With a walking fitness craze rapidly gaining popularity, CHRIS SHIMWELL heads along to find out more.
For many, the idea of Nordic walking conjures up a picture of striding across mountains and fjords with a pole clasped in each hand.
So it may comes as a shock to some that a drive is under way to build a thriving Nordic-walking community in Chichester, as the exercise continues growing in popularity across the UK.
Sylvia May has been teaching classes on Westgate Fields, near Chichester College, for the past few months.
“I love it. I’m very passionate about it,” she said, describing it as ‘one of the fastest-growing sports in Europe’.
She has been offering four lessons to help people get up to speed with what it takes to Nordic walk, so they can head off and trek throughout the area.
The main factor of Nordic walking is two poles – one held in each hand – which are used to propel the walker forward using upper body muscles.
It originally stems from skiers on the continent in winter.
It is very much open to anyone and people in Chichester may have spotted groups clutching poles striding across Westgate Fields in recent weeks.
“It’s about propulsion and being able to push your body forward,” Sylvia added.
She has been offering ‘taster sessions’ for new recruits, which lead into four lessons for £40 after which people will know everything they need to know about Nordic walking.
She has been running taster sessions every month.
Later this year, Nordic walkers will join runners in the Chichester Half Marathon, starting behind the runners on the route.
“I just want Chichester to get it, so I was delighted when they said we could begin behind the back of the half marathon,” she said.
This form of exercise is good for exercising muscles all over the body, most of which people tend not to use when they’re walking normally. Her first lesson is teaching people how to walk correctly, before they have even had a chance to grasp a pole.
She told her class: “The reason why I’m teaching you how to walk is that most people don’t walk properly.
“It sounds bizarre, but it’s a really important part of Nordic walking.”
She is keen to encourage exercise outdoors and hopes in time there will be enough Nordic walkers in the area for groups to have regional walks, with the ultimate goal being any day of the week someone could find a Nordic walk they could join.
At one of the recent sessions, 37-year-old Helen Monkton was among those trying it out for the first time.
“It was a fun atmosphere. It’s very sociable,” she said afterwards.
“I like walking anyway. It’s good for a whole body workout. It’s actually a form of exercise and not just getting from A to B.”
Rob Crosby, 36, added: “I found it quite quick to get used to and also you can feel the effect of the propulsion of pushing. It was quite noticeable.
“As a keep-fit thing, I think it would be quite effective.”
From the beaches of West Wittering to the Trundle, Nordic walkers have been trekking the countryside around Chichester in recent weeks. Many have gone through Sylvia’s training sessions and are now out enjoying the benefits of Nordic walking.
She is keen for as many new people to join as possible.
There are upcoming taster sessions at 5.30pm on Thursday, June 26, and at 11.30am on Saturday, June 28.
Anyone interested should get in touch with Sylvia as the numbers are limited.
Visit www.nordicwalking.co.uk to find out more about Nordic walking in the UK.
To get in touch with Sylvia, ring 07825 370033 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.