Nordic Walking

TURKU -- Not everything we've seen in Finland has looked entirely normal to our American eyes. For instance, since we arrived on May 19 I've noticed Finns of all ages cross-country skiing without snow and skis in the springtime weather that has followed us most of our trip. Young and old can be seen walking or skating while using what look like ski poles to propel themselves forward. At first I thought this might be compulsive behavior by Finns related to the cold weather and snow that dominates the landscape here most of the year. But we soon learned that "skiing" without snow is part of a new exercise craze here. Apparently, Finnish cross-country skiers have been dry skiing as an off-season training method since the 1930s. With the help, perhaps, of the Finnish sporting companies, it has now caught on as the latest exercise fad in Finland.


Members of the Turku cross-country skiing club go for a "dry run" on a recent spring day. (Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post)
View Enlarged Photo

To find out more about Nordic walking, as it is called, I visited members of the Turku cross-country skiing club as they gathered to begin a 90-minute jaunt after work. One of the leaders of the club, Jaakko Hilli, told me that the exercise is great for office workers who spend a lot of time on the PCs because, "it really works your shoulders."





Dry skiing has been an off-season training method since the 1930s. (Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post)
View Enlarged Photo

The group of 20 warmed up and then quickly took off along a trail that disappeared into a thick forest. I followed along taking photographs and soon found myself near the back of the pack, where I met Elina Alonne, a tall Finn who now lives in Houston, Tex. She is back in Finland to visit her family and was encouraged by her brother to try the new sport. She just started a week ago and plans to continue doing it back in Texas. "My neighbors will probably think I'm crazy," she told me.

(You can hear her interview here.)

After 10 or 15 minutes of following the Nordic walkers, I decided to turn around and head back to my waiting host. But I was lost in the woods among a maze of trails leading in all directions. Fortunately, I had a cell phone and called my host who then gave his location to a passing jogger who was out for a run with his dog. He kindly walked me back to where I started.





Skiers limber up before a workout. (Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post)
View Enlarged Photo

The next morning my colleague, Bob Kaiser, who takes a daily walk, tried out the Nordic skis. He came back looking invigorated, a little out of breath and perspiring. The walking poles definitely added an extra bit of workout to his daily walk.


Don't be surprised if you see either one of us doing the Nordic walk somewhere in Washington, D.C., after our return.

By Lucian Perkins |  May 31, 2005; 4:45 PM ET  | Category:  Culture
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I was in helsinki last summer visiting family when I encountered "nordic walking" for the first time. the spastic, urgent movement of the walkers made me chuckle, kind of like the "speed walkers" you see in the states. when I asked my 20 year old finnish cousin what these people were doing, she rolled her eyes and said "it's called nordic walking. it's for old people."

Posted by: levon | May 31, 2005 04:50 PM

It's quite popular in Germany, too - even in my little hometown of Datteln you can see them on every trail. And a few weeks a go I saw a woman doing it in Lincoln Park! It's really a great cardiac workout, and, while looking strange at first, much less silly than the people strapped into walking machines in those late-night infomercials.

Posted by: cpwdc | May 31, 2005 05:18 PM

Nowadays popular also in Japan.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 05:18 PM

It's nowadays used in the army too, during the first weeks of new conscripts to prepare them for marching, I've heard.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 05:30 PM

Still no mention Robert taking a sauna!?

C'mon Robert, I know you and Lucian are all weirded-out about seeing each other's package - but you've got to do it at least ONCE before you leave! This is Finland afterall!! :-)

- Phil
http://www.finlandforthought.net

Posted by: Phil | May 31, 2005 05:39 PM

First I didn't dare to do it when a doctor ordered me to do Nordic Walk. Yes, I work with computer also:-) After a week of walking at nights I saw the results, my back of the neck was not painful anymore.

Posted by: Peccavi | May 31, 2005 05:59 PM

Just having come back from a longer stay in Finland I had the chance to try out both cross country skiing (just great) and Nordic walking. I have to admit that I have always thought of it as silly - especially having seen all the craze about it in Germany. But after a few kilometres I clearly saw that it makes a huge difference to use the sticks. You are using your upper body more actively and also unconciously speeding up, adding to your efforts. I really recommend trying it even though it may not seem hip enough for younger people like me - perhaps you better sneak out in the dark at first! ;-)

Posted by: Arndt | May 31, 2005 06:11 PM

Hei Robert!
I recommend a this routine after the dumb-ass stickwalking. Go to sauna, have a beer and jump in the lake.

Posted by: Hintman | May 31, 2005 07:11 PM

"Nowadays popular also in Japan."

And in China. Our pole manufacturer Exel is building a new factory there:

http://www.exelindustry.net/portal/english/news/?id=23

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 07:25 PM

You can use the sticks with roller-skates too, see the pic: http://www.exelsports.net/

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 07:29 PM

I think one big difference in Finnish and American urban planning are the bike baths and jogging trails (pyoratiet ja pururadat). Americans don't have these (ok there are jogging trails if you live close enough a county park/forest or such, but you can't find one in the middle of Los Angeles or New York). The lack of these wonderful outdoor possibilities probably have an effect on Americans not being so eager to bike or rollerblade, or walk to places.

Even if you have a painted bikezone on a road it is not as safe as a separate path just for bikes (and pedestrians). I'm a Finn living in US and I do miss the bike baths!

Posted by: Anne | May 31, 2005 09:24 PM

Actually I saw somebody using ski poles on a trail here in California yesterday. Maybe nordic walking is spreading here too. I haven't seen anybody using them on sidewalks yet though.

Posted by: Whatssogreataboutfinland | May 31, 2005 11:32 PM

"Just having come back from a longer stay in Finland I had the chance to try out both cross country skiing (just great) and Nordic walking. I have to admit that I have always thought of it as silly - especially having seen all the craze about it in Germany. But after a few kilometres I clearly saw that it makes a huge difference to use the sticks. You are using your upper body more actively and also unconciously speeding up, adding to your efforts. I really recommend trying it even though it may not seem hip enough for younger people like me - perhaps you better sneak out in the dark at first! ;-)"

HAHHAHHAHAAAA! That's right Arndt! And if you order now, you get this cool leaflet, with pictures and... stuff. So what are you waiting for? CALL NOW!

Posted by: Hannes | June 1, 2005 01:22 AM

Dear Bob and Lucian,

If you visti Finland without seeing a Finnish baseball match you have missed a lot of sports scene. Finnish=European baseball was developed in Finland and it is Finland's national game.

More:
http://www.pesis.fi/nuorisopesis/international_site/in_english/

Posted by: European baseballer | June 1, 2005 01:54 AM

Dear Bob and Lucian,

If you visit Finland without seeing a Finnish baseball match you have missed a lot of sports scene. Finnish=European baseball was developed in Finland and it is Finland's national game.

More:
http://www.pesis.fi/nuorisopesis/international_site/in_english/

Posted by: European baseball | June 1, 2005 01:56 AM

Visiting Finland and not going to sauna and jump to the lake ?? Coming all the way and not doing that! It is..... crime :)

Posted by: Jukka | June 1, 2005 02:01 AM

Nordic walking a.k.a. Alzheimer walking (="did you forget your skis?") - looks silly, is effective, but one should start carefully. The sticks can make your wrists and shoulders ache, if you don't take care and practice the right movements to begin with.

Posted by: No comments | June 1, 2005 02:08 AM

Nordic walking a.k.a. "dementia-hiihto" = "dementia cross-country skiing".
"Uh-oh... forgot my skies.. again..."
Yeah well, people poke a lot of fun at it but it is much better than just walking or jogging because you have to use a lot more muscles and thus you consume a lot more joules per mile and burn a lot more fat...

Posted by: Northern Quark | June 1, 2005 02:21 AM

I work with a computer whole day long, there's a fair amount of stress involved, pressures of all sorts and tight deadlines. Well, my blood pressure is on the rise and our company doctor recommended me Nordic walking. I looked at her and said we are not quite there yet... I left her office thinking other ways to improve my health without looking like a complete dork. On my way back to my office I was passed by a woman with sticks outside, then another and then another. This happened during a working day right in the middle of our office complex yard and there must've been 50-70 of them and I thought: "Oh, I guess we are there..." They had arranged this happening to introduce the sports but if it continues I will join and skip work with the rest of them - provided I still get paid for the full day of course.

Posted by: Timo A | June 1, 2005 02:57 AM

There's a reason why cross-country skiing is so effective as an exercise - the same applies to walking or skating with the poles. Not only are your legs doing work but your upper-body is also used more effectively.

I just tried Nordic blading last week and I'm hooked. Although the increse in speed needs to be taken into account when thinking of safety.

And nordic blading is something lots of young people do, at least no one can say that you forgot your skis ;)

Posted by: ramin | June 1, 2005 03:56 AM

I'm oh so sorry, but I must point out that we do not, repeat not bathe our bikes. Hopefully most of us realized you meant to say bike paths, I hope!

Don't they have some around Central Park at least!

Just a bit of funn!

Posted by: a Finn | June 1, 2005 04:09 AM

Nordic walking looks very silly, but is actually great. I started - being a male - in the depth of the night, but gradually found it so beneficial that I dared even the daylight and the crooked smiles of the teenagers.

The poles help you keep your posture erect without consious thought and your rhythm and length of your step even no matter how long you walk. It lessens the strain to your knees and ankles.

Posted by: p | June 1, 2005 04:32 AM

"Nordic walking looks very silly, but is actually great."

I really does, but going back a long time in the history, didn't those travellers on foot often have a stick to lean on?

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 05:58 AM

"I really does, but going back a long time in the history, didn't those travellers on foot often have a stick to lean on?"

One heavier stick for support, but not two light ski-pole type sticks for active walking, as far as I know.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:24 AM

Finally you've arrived in Turku, the cradle of finnish culture and history! One story about Nordic-walking people in Turku isn't going to do it though. You simply must get to know the city better and present it here with all the attention it deserves. ;)

Afterall, Turku is the oldest city in Finland (founded in the early 1200's) and former capital of the country, before the russian rule moved it to Helsinki (Helsinki has been the capital only from the year 1812).

I think it would be sad if you came all the way to Finland and didn't get to know Turku well enough. Trust me, it's worth it.

Posted by: Åboriginal | June 1, 2005 07:46 AM

It's interesting that you don't use the Swedish names for cities as well as the Finnish. The cities on the Baltic usually have a Swedish name as well, since that is where most Swedish speakers live.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 10:21 AM

The most populous cities in Finland have both Finnish and Swedish names, it just depends if you ask a swedish speaking finn or not. If they are not presented in Swedish does not mean there is no equivalent.

Posted by: J. Kokkarinen | June 1, 2005 12:44 PM

I remember first seeing Nordic walking when I was studying in Helsinki. My fiancee and his mother bought my family and I the walking sticks as a Christmas gift, knowing that we absolutely love to exercise and do outdoor activities.

It's _great_! I love using those things because they really do give you a better total body work out. Granted I get weird stares from the neighbors and laughs from the cars driving down the main road. But hey, maybe I can start the fad here in San Jose! Hehe.

Posted by: Jennie | June 1, 2005 01:33 PM

Listen to me now, and beleive me later. Nordic walking is for women and girly men. Ya! Ya! It's for pitiful girly men with no muscles.

Ya, all of you should stop that girly hobby of your's and start working out like serious weightlifter's.

Ya, you all have to start pumping iron, like all real men do here in Fiiinlaand. If your legs look little skinny sticks, move your flabby buttocks and nordic walk to the nearest gym.

Posted by: Hannes | June 1, 2005 02:15 PM

Pesäpallo is more like soft ball.

Posted by: Tahko | June 1, 2005 04:38 PM

" I'm a Finn living in US and I do miss the bike baths!"

Anne-

Wisconsin has some great bike paths, they've been converting old railroad tracks, this is called "rails-to-trails".

These are amazingly popular so hopefully it will gain in popularity. There's even a bit of competition, as Minnesota and Michigan have very good paths also.

http://www.travelwisconsin.com/thingstodo/biking_index.htm

http://www.lanesboro.com/lanesboro-rootrivertrail.html

Posted by: Michael O'Keeffe | June 1, 2005 09:49 PM

My dad came back from Finland with a set of these poles. One day when he was walking around the block one of the neighbors called out "Hey Pentti, you forgot your skis."

Posted by: AmeriFinn | June 3, 2005 03:46 AM

Great that You are travelling in Finland!

I noticed that your trip has been mainly in southern and central part of Finland. It would be great if you could also explore the Northern part of Finland; territory called Lapland. There you will see real northern wilderness and northern people in towns like Inari/Ivalo (for example).

The Inari is located about 300km above the Arctic Circle, but there are still good infrastructure etc. its like traditional Saami reindeer herding culture combined with modern life. Or go even 200km more north to the northest point of Finland (also the EU) and there visit in the Nuorgam village and have salmon fishing in the Europe's best salmon river, Tenoriver...

ps, Santa Claus (Joulupukki in finnish) can be found from Lapland too..

Posted by: Mike | June 4, 2005 07:29 AM

"I noticed that your trip has been mainly in southern and central part of Finland. It would be great if you could also explore the Northern part of Finland; territory called Lapland."

I think the whole idea is to visit those parts of the country that aren't as well known as the capital area and Lapland. Most foreign tourists visit and reporters write only about Helsinki or Lapland.

Posted by: | June 4, 2005 01:08 PM

Finland national sport is Finnish (European) baseball!

Posted by: Hello! | June 5, 2005 10:52 AM

Finland national sport is Finnish (European) baseball!
***
Soccer and ice-hockey are far more popular.
Also american football is played by some in the biggest towns. They brought Finns the cheerleaders to hockey games as well. Someone falsely though somewhere here that ice-hockey brought them.

Posted by: | June 5, 2005 02:22 PM

"Finland national sport is Finnish (European) baseball!"

"Soccer and ice-hockey are far more popular."

Maybe more popular, but it doesn't change the fact that pesäpallo is the national game of Finland.

Posted by: | June 5, 2005 04:30 PM

What about Sahly? I love it and we play it here in States.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 05:03 PM

"Finland national sport is Finnish (European) baseball!"

"Soccer and ice-hockey are far more popular."

Maybe more popular, but it doesn't change the fact that pesäpallo is the national game of Finland.
-
Yes it is but considered quite boring by most.

Posted by: | June 14, 2005 07:46 AM

Hey, I am a senior and this silly looking sport has helped me loose 20 pounds and I feel great! I got my poles from www.urbanpoling.com

Posted by: Frank | June 16, 2005 06:47 PM

Guess what, Nordic walking has finally reached the sun drenched Australian seaboard!

Posted by: Ms T | July 28, 2005 11:27 PM

suomi on paras

Posted by: moro | September 16, 2005 03:08 AM

As a marker to show just how the popularity of Nordic Walking is spreading across the world - I now have subscribers to my free Online Nordic Walking Newsletter - "Nordic Walking News" in 30 countries / territories across the world.

Not bad considering I only launched this publication 7 months ago ?

David Downer
Editor Nordic Walking News
http://www.nordicwalkingtoday.com/

Posted by: David Downer | October 18, 2005 01:10 PM

Sorry - Just in case anyone is interested (re previous posting) those 30 countries / territories are:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Eire (Southern Ireland), England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland (Netherlands), Italy, Luxembourg, Micronesia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA, Wales.

David Downer
Editor Nordic Walking News
http://www.nordicwalkingtoday.com/

Posted by: David Downer | October 18, 2005 01:12 PM

The Star Wreck:
"It's Finnish. It's Sci-Fi. It's FREE movie. It's even funny, in a weird northern European sort of way. Carl F Gauze"

http://www.ink19.com/issues/october2005/screenReviews/starWreck.html

Posted by: Emperor Pirk | October 31, 2005 10:18 AM

anyone in China nordic walking? I am in Shanghai and surrounded by high buildings, where can I nordic walk?

Posted by: | April 25, 2006 05:16 AM

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