Nordic walking - the fitness craze that's set to take over the Lake District

PUBLISHED: 22:02 27 March 2015

Nordic walkier, Edwina Collinson and her standard poodle, Taksi, on the hills above the Keer Valley

Nordic walkier, Edwina Collinson and her standard poodle, Taksi, on the hills above the Keer Valley

Archant

One woman's long march back to good health is described by Sarah Briggs

Nordic walkier, Edwina Collinson and her standard poodle, Taksi, on the hills above the Keer ValleyNordic walkier, Edwina Collinson and her standard poodle, Taksi, on the hills above the Keer Valley

There was a time when Edwina Rickards Collinson could hardly be described as a picture of good health. She suffered terrible asthma attacks and in later life she put on five stone and needed hip replacement operations. Today, she is a new woman, full of positivity and vigour thanks to Nordic walking.

Edwina, who lives in Capernwray near Carnforth, moved to London when she was 18 and started a career in catering, eventually working as the chef in charge of five dining rooms at a firm of booming merchant bankers.

‘I loved my job,’ Edwina says. ‘It was a very special time.’ But she developed a lifestyle which involved little exercise and she had to be whisked into hospital several times, once on a sledge in snow-bound Scotland, due to asthma attacks.

She moved to Lancashire to be with her new husband and stopped working. That led to her doing even less exercise but her passion for cooking and good food was undiminished and she put on five stone.

Little did she realise the impact it was having on her body until her hips started aching in her mid-30s. It transpired she had had a rare reaction to all the steroids she had taken to combat asthma.

Aged just 40, her ‘Millenium project’, as she calls it, was a new hip joint. It could have become an excuse to do even less activity - she was overweight, recovering from surgery and nervous about putting any physical strain on her body. Just as she was wondering what to do about it when she saw a notice for Nordic walking sessions which were starting on Morecambe Prom.

Salvation came in the form local fitness guru Sally Wilkinson, who says: ‘I will always remember Edwina turning up in what looked like a pair of floral pyjama bottoms, smiling and looking so eager to please. We still laugh that by the end of the session I wondered whether I might need to call an ambulance, she pushed herself so hard. I have never witnessed anyone turn so pink and who huffed and puffed so much.

‘I knew instantly that she was ready to change and Nordic walking was going to be her way of doing it. Her progress was rapid - she came to all my walks, three or four a week. I couldn’t get rid of her! She always radiated a positive attitude but initially she had very little confidence in herself or her fitness levels. I could see as her body shape began to change and how much more self-assured she was becoming. Now she has inspired many of my other walkers.’

In fact, soon after discovering Nordic Walking six years ago she became an accredited leader and is now about to train as an instructor.

Recovering from surgery following replacement of her second hip in 2011 took some time, but then Sally suggested Edwina did some of the popular Lakeland Trails series of races. These stunning races take place all around the Lake District from April to November and are among the few which permit Nordic walkers to race alongside runners.

In 2012 Edwina did three of the series and in 2014 she did five, finishing with the ‘Dirty Double’ weekend in November - the 15k Helvellyn race on Saturday and the 10k Ullswater trail race on Sunday. She’s proud that sometimes she finishes more quickly than some of the runners!

This year, a group of her fellow Nordic walkers will be entering, and someone else who will be joining Edwina on a trail race is Professor Tim Board, her orthopaedic surgeon.

When she had to have her first hip replacement renewed in 2012, he confiscated her Nordic poles for 8 weeks. As soon as possible she was back out walking her favourite routes, with a new hip which she says ‘will see me out.’

Sally says: ‘Her consultant was amazed at the difference in her bone density, muscle mass and fat loss - facts and figures which finally proved to Edwina that all her hard work and determination had paid off.’ Edwina also rarely uses her inhaler anymore, sometimes not even sure where it is. ‘It’s not a case of having grown out of it,’ she comments. ‘I’ve changed my lifestyle.’

Stick with it

So why is Nordic walking better for you than a straightforward stroll?

The use of poles means the upper body muscles are used as well as the legs and the poles help to propel the walker along – this means you work harder than usual yet the support given by the poles makes it feel easier.

A pair of Nordic poles will cost £60-£120 and you’ll need a pair of walking shoes, but little other initial outlay is required although some technique training sessions are needed.

Another key benefit is getting outdoors. Research published in 2010 by Havard Medical school highlighted the benefits - your vitamin D levels rise, you’ll be happier, your concentration will improve and you may heal faster. Edwina has experienced these benefits, but also loves getting out into the glorious northern countryside.

‘There’s nothing better than being on Home Park Fell on a summer’s evening, with glorious views as the sky reddens in the glow of sunset, feeling good about yourself - physical and mentally.’

For more information go to www.nordicwalking.co.uk and for Lakeland Trails races www.lakelandtrails.org

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