Salford might not be the most obvious place for a hike if you’re keen to try Nordic walking – but Susan Spain is on a mission to change that perception.
Susan is a fitness instructor and owner of Parks and Pathways Nordic Walking, which she founded in May 2017.
Her Nordic walking groups explore the outdoor greenery around Salford and wider Greater Manchester – with groups ranging from beginners technique sessions to advanced fast walks.
Nordic walking originates from the training that cross country skiers in Finland started during their off-season training when there was no snow. The training kept their heart and lungs in top condition and ensured that their upper and lower body stayed in shape.
Susan says: “In terms of its core benefits, it exercises the upper and lower body, using up to 90% of the muscles in the body which is more than cycling, swimming and running.
“It gives you that upper body strengthening that you don’t get from walking alone, it burns more calories than ordinary walking, gives you a great cardiovascular workout.
“It is great for neck, back and shoulder problems because it strengthens your core, easy on your knees and joints, strengthens your skeleton.”
Susan who used to work in marketing and branding, once trained as a classical dancer and a musician, as well as being a keen Salsa dancer, started her Nordic Walking group in May 2017 after doing it as a hobby for years.
Susan said: “I had a career change, I decided I wanted to do something that looked after myself as well as other people.
“I used to work in marketing and branding, but I retrained as a fitness instructor in January 2017, I did all my qualifications and then set up my own group.
“There were no Nordic walking groups in the Salford area for me to join in with so I basically set it up for myself as I’ve always said, I don’t mind whether I walk on my own or in a big group because every hour I put into it is an investment into my own health as well as everyone else’s that walks with me.”
Nordic walking helped Susan better her fitness levels and change her body shape, she said: “It’s the only thing I’ve ever done that’s actually changed my fitness levels and changed my body shape in the all the sports and dancing that I’ve done in the past.
“Nobody else was doing it, I knew it would benefit myself and I knew it would benefit the people of Salford if they chose to take it up.”
A member of Park and Pathways Nordic Walking group and retired accountants, Anthony Podmore, expressed that more walking and more exercise in the community will help people feel healthier and better within themselves.
He said: “Nordic walking keeps you upright, gives you better arm strength and builds up your muscles on the upper body.
“If people did more exercising and more walking, they would feel much healthier and better for it.”
Although Nordic Walking may sound advanced, anyone can get involved and the sport even helps people who have conditions such as Parkinson’s, type 2-diabetes and blood pressure problems.
Susan explained: “There’s also groups with conditions, so there’s groups with people who have Parkinson’s that Nordic walk and it’s brilliant for them.
“It really is the full range which is why we say it is exercise that suits almost everyone.
“The level of workout is very person-centric rather than it being one size fits all.”
“Obviously there are certain types of disabilities that would be precluded and also certain health conditions.”
It is important to be trained to Nordic Walk professionally. Although it is an exercise to be enjoyed by many, there are still health concerns that can cause an issue and prevent people from doing the full body workout.
“I am a qualified fitness instructor, which means everyone fills out a short health questionnaire just to check that its appropriate for them – that’s all done as part of the online registration and booking system.
“So I know every client personally, I know what they’re trying to achieve, what they’re having to face personally from a fitness point of view.
“It’s all done professionally that’s why with a Nordic walking UK instructor like myself, everyone is fitness qualified, had first aid qualifications, everyone risk assesses every route that we do and is insured so it’s actually a professional set up as an exercise class and isn’t just going out for a walk.”
Susan holds her Paths and Parkways Nordic walking sessions throughout the week, ranging from social, wellbeing walks to faster workout walks.
To get involved, visit the Paths and Parkways website and speed down to a Nordic Walking session in Salford.