shaft design: Some people say go for one piece poles due to safety, but this is rubbish! A telescopic pole from a reputable company (tested and certified) is just as safe. The choice between telescopic and fixed length should be due to what you will use the pole for – and nothing to do with safety.

For me though, on an engineering point of view I know what I am looking for in a two part telescopic pole mechanism. Lets face it – sometimes you need a pole that can be shortened to be stored or carried in a back pack. The problem is that a poorly designed telescopic pole lock mechanism and/or a mechanism that hasn’t been tightened properly can cause pole collapse – not a great thing, as you can imagine…(a problem some people have if they just don’t have a good vice like grip when tightening the lock!)

Having yourself checked out for the correct running trainers is also a very important thing to consider – just like for running and jogging. The wrong equipment can end up causing you long term future problems.

Now, if you need the right equipment, that means not falling for the sales talk about why certain poles are good or bad – and instead you need to make an informed choice – or buy from a trustworthy and reputable source.

There is a myth about Nordic poles:-

You should only use one piece poles – Telescopic poles are not safe and not any good“… this is rubbish. Total and absolute.

This is the type of statement that falls into the same line of thought as:

I don’t fly – aeroplane’s 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.

So….What poles do I use?

To back up some of what I have said about poles, I have carried out a review (of sorts).

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)

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