Are You Planning on Skiing?

This is the question frequently posed to Pole Walker participants in what is also know as Urban Walking or Nordic Walking. The answer today is, of course, is no but historically there is a grain of truth to this question.

Seven days a week, in cities across the world, men and women slide gracefully across the pavement using their poles to maximize the benefits of this exercise. 20% of Finns and about 10-15 million Germans regularly pole. In Bayfield, some 40 to 50 walkers are registered Urban Pole Walkers. Many of these “polers” will be taking part, along with those from around the region, in the SAFE HAROUR RUN to benefit the Huron Women’s Shelter and Blue Bayfield, Sunday August 20th.

For decades in the 1900s, athletes in Finland had been training for winter cross-country skiing by walking in the summers with just the ski poles (they called it “ski-walking”). And, people had been walking and hiking in the outdoors with sticks.

— Benefits —

• incorporate 90% use of body muscles (only 40% while walking without poles)

• increases cardiovascular workout

• increases of up to 46% higher calorie expenditure

• strengthens bones and muscle

• low impact and there is reduced stress on your hips and knees through the support of the poles

• improved sleep

• reduces stress and tension

• improved posture and balance

• helps reduce risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers

• perceived as less workout than the actual true physical exertion

• can be done year round at minimum expense

• upper body activity using the poles improves upper body mobility, reduces upper back, neck and shoulder pain

— History —

In 1966, a woman a Finnish gym teacher started using “walking with ski poles” in physical education sessions for students. Later, as a member of the Physical Education Faculty at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, she continued promoting exercising with poles. In 1987, she presented her ideas of exercise walking with poles publicly for the first time at the Finlandia Walk.  Her ideas were noticed by the Finnish Central Association for Recreational Sports and Outdoor Activities. During the same era, another Finn was promoted exercising with ski poles and published a book in 1979 called, “Hiihdon lajiosa” in Finnish (“cross-country skiing training methodic” in English), outlining methods for cross-country ski-training all year round. The Finnish Central Association for Recreational Sports and Outdoor Activities, along with the Sports Institute at Vierumaki, Finland, began experimenting with the activity with a view to promoting it.

In 1994, a university physical education and sports student began teaching walking with poles at the Sports Institute at Vierumaki, Finland.

In 1996, the director of the Finnish Central Association for Recreational Sports and Outdoor Activities, worked to develop special poles for use with pole exercising. They referred to it as “pole walking” (aka “Sauvakävely” in Finnish, “kävely” meaning “walking”.) They had an idea they wanted specially developed poles for this activity, so they got a Finnish company called Exel to come to the table and work with them.
Among other things, Exel made cross country skiing equipment. Not only did Exel already have expertise in the general area of making poles, but also, owing to a warming of winters at the time, and a consequent diminishing public interest in winter cross country skiing, Exel was very pleased to develop a new outlet for their ski pole manufacturing expertise. Over 30 pairs of walking pole prototypes were developed by Exel and tested in conjunction with the fitness institutes. Marko was a key liaison with the company. The tests with athletes immediately showed the benefits of poles in general for heart rate, circulation, leg and upper body muscles, and in April 1997 the two institutes jointly published a brochure outlining their findings to date. They also endorsed their private-sector partner Exel as a maker of the poles. While the phenomia in Finland was being formalized, in Minnesota in the 1970s, Edward Pauls invented and began selling an indoor cross-country training walking treadmill called “Nordic Track.”

In 1985, in Wisconsin, USA, Tom Rutlin began promoting pole walking. In 1988, he formally named his activity “Exerstriding” and began commercially selling poles. In August 1992, the Nordic Track company introduced its own walking poles, called “Power Poles”, and they called the activity “Exerscience.”

Both poles were designed for walking exercise, but neither was what is today known as Nordic walking poles.

Why not give it a try?

Classes are held every spring and poles are available for your use. Then plan on joining your poling friends on August 20th at the Safe Harbour Run in Bayfield.
When & Where: 6 Main St-  Mon & Thurs (Men’s), 8:30 am Wed & Thurs (Women’s), 9:00 am

craig sinclair

Craig Design, Goderich, ON, , Canada