Nordic Walking session
Evidence confirms that connecting to nature with green exercise improves both self-esteem and mood, as well as builds emotional and physical resilience. All our sessions are coached by a qualified Nordic Walking UK instructor. When running, classes are free and Nordic poles are provided. All new participants are asked to attend the 1-2pm ‘Learn to Nordic Walk’ sessions which run in 4 week blocks. Once completed walkers are welcome to join the 2-3pm group. If you would like to join this group please fill out an enrolment form which can be found on our main Ecotherapy web pages.
When we are not able to meet in person our Nordic Walking instructor Michelle Cairns from Jorvik Walking shares tips on green exercise and how to stay well during the pandemic. Most of these will apply even if you don’t have Nordic Walking poles, you can use them in your daily exercise. To sign up for Michelle’s emails, her Nordic Walking group or any of our other Ecotherapy groups visit our main web pages. Here is Michelle’s first post:
Mindful Nordic Walking
Mindfulness is a way of decluttering the mind in order to reduce stress, tension and anxiety. It requires you to focus on ‘the moment’ rather than the million and one other things that are usually on our minds. One of the simplest and easiest ways to practice it is when walking. Being outdoors and being active is a great tonic anyway but Nordic Walking is a particularly good stress reliever because of its rhythmic and repetitive action.
Most walkers find that they can clear their minds quickly once they get outside. However, if you find it difficult to relax, it can help you to learn how to breathe effectively and focus on your body, rather than allow your mind to fill with clutter.
Yoga and martial arts are famous for combining deep breathing with activity, and it is easy to adopt some of those methods when walking. First you will need to learn how to breathe deeply and effectively in order to fill your lungs with oxygen and encourage relaxation.
Practice Drill 1: Oxygen Boost
- If you want to check how deeply you are breathing, place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach; take a deep breath and make a note of which hand moves first. It will most likely be the one on your chest, but it really should be the one on your stomach as that means you are filling your lungs fully and not ‘shallow’ breathing.
- Next, consciously try to breathe in more deeply until you feel the stomach expand, and then practice breathing out slowly. You should feel your stomach sink back towards your spine as you expel air.
- Imagine you have a balloon in your stomach that inflates as you inhale and deflates as you exhale. This will help you visualise inhaling and exhaling.
Practice Drill 2: 4 x 4 Breathing
Nordic walking at St Nicks (by L Outing)
Once you have mastered the breathing, it’s time to combine that with your walking. Start by getting into a nice rhythm and pace, and then clear your mind of any thoughts of external matters and focus purely on your breathing.
- Be aware of every breath you take, and gradually try to time the breaths with your steps by inhaling at the point that you take the first step – and then exhaling gradually as you continue to walk.
- Next, try to inhale deeply and slowly as you take four steps, and then exhale as you take the next four
- Keep this rhythm going and focus purely on your breathing while counting your steps.
Practice Drill 3: Clearing your Mind
- Once you have mastered the breathing and rhythm, it will all feel quite natural and you can begin to really work on relaxation. The way to clear your mind of clutter, worries and day-to-day issues is to focus calmly on your body and what you are doing.
- Begin walking as usual but concentrate more on the rhythm of the action and the way your body feels as it moves freely and smoothly. Once you have attained a good pace, you can begin to focus your mind.
- As you take each step, while breathing deeply, notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground. Be aware of the heel striking the ground and the push-off of the toes.
- Next, focus on the muscles you are using; feel them tense and relax as you move. Move your attention to the ‘quality’ of every step. Is it a light or heavy step? Is it soft grass, slippery mud or hard tarmac? The idea is to be totally aware of every detail of the sensation of stepping and not allowing the mind to wander.
- Try to feel a connection to the ground with every step and feel at one with your surroundings. This may sound strange at first, particularly if you are new to ‘mindfulness’ but it is very grounding and allows the mind to rest.
- If you notice that your attention has drifted or is becoming caught up in thoughts and feelings, gently bring it back by focusing on your feet and the simple action of them hitting the ground.
- Don’t worry when your mind drifts back to ‘thinking’ – it is natural for it to do so – but keep bringing it back to focus on the sensation of your feet moving.
For more tips on keeping active, see the physical activity guidelines pictogram below.