Walk Of Life

First things first, just to clear up one question from last week’s Blog, namely the identity of this winter flower. Thank you to everyone who came up with suggestions . . . and, the answer is . . . anemone hepatica, also know as the liverwort flower. However, one plant-identifier App also names it as ‘Glory of the Snow’, which I rather like! I’m glad we’ve got that question sorted!

On to more serious matters, and the Coast to Coast (C2C) walk that Rob and I are embarking upon is now but a little over three weeks away! As our training walks continue, I think that we are each on course to attain a suitable level of fitness, and hopefully the weather will follow suit shortly with some more sunshine and perhaps even a slight rise in temperature. March certainly has come in like a lion!

A while ago Rob and I made a key decision on our C2C trek, namely to equip ourselves with nordic walking poles. Those who followed my LETJOG blog last summer will know that I am an enthusiast of nordic walking, involving specialist walking poles with velcro hand-straps used for forward propulsion. Unlike ‘normal’ trekking poles, the tungsten tips of the nordic poles are kept behind the feet at all times in order to provide the necessary momentum. In so doing the technique can add up to 30% greater efficiency to the effort of walking – when performed correctly by a fit individual!

So this week, for those who may be interested, I have put together a brief summary on nordic walking, just to explain a little more behind the practice and benefits of the discipline. I have taken some of this piece from one of my previous Blogs of last May, as I have quite enjoyed reflecting on my earlier comments with the benefit of my LETJOG walk.

With my poles, last summer, in sunny Cornwall . . .
. . . and, the next day, after the weather turned!
Several weeks later, arriving in Wick, with my trusty poles in hand!

So what is nordic walking? The discipline is not merely ‘hiking with poles’, as the technique and equipment differs markedly from that of ‘normal’ trekking, where the poles are used principally for stability. Instead, nordic walking utilises the upper body to assist the hips, legs and feet as a supplementary source of forward propulsion. Initially developed as an out-of-season ski fitness training program in 1970’s Finland, the activity is now an acknowledged sport in its own right across many parts of Scandinavia and Central Europe.

I’m still not sure where I am on this scale, but it’s fun trying to progress!

As the appeal of nordic walking has widened a great many claims have been made around the positive effects upon the health, fitness and wellbeing of participants. Indeed the sport is promoted in the UK by one national association as being beneficial for ‘flexibility, balance and strength, general fitness and increased joint mobility’. Quite a cocktail of positive health benefits!

So what does the evidence say? As part of my post-graduate studies two years ago, I researched a little into the health benefits of nordic walking compared to other outdoor leisure activities, such as running and cycling. Drawing together some common threads from the reviews of many medical research studies, nordic walking has been shown to offer an effective and comprehensive whole body fitness regime, combining high-intensity movement and efficient aerobic exercise with low perceived effort. The sport is particularly beneficial in improving respiratory and cardiovascular fitness, and it exerts low impact on muscles and joints, whilst causing comparatively few injuries. The wellbeing of participants is further enhanced by being outdoors, and by exposure to sunlight and to nature, whilst mood might be further improved through this connection with the outdoors and through the conviviality of walking and conversing with others.

Interestingly, in the context of our C2C walk, there is also now an increasing amount of detailed medical research evidence indicating significant benefits to sufferers of certain specific illnesses, ailments and conditions, including Parkinson’s. In the case of Parkinson’s specifically, such benefits extend beyond the physical enhancement of stability and confidence, to the promotion of muscle-memory and an improvement in neurological and emotional wellbeing.

Personally, I find nordic walking a unique experience, combining invigorating outdoor exercise with a calmness of mind that is hard to match in any other active outdoor leisure pursuit. Let’s hope that our C2C miles do indeed fly by in such serendipitous fashion, as we make our way eastwards from the Cumbrian coast to the shores of the North Sea! Not long to wait now!

Spring emerging on Ashridge with this host of woodland daffodils . . .
. . . and some wayside pulmonaria!

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