Managing Common Aches and Pains for Nordic Walkers

Don’t forget the basics!

ICE:  10-15 minutes after activity and throughout the day.
GOOD FLEXIBILITY AND STRENGTH: specific to your discomfort area.
CROSS-TRAINING for mid-week session:  deep water pool running or riding a stationary bike.
SLOW THE PACE DOWN.  If you are trying too hard and forcing the pace it contributes to improper posture and stress on various areas of the body. 
USE YOUR LOGBOOKS to keep track of all that you are feeling.  It helps to track progress and prevent minor discomforts from becoming injuries.
BE CONSISTENT with workout times, spread throughout the week.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY and cross-train if discomfort levels are too high.


Sore, tense neck muscles

  • Improved Breathing Technique. Practice breathing by using your diaphragm and lower rib cage area.  It is a deep breath that starts by inhaling from the core, opening and consciously expanding the rib cage area, up through the nose, and exhaling through both the nose and mouth passages naturally, according to the effort level.  If you are working in a talking pace comfort zone, much of the inhale and exhale will be through the nose, but as you work harder you’ll naturally breathe harder and need to utilize both nose and mouth passages.
  • Be aware of shoulders creeping up towards the neck through the effort of using the poles.  A reminder to imagine “Walking with an attitude”:  Lift the chest (which helps relax the shoulders), and think “tall” as you rotate from the torso into a full “attitude arm swing”.
  • Be aware of daily posture habits, especially those of you at desk/work situations.  Habitually poor posture, i.e. slumping at a desk, a lazy slouching kind of walk…all contribute to neck and shoulder problems which become worse when you need to dip into energy reserves during exercise.


Sore Shoulders

  • You may be planting poles too far forward with a stiff arm rather than with elbows slightly bent.  This can stem from trying too hard.  The ideal is to reach “comfortably” forward as though shaking someone’s hand.  “Comfortable” is important, while grip on the poles should be light, as though holding a child’s hand.
  • You may be gripping the poles too hard when you plant, and continue to grip as you push and release, instead of opening the palm and pushing down on the straps through the extension.  Remember, this is when you can utilize your “granny/grandpa” (triceps) muscle as you straighten your elbows and move the arms behind your hips during the extension.
  • Remember to walk tall, with a full relaxed arm swing that begins with the torso.  Speed is not important at this stage.  Swing those arms with a confident attitude:  Enjoy the feeling of freedom and “walking with gusto!”

Pain between the Shoulder Blades

  • You may be trying too hard to stand up straight and feel that forcing the effort and squeezing the shoulder blades is good posture.  It helps to lift the chest with breathing from the diaphragm and core.  Walk tall with good posture:  Imagine a hook on top of your head, and someone is drawing a string through it and pulling you up tall, right through your body.


Sore Back

  • Try to make sure you are swinging the arms forward and back while keeping the pelvis forward.  This translates to poor trunk control if the entire body is swaying back and forth.  Working on core strength through Yoga or Pilates as cross training would help.  Even simply doing sit-ups will help strengthen the back.
  • You may be bending over as you Nordic Walk.  Think tall.  This may be because of uneven ground, because of snow or slippery conditions depending on where you live.
  • Your stride length may be too long for you right now.  Increasing the stride length as you become more comfortable does help with more time for rotation, arm swing, planting and pushing, however this may be too advanced for you at this time.
  • Ensure you have good supportive footwear.
  • Consider purchasing a new bed if yours is older than 10 years.


Sore Hips  (on the outside of the legs, along the Illio-Tibial band)

  • You may need additional strength work on the “inner thigh and gluteal muscles” to balance the stronger, more dominant outer thigh muscles.
  • Try sleeping with a pillow between the legs if you are a side-sleeper.
  • If it is truly limiting discomfort, you may need what is called a “myofascial release” by a registered massage therapist
  • Deep water running for mid-week training sessions will help both strengthen and give relief because there is less use of the IT band as the foot obviously does not strike the ground.


Sore knees

  • “Rest the part but not the body”.  The body is always adjusting to new demands and especially impact.  Water running is the best cross-training option for mid-week training sessions, but be careful not to do too much again if you are not familiar with the activity.  Try to do only “half” the workout in the beginning.
  • “Ice” is always your best friend”.  Use ice (a frozen bag of vegetables works well) for 10-15 minutes after the activity and throughout the day whenever possible.
  • May need to see a physiotherapist for a routine of proper strengthening exercises for the inner thigh and quadriceps muscles which in turn help the knees.


Sore Shins (could be bone or muscle pain)

  • Ensure you have proper footwear.
  • Try to stay away from pavement, choosing to walk on soft surfaces, such as trails, gravel or grass wherever possible.
  • Deep water running or riding a stationary bike for mid-week sessions to promote ankle flexibility and working those intrinsic muscles supporting the shin area.


Sore Feet

  • You may need more supportive or cushioned footwear.
  • Ensure proper stretching of the calf muscles (backs of the legs, as well as the feet.  Rub your feet over a spikey ball to massage them, or roll feet over a frozen water bottle, while you are sitting at your desk or watching TV.  Do exercises to strengthen and promote flexibility in the arch.  Ankle rotations, curling the toes, splaying the toes, all will help with arch flexibility and foot pain.
  • May need to wear shoes with a heel higher than the toes, or purchase a cushioned heel lift.  Avoid walking in your house in bare feet.  You may need to wear cushioned slippers or sandals, or even your shoes with heel lifts in them when you are at home.

Written by Lynn Kanuka and Holly Eburne

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