On a Sunday throughout the year, Nordic4Teens can be found exploring the beautiful and varied terrain of Bristol: The Downs, Blaise Castle Estate, Ashton Court, Leigh Woods and their pastures, woodlands, slopes and gullies. The Teens aged 11-18 years old make new friends, enjoy learning the technique of Nordic Walking and increase their fitness too. They all carry a backpack of some kind, from a small rucksack with water bottle and snacks in, to a full Expedition pack.
Our Nordic4 Teens Sessions include fitness preparation for Teens taking on greater outdoor challenges eg D of E (Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme) and Ten Tors . The Teens learn to use the poles to aid their walking when carrying heavy backpacks on the flat, up and down hills. But what real difference can the poles make for their D of E or Ten Tors experience? Many Teens in schools throughout the UK start D of E but not as many continue on past Bronze. Lack of fitness, painful joints and sore backs all cited as some of the reasons.
We see the positive impact of our Teens using Nordic Walking poles, both physically and emotionally on a weekly basis in our sessions, but I wanted to delve a little deeper and find out why this is the case.
I turned to Claire Callaghan ( Claire Callaghan B.Pty MSc Chartered Physiotherapist ) whom I taught Nordic walking to last year. Claire, a mother and Bristol based Physio gave me her thoughts both as a parent of a Teen and a Physio who often treats teenage children in her clinics.
As a mum of a teen who’s just about to embark on his first Duke of Edinburgh expedition, I’ve been looking into how we can best help. There’s no getting away from it – it’s meant to be challenging. The pack can be heavy, and the miles covered are long. The weather might not be great either! Some teens may feel nervous or unsure about how, or even if they can do it. As supportive parents, we can guide them on improving their posture and fitness, strength and confidence. Nordic Walking is a great way to do just this. Nordic Walking is so much more than walking with poles. Using the natural rhythm of walking, it allows us to tune into our bodies, getting feedback both through the poles in the arms and the impact of striking the ground.
4 ways Nordic Walking helps teens doing Duke of Edinburgh, Ten Tors and other physical challenges
Our postural muscles help keep us upright for long periods, avoiding the slump when we tire. The use of poles ensures Nordic Walkers use their erector spinae muscles – the ones that run like a strap down each side of the spine. These do just as their latin name suggests – they keep the spine erect. This is vital when you have a back pack on, especially on a down hill or uneven path, where your weight may be forced forward. The central abdominal and hip muscles (often referred to as ‘the core’) also get a strong work out. The abdominal muscles are worked harder than they would be in normal walking, because you are putting pressure through both the arms and the legs. The abdominals provide stability, and when you place the pole on the ground, they are more strongly engaged than if you have your arms swinging (like normal walking). The extra work doesn’t end there – as you extend the arm behind you, the abdominals and hips work harder than they usually would, to control the momentum and propel you forward.
Helping the heart
Being unique is what makes us interesting. Whilst some teens will find doing sport and exercise a buzz, others would ratherbe in front of a chess board or behind a screen. If your child needs to be fitter but traditional sports aren’t exciting them, Nordic Walking can help. You can start whatever your level of fitness, and the Nordic4 team are really experienced in helping children and teens of all fitness levels and ability. Practice makes perfect.
Building resilience, the friendly way
Whilst we are not literally sending the kids into the jungle (like my school did when I was growing up in Australia!), we are toughening them up for the real world. As well as building physical resilience through exercise, being out in nature helps us all feel more positive. Nordic walking can be social, but it also allows kids who just want peace and quiet to do exercise in their own way and time. Walking while staying balanced on uneven ground, striding up inclines and being out in the Great British weather helps not only with fitness: it helps build confidence.
Nordic Walking helps walkers practice the important things, like snacking and looking the part in the right kit! It can help walkers the chance to try different snacks which don’t weigh too much, provide nutrition and taste good, and which ones they like best. It may seem trivial, but having enough energy is so vital to keeping the body and maintaining a ‘can do’ attitude. It’s important for active people to replenish their energy stores after 45 minutes to an hour of activity. For excellent trips from a Nutritionist, see here.
It’s also good to practice what it’s like carrying something on your back. Whilst might not practice using the actual backpack (though you could!), you can practice Nordic Walking while carrying a rucksack, so that you get the feeling of walking while having something on your back.
With Nordic Walking, your teen will be feeling more self-assured, positive and ready to take on their exciting journey.