LET’S TALK ABOUT GETTING IN THE NORDIC ZONE…
Once you have mastered the ‘squeeze, drop, plant, push’ Nordic technique, you are then ready to move up the gears and experience the propulson of the poles. There’s a lot to learn when you first take up Nordic walking, but after a while it becomes second nature – like driving a car. New walkers are encouraged to book their first few walks once they have got their NWUK Passports and keep the momentum going. That way you will soon find yourself in the ‘Nordic Zone’ which keeps regular walkers coming back time and time again. This is when you feel ‘at one’ with the poles, light on your feet, in a clear head space, enjoying the sensation of ‘gliding’ whilst feeling the benefits of an aerobic workout.
WARNING: Getting in the ‘Nordic Zone’ is truly addictive
What is the Nordic / aerobic fitness?
Aerobic fitness is the body’s ability to take in, transport and utilise oxygen to supply energy throughout the body. It is one of the most important components of overall physical fitness. Aerobic fitness naturally decreases with age but we can have a significant impact on this. Many of our walkers say that thanks to Nordic walking, they are fitter now than they were a decade ago.
So how can we improve our aerobic fitness? Well, it’s a combination of the following three factors:
The more frequently you can come Nordic walking, or do any other aerobic activity (pilates and yoga aren’t aerobic exercises I’m afraid) the more your fitness will improve. Obviously you need to be working at a reasonable level of intensity. Ambling round the shops for half a day won’t cut the mustard as it is unlikely to raise your heart rate. Our Nordic walking classes however, are all designed to get that ticker working harder and get you fitter. We like to add ‘huff and puff’ to our walks!
The length of time you exercise for also has an impact of your fitness. Mixing things up is the key as it keeps the body guessing and having to adapt. Why not combine long walks such as our 1.5 – 2 hour Saturday Adventure walks and the Nordic walking Challenge Events such as the Marriott’s Way Half Marathon, with short sharp bursts of high intensity training (often referred to as HIIT). Examples of this would be the interval training we often include in our Workout Walks (where you alternate between fast walking and recovery), pace walks (where you walk at your maximum pace over a certain distance) and powering up those hills in Caistor St Edmund and Whitlingham.
Intensity refers to how hard your heart is working. There are three broad bands:
Low intensity –This is the ideal range for warming up and cooling down before and after our Nordic walking classes as it helps to improve blood flow and circulation to your working muscles.
Moderate Intensity – Great for developing endurance and burning calories. Due to energy demands, training in this zone will cause your body to rely on both carbs and fats for energy. Overall, this is a good zone for building general fitness.
High Intensity – This is the crossover between working aerobically and anaerobically (without oxygen). You will only be able to keep at this level for a short period of time. It takes you out of your comfort zone and improves your VO2 Max which improves your body’s ability to utilise oxygen. Hills, intervals and pace walks are likely to get you to this level.
You can calculate the intensity of your workout in one of two ways. Scientifically, using heart rate monitors, or by way of estimation. I particularly like something called the ‘talk test’ and think it works really well for us Nordic walkers, especially as talking is a big part of what we do! It works like this:
–If you can talk non-stop without having to pause for breath you are unlikely to working hard enough to improve your aerobic fitness.
-If you can talk reasonably comfortably (5-10 words before catching your breath) you are likely to be working out at a moderately intense heart rate level. You could keep going at this rate for a while and it is great for increasing your heart capacity and overall aerobic fitness.
-If you’re needing to take a breath every 3-5 words then that’s high intensity stuff and your heart is working pretty darn hard. This is HITT territory. Don’t do it for too long.
-If you can’t actually talk at all then (unless it’s because the person next to you is chattering so much that you can’t get a word in edgeways) you’re overdoing it – so slow down before you fall down!
TOP TIPS FOR GETTING IN THE ZONE: Mix up your walks, enjoy exploring new places, keep pushing your limits (we will encourage you all the way!), book early to guarantee your place on the walk and enjoy the buzz of feeling fitter (and faster) each time you walk.