Nordic Walking Technique Tips

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How to Breathe

People often wonder about how to breathe correctly when doing a given exercise. Lucky for us, there's no trick to breathing while Nordic walking. Put your hand on your abdomen, just below your waist. Now breathe quietly so that your hand goes out as you inhale, and comes back in when you exhale. Many people breathe high in their chest, but breathing from your abdomen is much more efficient, as it allows more air in to the lungs. This is how you breathe while Nordic walking.

Start by breathing through your nose. This, as you may have read, has the advantage of using your nose to strain pollutants from the air. Still, as you walk faster, you will need more air than you can comfortably take in through your nose. Go ahead and start breathing through your mouth (as well as your nose) when you feel this is more comfortable. Just parting your lips will probably be sufficient. This will happen naturally. There's no need to force any of your breathing. Relax, and above all, don't hold your breath.


You Will Walk Faster

When you do Nordic walking, you will walk faster than your normal pace (unless you are already a very fast walker). Adding the arm motion makes the feet move faster. Try an experiment. Walk with your arms stiff at your sides. Now let your arms swing naturally, right foot and left arm forward, and vice versa. You should be moving a little faster without trying, just from the arm swing. Now bend your arms at the elbows and pump your arms a bit while you walk. You should be moving faster yet. (Don't overthink this. It will happen naturally.) This is easier to see with running. Jog for a bit with your arms hanging at your sides, then bend your elbows and pump your arms. Watch a sprinter some time. The arm motion seems to drive the feet. So by using your arms deliberately, you will end up walking faster. Practice using a smooth steady motion with your Nordic walking poles, and you will automatically walk faster.


Stride Length

With any kind of walking, or running, there are two basic ways to increase speed: increase stride length or increase turnover. Stride length is how long your step is. Turnover is how fast you step. There is a limit to how much you can increase your stride length, and often when you do, you do it at the expense of your form or technique. The important thing is not to try to make your step bigger by stepping farther forward, though this seems like the natural way to do it. If you step too far forward, you can actually set up a braking action by coming down too far back on your heel. Stepping too far forward can especially cause a problem with Nordic walking technique, because it can interfere with proper pole placement. Remember your pole is slanted slightly backward, and you don't want to start wobbling it back and forth by moving your wrist. To properly increase your stride, make it a little longer in back by pushing off with your toes. Better yet, concentrate on a faster turnover if you want to go faster. Make sure to maintain form and move smoothly, synchronizing arm and leg movements. Practice moving just a little bit faster for a short distance until you get used to it. Even if you don't want to increase overall speed, knowing how to move faster can come in handy when you're trying to keep up with somebody or you just want to have some fun by varying speed.

How much Nordic walking should I do?

How Far, How Long?

You can use the same recommendations given for fitness walking for Nordic walking, and get even more benefits. Walking has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, reduce blood pressure, help prevent and treat diabetes, manage weight, decrease depression, and help prevent some cancers. Nordic walking does all this, and improves upper body strength and endurance as well. (This list does not cover all the benefits of exercise.) The most common recommendation for walking for health improvement is 150 minutes a week.

If your main goal is weight loss, you should try to double that. This averages an hour, 5 days a week, but can be done in 15-30 minute increments. The 300 minutes at 20 minute miles is only 15 miles a week. Do more if you want, less if you're getting started exercising or out of shape. Do as much as you can comfortably. If you follow these recommendations, or those of your doctor or other professional or organization, do Nordic walking for the same amount of exercise recommended for normal walking, and enjoy even more benefits.

Does Nordic walking affect posture?

Walking Posture

Fitness walkers often neglect their posture. If you slump or round your back while walking, you reduce not only the enjoyment but the benefits of your walk. Slumping restricts your lungs and inhibits your breathing. Using Nordic walking poles automatically corrects your walking posture. Proper Nordic walking technique requires an upright posture that facilitates breathing. You will use a very slight forward lean from the ankles, but essentially an upright posture. Hold your head up and you will achieve a good, efficient walking posture.

Is Nordic walking safe?


No activity is completely safe, as anyone who has tripped over the cat while walking across the living room can attest. Still, Nordic walking is a very safe exercise activity. The Nordic walking poles provide extra stability, so you are less likely to fall or turn an ankle than even with normal walking. Nordic walking is even used in some rehabilitation situations. Because so many muscles are used, overuse injuries are unlikely. Nordic walking gives the cardiovascular system a good workout without overstressing it. If you use normal precautions about extreme weather, stay off slippery surfaces, and use the poles for their designed purpose only, you should be able to enjoy Nordic walking without worrying about safety.

How can I get started Nordic walking?

Learning to Walk

Although Nordic walking is not difficult, you should plan a few practice walking sessions to perfect your technique. Don't be surprised or frustrated if you have trouble coordinating arms and legs at first. If you lose your rhythm, or find yourself swinging the wrong arm forward, just start over. You can carry your poles around obstacles or across streets and resume Nordic walking on the other side. Schedule your first Nordic walking session for about 20 minutes total. Add 5 or so minutes a day until you can work out for 45 minutes. Depending on your time schedule, try to walk for fitness at least 30 minutes most days. You can alternate fitness walking or speed walking with your Nordic walking and vary distances. Or, you may decide to make Nordic walking your regular fitness workout.

Is Nordic walking the same as speed walking?

Speed Walking

Nordic walking is not a form of speed walking, although you should use a brisk pace. Instead of just going as fast as you can, concentrate on using correct form and a steady pace. The unique benefit of Nordic walking comes from engaging most of the muscles in your body. Speed walking is mostly dependent on lower body action.

How do I use my legs when Nordic walking?

Lower Body Walking Technique

Take a normal walking stride when you are Nordic walking. Come down on your heel and push off with your toes as the opposite heel comes down. Swing your leg from the hip, with little knee action. Practice this Nordic walking leg swing technique until it feels natural. Relax and have fun.

How can I make Nordic walking more effective?

Advanced Technique

This technique is not very advanced, as you will get to it in a few days. It's just best not to worry about it when you're getting the basic arm swing down. Plant your Nordic walking pole lightly, then push down hard for about half a second, and continue. This push will engage your upper body muscles more. Don't hold the handle tightly. If your biceps and/or triceps are sore or fatigued, you are using your elbow too much. Keep the elbow straight, but not locked out, and swing your arm from the shoulder.

How do I use my poles in Nordic walking?

Upper Body Technique

Your Nordic walking poles probably are designed one for your right hand and one for your left. Take a normal step with your left foot and swing your right hand and pole forward to about waist height, arm straight. You should be holding the pole handle as if you are reaching out to shake hands. The shaft of your Nordic walking pole should be slanted back toward your body. Plant the tip so it is about even with the heel of your left foot. You will be swinging the poles up past your body, but plant the tip a few inches to the side so it doesn't get tangled up with your foot. If the rubber tip of the pole is shaped like a little foot, it should be pointed backward. Repeat with the other foot and opposite hand. Keep your wrist and elbow straight, but not locked out, and let your arm swing from the shoulder. Practice this poling technique until it feels natural.

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