‘There’s no snow, you know!’ OK, so walking with ski poles across the pedestrian crossing in suburban Birmingham may draw a few gags but needs must. I want to get fitter and this seemed a perfect way to take my daily 10k step walks up a level even if I did look a bit silly.
It’s not just walking with poles, though. I needed to book a lesson to learn the basic technique. Nordic walking involves ticking off a number of skills before you can join a group walk, and so, in the same way that people join ski school, I booked an hour’s one-to-one lesson with Hazel Jonas of Nordic Walk Now.
It was sort of easy but took a fair bit of synchronisation initially to get in the rhythm. You use your whole body in the walk, swinging your arms, keeping them straight, leaning slightly forward in a stride position and almost following a waltz beat with each step as you propel yourself over the pole push. Then there is the hold and catch of the pole strap – not so easy. The aerobic level was akin to jogging and, tbh, it's a bit of a workout for the brain too; there's nothing like over-thinking something as basic as walking. But the health benefits are many. The NHS has a page all about it. And there are even Nordic walking races…
Once through boot camp – it took me an hour – you can join in the group activities. Hazel’s group, for example, goes on regular hill walks (via the pub) and is aiming to Nordic walk the Malverns this summer. She also runs weekly hour-long walks in Earlswood/Wythall, which is where I found myself one dark but starry Thursday night.
I’m counting this as my second #microadventure because, well, how often do you get to tramp around spooky woodland in the dark? Never, that’s when.
For an hour, four of us practiced fast-paced three-minute walks, monitoring heart rates and resting up, before setting off again. By the light of head torches, we tried a lean-forward technique to lengthen the stride and really get the heart racing. The mud paths were perfect for getting a bounce of the poles. Then we went accidentally off-road and had to battle through brambles and freshly cut timber, not easy with poles getting tangled. At times I felt like a fish caught in a net. We finished with a Nordic run over the bridges of the Earlswood Lakes with the moon overhead. It was exhilarating across all the senses.
There is definitely something alluring about exercising at night. Somehow I think it will be less exciting now the clocks have gone forward and the crazy pole-wielding ladies of Hazel's Nordic walking group won't have Clowes Wood to themselves. The other downside is the need to concentrate on where you are stepping on uneven paths, which means missing no chance to stop and admire at the view. But overall, I really enjoyed it and will be back for more.
Check out Nordic Walk Now if you want to book a lesson.