*Note: I would like to clarify that Urban Poling and Nordic walking are interchangeable terms. Urban Poling is a brand of poles, and a refined technique that is based on Nordic walking – a sport invented in Europe by cross country skiers looking for an off-season training activity.
I want to try it all; every type of exercise, every activity, every hobby, every sport. I’ve been like this forever. If it’s out there – I’ll try it (there are a lot of odd exercises out there, and some that are most definitely NOT for me *step classes…zumba…).
This brings me to the beginning of my story. I was working as the Physical Education Instructor at Amethyst Curling Camp in Sudbury, where my path crossed (not for the first, or the last time) with a wonderful, strong, inspirational woman in charge of the camp. As we discussed our most recent athletic pursuits over a late lunch one afternoon she told me about her current love for an activity called Urban Poling. She was doing wonderful things up in Sudbury, partnering with the local Diabetes Association and providing education and urban poling sessions to the local people. Being the adventurous soul I am, we headed to her car and she gave me a quick little lesson and we went on a small walk.
I felt like I was flying! What an exciting way to reinvent your afternoon walk and turn it into a workout!
At home I did some research, and it turns out my Aunt had an old pair of poles in her basement she let me borrow. I wasn’t amazing at it, and of course I was immersed in yoga at the time, so I quickly forgot about the way urban poling made me feel.
My love for athletic and energetic career settings sets me up for lots of injuries. Yet the idea of “low impact” activities never appealed to me because I could never feel like I was getting anything out of it.
It wasn’t until a couple months ago when my plantar fasciitis began acting up and my hamstrings were rebelling against the increase in running I was adding to my training that I pulled the poles out in search of a low impact cardio workout. As I got better at the technique and spent a few hours on the trails by my boyfriends house, I was getting much better – and that flying feeling returned. Here was an exercise I could do that let me be in the woods for longer than running let me, and it was a bit slower so I was able to appreciate my surroundings a bit more.
On my adventures around the trails in Unionville I began to notice how many people were using walking as their form of exercise, but I was the only one with poles (since then I have seen ONE powerful looking lady early one morning with a pair of poles).
I began to wonder, could I bring Urban Poling to Unionville? There are so many people here who seem to value getting their exercise outside, and walking around the local trail system. What if I could bring them the poles, and give them a stronger core and upper body, improved poster, and a greater calorie burn? This is where I went online and found the instructors course, and within a few days I was fully certified and planning my spring poling sessions.
Urban poling has now become my main cardio activity (I still run on occasion because I do really enjoy it) and my injuries are healing.
This brings me to the long list of benefits of Urban Poling.
In comparison to regular walking, with the proper technique urban poling:
- provides a 25% increase in cardiovascular activity and causes an increase in heart rate of up to 10-15 more beats per minute.
- can burn 20-46% more calories
- provides many core strengthening benefits; in addition to improving, assisting and promoting proper standing and walking posture.
- improves stability, balance and confidence while walking
- is a low impact activity; it can transfer weight and stress off of the hips, knees and ankles to the upper body and core muscles.
- improves mood, reduces fatigue, and self-perceived health
With so many benefits, how can you not consider adding urban poles to your afternoon walk?
Earlier I mentioned that my first pair of walking poles was from my Aunt’s basement. By joining the instructor’s course I received a free pair of Urban Poles – what a difference this made! My old poles had a skinny handle, they made a rattling noise as I went faster, and I didn’t realize it until I got the new poles but the smaller boot tip made it difficult to plant easily and get a good grip to propel myself forward. I was pleasantly surprised at the comfort of the ergonomic handle on the urban poles that is designed to maximize the benefits received from the proper technique. It was a much quieter walk, and the larger boot created a better base for me to propel me forward on my flying sessions.
This afternoon I’ll be holding my first free demo at Toogood Pond. I hope to inspire and educate a few more people to pick up some poles and enhance their walks!
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for a spring session, clinic or private lesson to learn the proper technique, and get the most benefits out of your afternoon walk!
Stephanie Thompson is a former student-athlete at Western University and is a certified fitness trainer who plays on the WCT Women's tour. This article, Urban Poling – My Story was originally published on on her blog, Personal Training with Stephanie Thompson, and is re-published here with permission.