Getting fit outdoors at beautiful VanDusen
Our outdoor summer class at VanDusen Gardens utilizes a variety of equipment such as nordic poles and various types of tubing. Whether you join us or want to try ‘trekking’ on your own, here are some instructions on how to ‘Trek’ with Nordic Poles.
Trekking with Nordic Poles
Choosing the correct pole length is important to ensure proper technique. Approximately 70% of your overall height is the recommended length for your poles. A good way to measure is to check that your elbow bends at a 90 degree angle when the pole tip is touching the ground. If your elbow bends at an angle greater than 90 degrees, it is best to select a longer pole.
The outline below is a good reference for pole height:
Height (ft, in) Length of pole (cm)
4’9” – 4’11” 100 cm
4’11” – 5’3” 105
5’3” – 5’5” 110
5’5” – 5’8” 115
5’8” – 5’11” 120
5’11” – 6’2” 125
6’2” – 6’4” 130 (above 6’4” – 135)
If your height does not match the chart sizing exactly, you should err on the shorter side if you are a beginner.
To those new to the sport, Nordic pole ‘Trekking’ is a hybrid of fitness walking and cross-country or “Nordic” skiing and is not actually much more complicated than just walking. When walking, your right arm naturally swings forward when your left leg steps forward. This contralateral (opposite arm/opposite leg movement) is the key to trekking with Nordic poles. With a Nordic pole of the proper length in each hand, you swing one arm and the opposite leg forward, just as when walking. The poles in effect become another set of legs.
Please note that Nordic Pole Trekking is different from European Nordic technique, which was designed to closely mimic Nordic skiing. European Nordic walking uses a long range of motion, with the arm passing behind the torso and the grip of the pole being released at the end of the swing.
Nordic Pole Trekking maximizes the health and functional fitness benefit of the upper body involvement through the poles. It emphasizes a comfortable, natural tempo and stride length to preserve the natural and extremely safe nature of walking. The handshake technique brings about the involvement of the maximum amount of muscle mass, and the emphasis is on increasing the amount of force applied to the poles rather than on the speed of walking. The shorter, more natural stride length accompanies a shorter range of motion of the arms which do not pass behind the torso.
Your hold on the pole should be relaxed, so that you can rotate it forward and back between your thumb and forefinger. If your grip is relaxed, it won’t take much effort to flick the pole forward each time you step. In order to get more comfortable with the correct grip, try holding it between your thumb and forefinger without using the other fingers. You can close your other fingers loosely.
You should keep your elbows close to your sides as you walk, and with each step, flick the opposite side’s pole forward. This creates a small upward motion of the forearm and a very slight flick of your wrist. By keeping your grip loose, you will be able to pivot your pole forward properly.
The opposite arm/leg motion is important. If you bring the same arm and leg forward, you will end up with a swaying gait. You may need to practice this at first if it doesn’t come naturally. If you try dragging the poles behind you with your normal gait you will notice that you naturally fall into the opposite arm/leg pattern. Now you can bring the poles up so the tips touch the ground with each step.
It’s not necessary to firmly plant the tip into the ground, and your arms can move forward and backward naturally as you walk. Make sure you’ve adjusted the length of the poles so you maintain an angled elbow as your poles contact the ground.
For stability, the tip of the pole will plant lightly into the ground before you flick it forward again with the next step.
If you want more upper body involvement for strength work, you can bear down on your poles slightly. This can add some thrusting motion when going uphill, or it be a braking action when you are going downhill. When using a plant/push technique, make sure you are applying pressure back and down.
If you are feeling confident and want to pick up your pace, you can relax your arms and put a little shoulder action into each poling movement, with the tip of the pole planting slightly behind your body. This is similar to the Nordic walking technique. By planting the pole into the ground a little when it is behind your body, you can give yourself a little extra propulsion.
Our Walking Route:
You can try this route on your own, if you have poles but can’t make it to class. Try any of your favorite balance or strength exercises at each stop/station.
- Walk: From Visitor Centre to Woodland Garden
Stop: Group Exercise at Woodland Garden:
Gait Training, Active Mobility, Balance
- Walk: from Woodland to Totem Poles.
Stop: Group Exercise at Totem Poles
Active Mobility and Posture, Core and Balance
- Walk: from Totem Poles to Waterfall.
Stop: (optional) at Waterfall – water break and stretch only as needed.
- Walk from Waterfall to Vegetable Garden
Stop: Group Exercise at Vegetable Garden:
Strength Exercises with Long Tubing
- Walk from Vegetable Garden to LathHouse.
Stop: Group Exercise at LathHouse
Strength and Core (with circular tubing), Balance and Stretching
End of Class
Continue back to Visitor Centre