On top of the World – Helen’s story

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“On top of the World,” well at least the London 02 Arena!!!

This is me after being a member of Mercian Nordic Walking for just over 2 years. I originally joined after trying a “taster” session. This was followed by a training course and obtaining a passport which qualifies me to walk with instructors/groups in other counties and countries. What a great way to enjoy different experiences as a day trip or holiday.

I often reflect on how unfit I was and what I have been able to achieve through the concept of Nordic Walking, fitness and social activities. Previously I belonged to a local gym but was not sufficiently committed to exercising indoors to improve my fitness and therefore make anything like the best use of my monthly subscription. As soon as I joined Mercian Nordic Walking, I cancelled it and have not looked back since. Exercising outdoors is so effective and enjoyable (even in bad weather) due to group support and great banter. Who needs gym equipment when you can use your poles, isobows, park railings, benches and low fences for example?
I have found Nordic Walking (NW) to be a tremendous total body workout as it engages 90% of the body muscles but in addition I have benefited to a very great extent from additional muscular strength and endurance (MSE) training, cardio vascular (CV) exercises and latterly isometrics. I have come to realise how important exercise is per se but more so as we age. It is amazing how quickly muscles can weaken affecting posture and balance with aches and pains developing. A recent video of a trekfit activity I was taking part in, showed me running “knock- kneed’ ( I was so embarrassed) which I later found out is apparently due to weak ankle muscles. I hasten to add that we are always asked if we are Ok with social media and without this video I wouldn’t have known I had muscle weakness. Following a visit to an osteopath, who happens to be a NW instructor, I was recommended strengthening exercises using a wobble board. In addition I found an interesting article in a health magazine for ankle strengthening exercises as practised by ballerinas!! Oh to be a fly on the kitchen wall to see me using the work surface as a ballet barre whilst waiting for the kettle to boil!!! but the exercises are working.
With Mercian Nordic Walking we have a tremendous team of instructors, and walk leaders led by Ian Northcott, who all get to know their clients/capabilities and fitness goals. When I took up the sport, it was then Ian who primarily assessed my fitness. He inspired me to realise the benefits to my health and well-being by gradually introducing me to longer and more challenging walks, trekfit, MSE and CV exercises. I was never put under any pressure to do so but the more I have experienced the benefits of feeling fitter, the more I have wanted to do and Ian’s encouragement, support and enthusiasm is awe inspiring.
Diet is also very much part of my fitness and feeling good: statement of the obvious I hear you cry. Like most of us I am sure, I enjoy a glass of wine or two, or a gin and tonic but don’t need either. I have also reduced my meal portion sizes and snacking between meals. It is amazing how much energy is required to burn just a small amount of calories. Climbing to the top of the O2 only burnt 450!!!! insufficient, I fear, to negate the coffee and cake I had afterwards!!!

Earlier on this year, I went to one of Michael Mosely’s road shows and am now interested in different types of diets and eating patterns. Do I really need to eat breakfast everyday for example.
I digress a little but I wouldn’t have evaluated my lifestyle without the concept of Nordic Walking, health and well being: the best thing I have done for years.
Thanks to Ian and his team for all their enthusiasm for the sport, support and amazing number of walks/activities available each week via Mercian Nordic Walking and now in conjunction with the other NWUK Midlands groups.


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