From Runner to Urban Poler
June 6, 2016 | By Amy Ku
When I discovered I wouldn’t be able to participate in my ninth Vancouver Half-Marathon, I sat down and cried. Running was my passion, and for over five years it had kept me fit and healthy. Hearing my running buddies talking about their upcoming races made me feel downright depressed.
I was 50-years-old and had been diagnosed with a heart issue called microvascular myopathy.
Fortunately, I’d learned about Nordic walking from my friend Al at my local Running Room who had taken up the growing trend after sustaining a knee injury. I recall on one run wondering why I couldn’t catch up to him the way I always did with other walkers. It turns out his Nordic walking pace was my jogging pace!
At my first lesson with Al and Jeff, both certified Urban Poling Nordic walking instructors, I discovered that adding poles and using the proper technique turned the activity into a serious full-body workout. Each time I planted a pole, I felt muscles tightening in my arms, upper body and abs.
Al told me that the power and speed comes from pushing off with the poles. The planting and pushing also forced my posture to become more upright. My friend Natascha, who is now also a Nordic walker, told me that her chiropractor noticed her improved posture and spine alignment and asked what she’d been doing to make this happen!
Having completed eight half-marathons as a runner, I didn’t want to give up my distance training. Lucky for me, a friend who had also just started Nordic walking was signing up for the 2015 BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon as a bucket list item. So I signed up to Nordic walk the distance too along with three additional friends.
We followed a standard half-marathon running training schedule and trained three times a week. Al also showed us a variety of poling techniques, such as double poling and interval jogging, and we added skipping and skating strides to make our walks more challenging and fun.
Our goal was to complete the 21.1 km in 3.5 hours, which seemed reasonable since we had completed the distance in training in just under four hours.
On race day we agreed to just enjoy the day and not focus too much on the time. But once we got started, we got a little competitive and pushed each other to go faster. At the half-way mark, we checked our time—it was 1:30! That meant we had a chance to finish in three hours or maybe less. The possibility was unbelievable. We did the only thing we could and that was to move even faster. We passed many walkers and even some slower runners! Along the way, many race participants were intrigued by our group and asked how they could get into Nordic walking. People told us we looked great and not tired at all. With all this encouragement we made it to the finish line in 2:54. What a race!
As my heart condition seems to have resolved itself, I’m now able to run again. But I’ve decided to continue with Nordic walking. Physical benefits aside, I love that it gives me time to enjoy the scenery, smell the flowers and have great conversations along the way. In fact, I believe in it so much that I’ve registered to become a certified instructor through Urban Poling. I can’t wait to share the benefits and enjoyment of Nordic walking with others.
Anyone want to join me in the 2016 BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon?
For moderately steep slopes, simply decrease the pressure on the base of the handles or drag your poles behind you. For steep slopes, keep your poles upright and in front and out to the side slightly, so if you do fall you won’t land on your poles. Bend your knees and elbows, and slow down any momentum. For long descents, it may be helpful to lengthen the poles.
–Barb Gormley, Director of Education