In the city of Santa Monica, there’s no lack of activities to keep in shape. If looking to sculpt your body, there’s a million gyms and a short jaunt away is Venice’s Muscle Beach. To get the cardio up, go for a visually-pleasing, sun-kissed, beach-side jog. And if seeking a combination of both, why not try… holding poles and walking?
That’s what Malin Svensson, founder and president of Santa Monica-based walking and fitness club NordicBody, suggests. The Swedish import sport of Nordic Walking is Svensson’s passion project that she brought to America, a fitness regimen akin to an outdoors-y, elliptical-less elliptical.
“Every time I went back to Sweden to see my family, they would brainstorm to me what I could bring back from Scandinavia,” Svensson said with a laugh in a phone call with the Daily Press. “My brother … said bring Nordic Walking … I was sold.”
After the sibling suggestion, Svensson contacted Exel, the first company in the Nordic Walking Market, who invited her to a convention displaying the new fitness regime.
“I was amazed,” Svensson said of her first time trying the sport. “I thought my heart monitor was broken but I was just walking with poles and my heart rate was going as high as when I was running.”
Infatuated with the exercise, the Swede brought Nordic Walking to Santa Monica, the sport now being the trademark of her fitness career.
To engage in Nordic Walking, one must have the gear required of the exercise. It’s kind of like skiing, minus the frigid temperatures. And you do use specialized Noridic Walking poles. Svensson is aware this might look, you know, a little weird on a normal, sunny day.
“I get it, it looks a little dorky,” Svensson said with a laugh. “My ex husband, I used him as a guinea pig. He put on a hat and sunglasses, no one could recognize him. I took him down to the beach and he loved [Nordic Walking]. He got over the geek factor. The benefits are so amazing that you get over how it looks.”
Participants use the walking poles — specific to Nordic Walking and adjusted to the participant’s height — and power walk, using their legs to walk and their upper bodies to plant the poles into the ground (any surface works as the poles are spiked at the end but have covers), involving shoulders, arms, and back in the work out.
Svensson says to get the full body exercise, participants propel their bodies forward with the poles, with arms alternating and extending back, slightly releasing the pole in a simultaneous motion. She says the exercise can be cardio for beginners and for more advanced students, can incorporate more techniques to provide strength training.
Different variations of this will lead to a near full body workout that Svensson says can be done “right outside of your doorstep” for “anybody and everybody”.
One of these anybodies and everybodies that took up Nordic Walking is Lola Love.
Lola, a 67-year-old life coach, had just recovered from a brain tumor removal and was readjusting to life when she came across the exercise. A former dancer, Lola says it took a year before she could start doing “normal stuff,” saying she now walks everyday since her surgery. After getting back into the swing of things, Lola was looking for something to pick up the pace.
“I was at a Toastmasters meeting and Malin was the guest,” she said. “When she was done speaking, she was attacked by all these Toastmaster about the workout. I went to one of her other workshops and took to it like fish to water.”
Lola says Nordic Walking has been beneficial to her, helping to build her endurance. She says she spends just 20 minutes a day most times she engages in Nordic.
“When I walk 10 minutes to and 10 back, I’m energized, I’ve worked up a sweat. Arms, triceps, biceps, shoulders, backs, lats and the lower body gets a workout, too. I like it because it’s a unique challenge. Usually I start something and get bored, but here, there’s something to master. I’m a beginner and as long as you are walking, you’re getting better and better.”