Healthy Living in the North

For a great full-body workout, try Nordic walking – and choose your training partners with care!

Two walkers standing with Nordic walking poles

Nordic walking targets your lower body and, because of the poles, also strengthens your arms, shoulders, and core.

Are you looking to up your walking game? I recommend immediately adding some injured marathoners to your roster of training buddies.

When selecting your injured marathoners, insist on the following two qualities (one physical, one mental):

  1. Physical: Must not be able to run; must only be able to walk
  2. Mental/emotional: Must be so frustrated by (1) that they walk extremely fast, pushing you to your limits

Note: Triathletes will also work, in a pinch.

I was recently lucky enough to acquire two such training buddies: Joanne Morgan, who’s recovering from a hip injury, and Annie Horning, who currently has knee issues.

Both qualified for the Boston and New York marathons this year. Joanne has also competed in the X-Terra World Championships, and as well as running Boston, Annie recently won her age group at the Fort Langley Marathon. Just being on the same trail with these two cardio powerhouses is truly humbling.

My lucky husband Andrew trains with them regularly and refers to them as “JoAnnie.” I call them his crew of elite personal trainers.

I recently joined Andrew and the crew for my first Nordic walking workout on the beautiful wooded biking/running trails at Otway (the Caledonia Nordic Centre) near Prince George.

Nordic walking is just like regular walking, except you use these special poles. (You could use cross-country ski poles, but they’ll probably be slightly too long. You need the special poles, which are adjustable to the perfect height for you. They also telescope down so you can easily carry them in your pack/car.)

Q: Does Nordic walking look slightly dorky?

A: Yes.

Q: Is the dorkiness factor (DF™) worth it because of the increased push you get from the poles, plus the great upper-body workout?

A: Yes.

Two Nordic walkers on an outdoor trail

Take your walking to the next level and give Nordic walking a shot along the beautiful trails in your community this summer.

In fact, SportMedBC refers to Nordic walking as “Canada’s hottest new fitness trend”:

If you like walking, you’ll love the fun and health benefits of Nordic Walking! Increasing numbers of people are enjoying this user-friendly sport that combines the aerobic and strength-building benefits of cross-country skiing with the convenience of walking. It has been popular in Scandinavia for over 20 years (maybe this is the true secret why the Swedes look and feel so good!).

I can certainly agree – with Annie, Joanne, and Andrew scorching their way up and down Otway’s steep hills, I was pushed to my limits and had a great 5k workout.

It targeted both lower body (walking, plus frequent desperate scurrying to keep up) and arms/shoulders/core (pushing with the poles). Plus, it was low impact and therefore easy on the joints.

As well as taking some of the weight off injured hips and knees (should you possess these), using the poles stretches hip flexors and calves, and helps prepare your upper body for ski season. The poles also help you balance, and for me, prevented several stumbles over roots.

If you’d like to take your walking to the next level, give Nordic walking a try. (But you’ll have to find your own injured marathoners – Joanne and Annie are taken!)

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!



  1. Lori Hughes says

    Nordic walking is a Finnish invention and fitness export, not Swedish.

  2. Anne Scott says

    Hi, Lori! Good to know, thanks for sharing this info. I’m sure glad they invented it! Have you tried Nordic walking too?

    I also heard that the Finns invented the heart rate monitor (basically the first piece of wearable technology) — they sound like a very creative and innovative nation, especially when it comes to sports!