Up Close & Personal with Barb Gormley

We asked Barb a few questions so that she could share her valuable insight and experience:

Q: When you see people walking with poor technique because they have obviously taught themselves or people who still think that hiking poles and Nordic walking poles are the same, do you ever interact with them?

BG: Occasionally one of these people will come to one of my clinics or classes, and they are amazed at the difference once they learn the proper technique. I tell them that hiking poles are designed to minimize walking effort, and there’s no particular walking technique associated with them. Alternatively, Nordic walking has a very specific technique which is about maximizing walking effort to make standard walking more challenging.

Q: What do you do for Urban Poling as its director of education?

BG: I teach our instructor courses, provide professional development for our Master Trainers, write manuals and courses, and represent the company at conferences and special events.

A recent big project was writing the Urban Poling Ultimate Guide to Nordic Walking. It’s directed at all Nordic walkers but especially to people who don’t have access to an instructor and people who just prefer to learn on their own. It covers all the basics (e.g., how to set up your poles; proper Nordic walking and ACTIVATOR technique; technique troubleshooting; must-do stretches, etc.) and more advanced topics as well (e.g., the top 20 FAQs; how to train for a 5km event; how to increase the intensity; a HITT workout with poles, etc.) and much more.

One of my favourite sections is the exercise programs. Many people don’t realize that you can use the poles for stationary stretch, strength and mobility exercises.

Q: Tell us about your own fitness routine.

BG: I like to be active in lots of ways. Currently I Nordic walk of course, lift weights, participate in two virtual group fitness classes. In warmer weather, I ride my bike around the city and on longer training rides. I try to log 20,000 steps a day. I also work from a stand-up desk, which is great for staying focused and productive.

Q: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone. How has it affected you?

BG: Along with working for Urban Poling, I’m a long time personal trainer (I go to clients’ homes) and group exercise instructor.

A handful of my personal training clients have moved to virtual, but my outdoor Nordic walking classes (usually four a week) and 75-minute clinics (usually one or two a month) are all on pause. In their place I’ve been offering two virtual classes since March. One is a very basic class, Fitness with Poles, and the other is a higher intensity non-poles class, Cardio,Weights & Core. Virtual is definitely not the same as teaching or participating live, but it’s proving to be a good substitute for the time being.

Q: What do you love most about Nordic walking?

BG: Personally, I love it because it works all of my muscles for the entire workout. Taking a long walk without them always seems a bit odd and like a lost opportunity.

As an instructor, the best part is that 99 percent of people who try it love it. Teaching classes is always a joy; it’s a combination of good conversation with happy people (thanks endorphins!) in inspiring locations (I hold all my classes in quiet nature settings) while doing something good and challenging for our bodies. Many of my participants would be much less fit and perhaps non-exercisers if it wasn’t for Urban Poling! One of the best text messages I’ve received from a participant was, “Thanks for the awesome class. On my way home now and thinking to myself, “Life is good.'”

Q: What’s next for you?

BG: Because of the pandemic and the nature of the world these days, online learning is becoming more important than ever. To meet this need, I’m updating Urban Poling teaching materials, teaching more online instructor courses, piloting virtual learn-to-Nordic-walk classes, and working on growing my virtual fitness classes. Of course I’m continuing to promote Nordic walking as the perfect exercise activity for almost everyone. I’m also dreaming of and planning a post-pandemic Nordic walking holiday in Europe!

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