Nordic walking is all about body alignment. Do it the right way and you will reap diverse benefits.
IT was a cool, beautiful morning at the Tropicana Golf & Country Resort in Petaling Jaya. The air was fresh and still smelled of rain. A rather violent storm had torn through the resort just hours before and I was dodging debris whilst looking for house No.65.
Instead of finding the house, I was greeted by a striding Nordic walker! My interviewee – Mrs Jagjeet Singh, aka Mrs J – was not about to waste a minute of her day. I hurriedly parked my scooter, and we were off! I was soon to discover that there is no holding back with this extraordinary, vibrant and passionate woman.
Mrs J is in her early seventies, but after a long inspection at close quarters, I still had my doubts. Research does confirm her version of events though, despite her looking at least 20 years younger. I was presented with some “sticks”, which were expertly strapped onto my wrists. She straightened my shoulders, and after a brief introduction on how to swing my arms, we were off on our walk.
Nordic walking, also known as sauvakävely, originated in Finland in the 1950s. Cross country skiers trained by walking with poles during the summer months. The idea was to simulate gliding by way of pushing on the poles whilst walking.
Mrs J with Patrick Burtscher, who promotes Nordic walking in Australia. Below is a short demo video:
Unfortunately, the conventional ski poles could not absorb vibrations, and caused great strain on the joints during intensive training sessions. It was not until 1997 that this sporting activity was made popular, thanks to the development of special poles by the Finish company, Exel Oy. With the help of scientific and sports experts, Nordic walking was born.
Mrs J explained that she became involved in this new form of exercise by joining a German couple who walked past her one morning near her home. She was curious about their activity and the presence of the sticks, and soon took up this form of walking. She quickly discovered that she was achieving a far better workout, but was still unsure of her technique.
This is a lady who does nothing in half measures. So, after researching the subject thoroughly, she booked a holiday and was off to Australia to obtain private coaching lessons from a qualified instructor.
Mrs J is now the only qualified Nordic walking instructor in Malaysia. She adds this accreditation to a long list of achievements that includes being a life coach and counsellor. She is also the author of 14 books, as well as a former columnist for a national paper.
That’s not all. She is a popular guest speaker on radio and TV, where she talks about issues related to education in general and the English Language in particular. She’s currently a part-time tutor at Universiti Malaya, where she teaches English.
With all these activities, you would think that her day would be overwhelmingly full. Not so! This proud grandmother of five is also an event organiser, choreographer, mountain-climber and trekker, and an avid traveller. Over the last 10 years, Mrs J and her husband have walked various Himalayan routes, including a trek to the base camp.
I asked her whether Nordic walking was the reason for her being in such great shape. Her response was that the walking was part of an entire way of life. On its own, it undoubtedly has benefits, but the effectiveness of this exercise, as with any, is significantly enhanced when combined with a healthy diet, and a balanced and holistic approach to life.
Mrs J believes in stimulating and caring for the body, mind and soul. This is a woman who embraces the vitality of life in every respect. Nothing is impossible for her – it can all be achieved through positive thinking, careful planning and sheer vivacity!
Nordic walking is an exercise regime that’s designed not only for the elderly. The sport is suitable for people of all ages, and all levels of fitness. It is an activity that is carried out in nature, be it on a beach, in a forest or on a mountain side.
That is certainly one of the special benefits for individuals who find themselves working in the office all day long, and who feel like they have lost that connection to nature and themselves. There were moments of silence during my walk with Mrs J, when I was able to think and enjoy the magnificence of the early morning.
Whilst this is a low-impact form of training, there is no doubt that there are muscles being used that one does not ordinarily use. The next morning saw me tenderly massaging my forearms and shoulder muscles. With her usual zest for life, Mrs J will tell you: “That is just toning my dear!”
“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said. This quote could not be more suited to Mrs J, and is most certainly the indelible impression she left me with.