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Bonnie makes some good suggestions on what to wear for Nordic walking in her comment. Here, I want to concentrate on gloves and hats. Even some of you who do not generally wear gloves for working out outdoors may want to wear them for Nordic walking in cool weather. Your hands are exposed, holding your poles, so that you cannot easily warm them up by putting them in your pockets or sticking them into your armpits, if that is what you usually do. A hat is really a good idea in either cold or hot weather. You will be much more comfortable and stay warmer in cool weather if you wear a hat, and in warm weather you want to keep the sun off your face. (Use sunscreen too in any weather when the sun is either out or filtered.) Choose snug fitting gloves (not your old gardening gloves) that will not impede your walking technique. A knit cap that you can pull down over your ears, or a hat with earflaps, is good for cold weather. In warm weather, choose a hat with a brim. In cold or windy weather, keep your neck from getting chilled with a scarf or turn-up collar.
Here are a couple of items that are not strictly Nordic walking gear but can be of interest to anybody doing aerobic exercise of any kind.
Heart rate monitors, often used by runners, are not popular with everyone, but those people who like them like them a lot. The purpose is to keep track of your heart rate as you exercise to make sure you stay in your training zone. Most people have trouble getting an accurate pulse rate while they are exercising, and these devices are indeed accurate. (Yes, you can use one in your aerobics class.) However, the standard equations for getting your training HR zone may not be right for you. Current heart rate monitors can figure your calories expended, set up a training program for you, and have memory functions, depending on the model. The dominant company for this device is Polar. If you want to buy another brand, make sure you check out Polar so you can make comparisons. (I'm not recommending Polar or any other brand. I just want to make sure you comparison shop before buying a heart rate monitor, if you decide you want one.
Pedometers are low-cost devices used mostly by fitness walkers, but you can use them with Nordic walking as well. These are very popular and fun to use. Unlike traditional pedometers, you don't have to measure your stride length. These are really step counters, but we will call them pedometers, because that is the term commonly used. A pedometer basically counts how many steps you take, although some have other features. It just clips on your waistband, and does not require a chest strap like most heart rate monitors. On average, 2000 steps equals one mile (left, right is 2 steps). To get a more accurate number for yourself, wear your pedometer and walk a mile measured by your car's odometer, or just walk four laps of a quarter-mile track. You will get a different number for walking, running, or probably for Nordic walking. There is a popular exercise goal to walk 10,000 steps per day, but you can also use a pedometer to just make sure you do more than you have been doing. You can use it all day for all activities, but remember you get more for your steps with Nordic walking. The 10,000 step protocol is useful for improving fitness and has been shown to help weight loss, but by itself it won't get you the level of fitness you can get with more challenging exercise, like Nordic walking. There's no reason you can't use a pedometer to monitor and improve your amount of daily activity, and do Nordic walking to get a more complete and engaging workout.
A benefit, or a drawback, depending on your point of view, of Nordic walking is that there really isn't much available in the way of accessories. A pair of poles, with the rubber tip for walking on trails and streets, is the only thing you really need. The basic rubber tip is shaped like a little boot, and you put it on the pole so it is pointed behind you. (The "foot" part of the boot is back.) These tips are more durable than they seem, but they are replaceable. Make sure you buy poles from a manufacturer who also offers replacement tips, although you may not need them for a while. Some manufacturers do offer alternative tips that are designed for more cushioning or faster walking. Check that out when you're shopping for poles. I've also seen carrying cases for the poles. If your friends want to buy you something for your sport, direct them to hats, gloves, sunglasses, and the like. A second pair of poles is nice, too.
For Nordic walking, wear comfortable shoes and comfortable clothing, appropriate for the weather. (See tip on choosing shoes.) Remember you will warm up after you get started, so dress in layers in cold weather so you can take off your jacket or sweat shirt if necessary. If you are going to travel with your Nordic walking poles, you will want an adjustable model. Decide if you want adjustable poles or solid poles. Non-adjustable poles, or the adjustable pole when adjusted, should be of a length that your arm will be bent 90 degrees when the tip is planted next to your heel. Read the manufacturer's description and see what pole seems right for you. Solid poles are sold according to your height. You should get a guarantee. Don't choose just on price. Poles are inexpensive and durable, and will give you great rewards in fitness, well being, and fun.
With so many special purpose shoes around, it comes as no surprise that there are shoes for Nordic walking. ASICS offers waterproof Nordic walking shoes for men and women. Several manufacturers make multipurpose trail shoes promoted for Nordic walking as well as trail walking and general outdoor fitness activities. If you expect to do a lot of Nordic walking on trails, consider these special shoes for stability and comfort. If you are going to do your Nordic walking on streets or urban paths, you can use the same shsoes you use for fitness walking. If you don't have walking shoes you like, consider buying running shoes. They are better ventilated than most walking shoes so your feet won't get too warm when you are Nordic walking.
You can use your cross-country skiing poles for Nordic walking, but you're much better off with specialized Nordic walking poles. After all, the poles are the only equipment you need for this activity, so you might as well have the right ones. Cross-country ski poles are designed for snow, with baskets and hand straps to aid control. If, by chance, you decide to go Nordic walking on a snowy trail, they could work, but they're not much good on asphalt. Nordic walking poles usually have a rubber tip for walking on streets, tracks, or dirt trails. Some may have metal tips for use on hilly hikes, or you can use trekking poles for that. Don't use poles without the rubber tip unless they have the special metal tip. Check with the manufacturer to be sure. You can choose adjustable or non-adjustable poles for Nordic walking. These poles are more springy and less stiff than skiing or trekking poles. One of their advantages is you can go right out your door and use them for Nordic walking, without traveling to the mountains.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|