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Mud season is the time for Nordic walking

Straps are a key element of Nordic walking
John LaPlante

If you want to go skiing or snowboarding in the Twin Cities but you're not going to travel, you're out of luck, so what can you do instead? One option is to try Nordic walking. Think of it as cross-country skiing, without skis or snow--but with some health benefits and other advantages.

Yes, you could go for a bike ride, though the dirt trails in local county and city parks are closed for a few more weeks. (Park authorities close trails to prevent damage, such as permanent rutting, that can come when bicycle tires dig into muddy or otherwise soft ground.) Water-base activities, such as stand-up paddling, are even further away, so this transition period--otherwise known as mud season--is a good time to take a hike with sticks.

If you've ever swung your arms in rhythm with your feet while out on a walk, you already understand the basics of Nordic walking. Just add poles, and think of it as pushing off from the ground. The slight little effort you make to a conventional walk will increase the cardiovascular nature of your hike and increase your muscle tone. As a bonus, the poles will improve your posture and serve as a steadying influence should you encounter muddy or greasy ground.

When it comes to equipment, Nordic walking is simple: Some good shows, and something to put in your hands. Your cross-country or downhill skis might be able to work, but the gold standard are purpose-built Nordic walking poles. Nylon and Velcro straps that cup the palm of the hand support the pole and help you avoid any pain in your fingers that might come from gripping the pole too hard. They also let you focus on stabbing into or pushing off the ground.

You may be surprised to find out how much two lightweight poles add to your walk. You may find that you're walking at a faster pace, and get more work out of the same distance of walking.

It's a cliche to say that exercise is good for you, but first, you actually have to get into motion. Nordic walking is a good way to put one foot in front of the other.

Grays on Trays has more information on Nordic walking.

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