Nordic Walking

By Martin Tothill

Martin lives to help and grow others to be the best leaders they can and in turn inspire a future generation of followers to do the very same.

I try and exercise as often as possible – when I can fit it in or feel like it.

The benefits of exercise are well-documented and you’d be mad not to do it. A recent NHS survey stated that: “Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers.”

We have a dog, Millie. I love her, but turning her daily walk into a chore is wrong, so I try to reframe the walk as a chance to get out, away from the desk, and exercise. A good walk can last an hour or two, taking me to the beautiful South Downs, near Brighton. I’ve even been known to jump on my mountain bike instead, and Millie will bound along beside me.

But back to walking!

Recently, my wife, Jean, signed up to a series of Nordic walking taster sessions in our local park. She broke her ankle a few years ago and, even though it’s mended, it’s never really returned to its original strength. So, rather than running on it, she decided to try out Nordic walking. It’s a kind of energetic form of walking with sticks, as far as I can make out.

I thought it was a bit of a fad, if I’m really honest, maybe like a new diet or shoes that profess to help your spine. I couldn’t see the sense or value of learning a new way to walk.

Those of us lucky enough to be fully mobile tend to take our ability to walk for granted.

A few wobbles in our early years lead to success – and you never look back.

So when I was told that Nordic walking could be different to regular walking, engages the upper body and makes you feel lighter on your feet, I was intrigued. Further research told me that Nordic walking uses 90 per cent of your major muscles, meaning your upper body gets toned as well as your legs and backside. You can burn 20-40 per cent more calories simply by using the poles, aiding weight-loss and relieving pressure on knees and joints. It’s also great for back and neck problems.

Thinking a lot about how people develop, I wondered what this could mean.

How often do new skills, habits or behaviours compete with existing ones – especially those offering greater benefits?

There’s a tension here that can be described in terms of fixed and growth mindsets.

Fixed mindsets are ‘full up’ with learning, apparently leaving no room for more knowledge. Yet a growth mindset embraces possibilities of new thoughts and actions, leading to better outcomes.

I was guilty of thinking that I knew everything there was to know about walking. I don’t. This thinking led to both limitations in my own acceptance of the new and me judging Jean’s interest and motivation to try something different.

Swap the contexts and you’ll hear this conversation played out time and again in the workplace: “We’ve tried it before, we know all there is to know, you can’t improve it!”

John Whitmore described coaching as “unlocking potential” and if there’s a guaranteed way to stop this it’s working for a leader with a fixed mindset, spreading false truths about the world they see.

Wouldn’t you rather be led by curious, empowering people who support your developmental journey with an open mind and a real spring in their step.



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