Urban Poling 101

April 7, 2016

As an avid reader of Stepz App blog, you are no doubt aware that walking is arguably one of the best forms of exercise around. Low impact, easily accessible, simple to learn, and no special equipment required, walking is the ultimate in excuse-free workouts and also delivers great fitness and weight loss benefits – especially if you hit that 10,000 step-per-day target.

However, what if you could make walking even safer while making it a better workout? How cool would that be?

Well, you can! All you need to do is grab a pair of walking poles and take up urban poling.

What is Nordic Poling?

Urban poling is another name for Nordic walking. Popular for many years in Scandinavian countries as an out-of-season alternative to cross-country skiing, urban poling allows you to work your upper body and your lower body simultaneously which increases the cardiovascular effect of your walks and also ensures that all your major muscles get a great workout and not just your legs. In fact, simply walking with a pair of poles means you will be utilizing 90% of your body’s musculature. Combining an upper and lower body action also increases calorie burning.

Who is Nordic Poling for?

Suitable for all ages, you can Nordic walk just about anywhere including parks, trails, and sidewalks. That’s what the term urban poling refers to – using your poles in towns and cities and not just in the great outdoors.

As well as being an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise that increases the number of calories you burn while walking, Nordic walking also takes stress off your lower body which means that those of us who are aging gracefully and who suffer any knee or hip pain can enjoy this activity without making our aches and pains any worse. This is good news indeed if you want to be active but find other types of workout take more out of your body than they put in!

Getting started

If you would like to try Nordic poling for yourself, you simply need to equip yourself with a pair of walking poles. There are lots of different types available so it’s worth visiting a walking supplies shop to see what’s what. One-piece poles are often more sturdy but not as portable while collapsible poles take up less space in your luggage which makes them ideal for travel but are not always so long lasting. Poles come in a variety of materials too – from wood to aluminum to high-tech, super light and mega-strong carbon fiber. And you’ll probably need to consider price too.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to commit to buying a set of poles just yet, consider trying a Nordic walking club who will not only teach you how to use your poles properly, they’ll also be able to lend/hire you a set of poles so you can try this fun form of exercise for yourself.

How to walk with poles

As with any new pursuit you will need to master the proper technique to become a proficient poler. Since we’ve all mastered, regular walking, all that is left to learn is how to coordinate the poles with your leg movements. It is not uncommon for people to feet uncoordinated a first but, with a little practice, walking with poles will soon become second nature.

To begin:

1. Start walking without the poles. Take a few steps and notice that your right arm swings forward as your left foot steps forward. Keeping your arms straight, exaggerate the arm movement slightly by swinging your arms higher as you walk. It is important to keep the arms straight as they swing from your shoulder.

2. Now pick up your poles. With the right “R” grip in right hand, start walking and dragging the poles behind you. Let your arms swing naturally with your arms moving in rhythm with your legs (opposite arm to leg).

3. The poles actually assist with maintaining proper posture, but you may find yourself leaning forward. Keep your spine erect, tummy tucked in, shoulders pulled slightly back and down but relaxed and eyes forward.

4. Once you feel comfortable with this, continue walking but start to lift the tip of the pole slightly as you swing your arm forward so you are no longer dragging the pole. If you lose your rhyme go back to dragging until you’re comfortable.

5. Now you are ready to start working with poles and incorporating the “3 P’s”:

  • Plant: as you swing your arm forward plant the pole at a 45-degree angle
  • Push: Now apply pressure to the base of the handle pushing down on the pole.
  • Propel: From the pushing phase you are ready to propel yourself forward; it is the muscles in your upper body working.

6. Remember the acronym is L.S.T. to help you remember a few important points…

L – loose grip. Do not squeeze the grip tightly.

S – straight arm. The swing should come from the shoulder.

T – tips behind your feet. When walking, the tips of the poles should always stay behind you.

It might take you a few outings to master using your poles but perseverance will pay off. Not only will you be able to walk further and faster, you’ll also have a handy aid for making traversing steep inclines and rough terrain easier. Plus, your upper body will receive a welcome workout too.

Call it Nordic walking or urban poling, walking with poles is a great form of exercise that is suitable for virtually anyone.

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