A “full body workout” inspired by cross-country skiing is just one of the activities residents are invited to try as part of next month’s Stafford Borough Walking Festival.
Nordic walking instructor Gareth Davies, 45, is offering opportunities to try out the health-boosting technique as part of Stafford Borough’s week-long programme of more than 35 walks, from May 3 - 11.
The technique’s origins date back to the 1930s, as a way for cross-country skiers to train in the summer months using just poles. But what is now known as Nordic Walking began in the 1980s, reaching the UK in 2005, and it is particularly popular in Finland.
It boosts the natural walking experience by adding the upper body action of classic cross country skiing, using Nordic Walking poles – which are different to hiking poles - that ensure the arms are placed in the correct position.
As well as burning 400 calories an hour it exercises 90 per cent of skeletal muscule, releases shoulder and neck tension and impact on joints and can prevent the progression of osteoporosis, all while requiring less effort than normal walking.
Mr Davies took up Nordic walking in 2010 and is certified by UK body British Nordic Walking. He now runs Staffordshire Nordic Walking, offering classes on Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings at Rowley Park.
He said that Nordic Walking appealed to him as a fitness activity with a low risk of injury as he entered his 40s.
“I have done a lot of different things in sport – I’m a scuba dive master, PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) master and black belt (First Dan) in karate and both my father and step-father were physical training instructors in the Armed Forces”, he said.
“The Nordic Walking technique is what cross country skiers practise, and they are some of the fittest athletes in the Winter Olympics.
“You get a calorie burn comparable with running or jogging, but you don’t get the detrimental effect of impact. You are also getting more of a full body workout because you are pushing with the poles.
“It’s important to learn the technique properly because then you are getting the most benefit. I use the International Nordic Walking Federation’s 10-step trademarked technique and everyone that comes and trains with me goes away with a really good technique which will help keep them fit.
“It can be done from ‘couch potato’ right up to athletic level and it is good if you are not confident about going to the gym.
“The idea is that people learn the technique at Rowley Park over six sessions, then they can head out on led walks. I supply the poles for the sessions and then I can provide information on buying their own poles.”
Mr Davies also offers trainee Nordic walkers the chance to assess their fitness levels through monitoring equipment, which calculates heart rate and calories burned. Fitness plans can be tailor made for individuals to help their progress.
For more information about Mr Davies’ classes call 07864 976095 or visit www.staffordshirenordicwalking.com.
Details of all the activities available in the Stafford Borough Walking Festival are available at www.staffordbc.gov.uk/walking-festival-2013 or in festival booklets, available at the Civic Centre, libraries, Gatehouse Theatre, GP surgeries and all council-run leisure centres in Stafford and Stone.