If you have ever happened to pass through Ladywell Fields on a Saturday morning between 9am and 10am, you might have come across a large group of happy people walking using poles, shouting out “good mornings” to passers-by. Have you ever wondered what they were up to? They are the Nordic walkers!
The Lewisham Healthy Walks scheme Nordic Walking programme has been running at Ladywell Fields Park for eight years, having started with a handful of participants back in November 2011.
The popularity of Nordic Walking has grown steadily over the years, and these days as many as 50 walkers regularly turn up for an early Saturday workout walk and a good chat with friends.
Such is the popularity of the programme that there are now four qualified instructors and a small army of enthusiastic volunteer leaders running weekly sessions at Ladywell Fields, Manor House Gardens and Bellingham Leisure Centre.
The scheme’s lead instructor and owner of Brockley Nordic Walking Laura Kinnunen also teaches classes on Hilly Fields.
So what is Nordic Walking and why use poles for walking?
Nordic Walking was developed in Finland back in the late 1970s as a summer training method for cross country skiing athletes and it was quickly adopted as a form of exercise by the wider public too.
Nordic Walking has since spread all over the world and is particularly popular on the continent. There are over 5000 trained instructors in the UK too!
Using poles while walking allows the walkers to gain speed yet feel lighter on their feet as the poles spread the body weight more evenly and take away any strain from the lower body joints particularly the knees.
Using poles engages 95 per cent of the skeletal muscles – including the legs, bums, lower and upper back, tummy, chest and arms – making it into a fantastic whole body workout.
It raises the heart rate, and gets all the muscles working. But it’s a workout that is fun and enjoyable too!
Sessions take place in our local parks and are a lovely way to connect with nature, enjoy being outdoors whatever the weather, keep track of the changing seasons, spot wildlife and feel the benefits for both body and mind.
Nordic Walking is suitable for walkers of all ages and fitness levels – the Ladywell group varies from those in their 30s to those in their 80s.
Each participant is encouraged to walk at their own pace – whether gentle, fast or anywhere in between – rather than having to keep up or compete with others. And no-one is ever left behind!
People always tend to find someone who walks at a similar pace to them and while walking alongside one another friendships are formed, great conversations had and the world is put to rights.
It is a sociable way to be physically active so if you are lacking motivation to workout on your own, joining a group will help you!
After sessions the groups tend to go for coffee and continue chatting. There is a book club, and social meet-ups to go out dancing, to the theatre, to gigs, picnics and country walks.
A group of 18 Nordic Walkers even headed out to Finnish Lapland on winter walking holiday in March 2019 and there is another trip coming up in 2020.
It is good to remember that as with any sport or physical activity, there is a very specific technique to be learnt to make the most of walking with poles so seeking out a suitably qualified instructor and learning the correct, safe and effective technique is important.
The good news is that there are many opportunities to learn Nordic Walking coming up in the New Year 2020. Laura runs free four-week courses at Ladywell Fields on Saturday mornings aimed at physically inactive adults, two-session technique courses on Sundays for those who want to learn Nordic Walking a bit quicker and have a good basic fitness level, and mum and baby courses on Mondays at Hilly Fields Park, as well as 1-2-1 sessions.
Nordic Walking poles are provided so you don’t need any special equipment to join, just comfortable shoes for walking and some weather appropriate clothing.
For more information about beginners courses, classes and 1-2-1s with Laura of Brockley Nordic Walking: www.brockleynordicwalking.com/courses
For more information about the Lewisham Healthy Walks Nordic Walking programme: https://gcda.coop/lewisham-nordic-walking