“Don’t call them sticks!” Glen muttered out the side of her mouth.
“They’re poles!” She’s been ‘Nordic walking’ for a few months now and is constantly posting pictures of herself on Facebook, at the crack of sparrows, glowing in a cornfield somewhere. She says she’s never felt better and fitter in her life. I’m sorry but when I’ve seen people ‘doing’ it I’ve always.. well laughed! Why do you need poles for a walk in a meadow let alone the High Street? Yes, I’ve actually seen ladies ‘negotiating’ the streets of Exeter with their stic…sorry poles and wondered what on earth they were doing? On Monty Python they’d have got grants from the Ministry of Silly Walks. My feelings were compounded when a couple of years ago, on a group holiday, I signed up for a walk in the mountains. Three ladies looking like they’d just stepped out of a Beryl Cook painting rolled up. All the gear …no idea. Rucksacks, foreign legion hats, stout walking boots, all top of the range, and a couple of stic…sorry poles. I think they managed about 300 yards before we had to find an alternative route that included a cafe! So much for the poles. Eventually fed up with my mickey-taking Glen suggested I should unearth the old Westward TV ‘have a go girl’ and have a go! Well, I ski, do a fair bit of cardiovascular exercise, and can actually walk unaided so how hard could it be? So there I was trainers, rucksack, waterproof jacket and hand sanitizer at 3 o’clock in the afternoon in a suburban area of Exeter to meet our instructor Sue Holden, founder of Exe Nordic Walking. I dare to suggest that it could all be over before we start, as the sky is what I like to call ‘brooding.’ Sue tells me firmly, “We only halt proceedings if there is thunder and lightning” because of the sti…sorry poles acting as possible conductors! Within minutes of leaving the street we had walked through a kissing gate in the hedge and the most beautiful landscape stretched before us. This was Ludwell Valley Park one of six Exeter Valley Parks managed by Devon Wildlife Trust. It is a working farm but nevertheless, there are acres of fields, cherry orchards, wooded lanes, and trails all open to the public with magnificent views over Exeter and beyond. I couldn’t wait to set off at a lick. But no, despite having done an hour of dance fit that morning I had to warm up and learn how to ‘handle’ my poles. How does the phrase go?
“He who laughs last laughs loudest?” In minutes I was laughing on the other side of my face. Within seconds I had lost all co-ordination and was walking like Muffin the Mule with a complete inability to alternate arms and legs. 45 minutes later I realized why poles. Instead of just using the lower half of your body the poles, when used correctly, work shoulders, arms, and chest muscles. It really is a whole-body experience that you can enjoy at any age and at your own pace. And the best bit is instead of being stuck inside you can soak up Nature’s gym! As with anything worth doing it takes a bit of practice but unlike running and cycling, you are unlikely to damage any of your joints. I can see Sue picking up a lot of ex-high impact lovers as clients in the future.
So pass me my poles. Never again will I laugh at a Nordic walker.
Oh and note to self. Get a good sports bra!