By Sandra Serra Bradshaw
Today, 15 million Europeans are using specially designed Nordic ski walking poles, and that trend is slowly spreading to the United States—even right here in Leelanau County. It is a modern-day walking sport that started in Finland.
For decades, beginning sometime in the mid-1900s, skiers deprived of snow in Finland kept in shape for winter cross-country skiing by walking in the summers using their snow ski poles. They simply called it “ski-walking.” Here, at home, we have the ski pole companies, American Nordic Walking System and Ski Walking.com headquartered in Empire, both founded and owned by Pete Edwards.
Trekking poles beckon you to get out and explore the outdoors. Edwards and his wife Marlene are outdoors on trails all over Leelanau County. They evaluate each part of their poles and continually make adjustments to ensure the best and newest components are utilized for their latest poles. “We are the only company in North America with one-piece poles available in all 32 lengths,” said Edwards.
The composition of poles and its components are tweaked each time they trek around northern Michigan. These remarkable one-piece Nordic walking poles radically improve balance, stability, and gait. “Many people have accidently purchased cheap, flimsy, collapsible walking poles online and elsewhere,” said Edwards. “Collapsible poles can be outright dangerous.”
This fitness activity turbocharges the typical walking regimen and burns up to 40% more calories than regular walking. “Using the correct length poles automatically improves your walking posture,” explained Edwards as he carefully put various Nordic straps around my wrists (by standing taller with his poles, I “grew” an amazing ½ inch to 5’5”!). “The correct length poles trick us into standing taller. This can help to radically reduce the stress on our shins, knees, hips, and back,” said Edwards.
“Nordic walking is ideal for athletes, kids, adults of all ages, and even folks with balance issues. Having the perfect length for your poles tricks us into walking with a super straight back—better walking posture is biomechanically a good thing, it opens your airways,” explained Edwards. “Nordic walking is low impact and yet provides a highly effective workout—burning more calories and working more intensely than regular walking.”
Edwards knows what he is doing. He has coached runners and skiers of all ages and fitness levels for more than 40 years. Edwards is a former ski school director, ski coach, running coach and has coached state champions and national champions. He also introduced Nordic Walking to thousands of Americans through Nordic Walking clinics, radio interviews, newspaper interviews, and TV interviews. He has skied in 50K marathons and won 26.2-mile running marathons. The skiers he coached have been hill bounding and ski walking with poles for decades in the summer when deprived of snow. The runners he coached use walking poles for warm-ups, cross training and during injury recovery periods. Hosting Nordic Walking clinics is enjoyable for Edwards, and he especially enjoys hosting Nordic Walking clinics for MS, Parkinson’s and Diabetes support groups, as well as Wounded Warrior programs.
“Every day, here at SkiWalking.com and The American Nordic Walking System, we receive thank-you emails and wonderful reviews from happy customers,” said Edwards. “One of our first customers asked if our walking poles would help improve her balance problems stemming from an inner ear issue. At the time, I was not sure, but I did share with her several impressive success stories from individuals with knee, hip and/or back problems. By using the correct length poles, she was able to navigate even the roughest terrain with balance and security provided by the poles. She has been successfully using our Swix VIP Nordic Walking Poles for years now.”
Nordic Walking’s winning combination of improved posture, and “4-Wheel-Drive” type action and shock absorption helps many individuals to walk comfortably again. “Nordic Walking Poles are helping individuals with balance issues, knee issues, hip issues, back issues (including those with rods in their back), weight issues, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s (PD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), diabetes, neuropathy, arthritis, bursitis, scoliosis, lumbar stenosis, fibromyalgia, post-polio, osteoporosis, stroke recovery, cancer recovery and other limitations to walking,” he continued. “Nordic Walking poles are helping thousands of Americans get off the couch, successfully get outside, start walking safely, and effectively launch much-needed walking campaigns.”
While hosting Nordic Walking at The Fitness Center in Traverse City, Edwards was introduced to Michelle Honer. Michelle had signed up to participate in one of his Ski Walking Classes. “When she walked up the handicap ramp prior to the class with her cane, it was apparent that she had some balance issues. Michelle informed her classmates that she had MS. Our first ski walk was only a few blocks down and back. Within several weeks we were covering about two miles in one hour.”
For seven prior years, Michelle rode an electric scooter in the Traverse City MS Walk. Michelle’s Nordic Walking Poles enabled her to walk the 5K (3.1 miles). “My special Nordic Walking poles have allowed me to walk taller, faster, further and with much more stability than with my cane. Their one-piece design is so much better than my old adjustable poles that broke unexpectedly at an extremely inconvenient time,” said Michelle.
Michelle became an official Ski Walking Ambassador for SkiWalking.com. “Her success with the walking poles encouraged me to host free Nordic Walking Clinics at MS Support Group meetings. She suggested that I also contact the Jimmie Heuga Center in Colorado. The Heuga Center is dedicated to helping those with MS lead healthier and happier lives,” said Edwards.
“A few summers back we hosted free Nordic Walking Clinics and donated our SWIX Nordic Walking Poles to Wounded Warriors at Fort Carson in Colorado. Many of these American heroes came to our clinics using canes and walkers. One Wounded Warrior had just been released from his wheelchair,” Edwards stated. “All found that using the correct length poles really did radically improve balance, stability, and gait. Our one-piece poles are much more stable than collapsible poles.” Edwards keeps 32 different lengths to ensure a perfect fit.
“It may sound like magic, but it is simply good physics. The key is using ‘perfect length’ Nordic Walking Poles,” Edwards continued. “We recommend quality one-piece poles that won’t collapse unexpectedly. One-piece poles are safer, lighter and much more durable than adjustable/telescoping/collapsible poles. Our one-piece poles are doctor and PT recommended,” he said. “Adjustable/telescoping/collapsible poles should never be recommended to anyone with a balance issue. Hundreds of backpackers have tumbled when their telescoping poles unexpectedly collapsed, sometimes even causing severe injuries.”
According to Nick Mahood, SWIX USA’s Nordic Walking Director, “Pete Edwards, the American Nordic Walking System and SkiWalking.com LLC’s owner/founder/coach, has single-handedly introduced thousands of Americans to Nordic Walking through his enthusiastic Nordic Walking clinics. I have no doubt that Edwards is the #1 retailer of Nordic Walking Poles in the USA.”
“I’m wicked lucky,” said Edwards with his efficacious smile. “No surgery (on his once ailing bad knees from his many years of running marathons) and rarely know which one of those rascals was the bad one—it is really, really, rare that toward the end of a three-to-four-hour hike I can feel it.”
Edwards’s company ships all over the world. For more information, contact The American Nordic Walking System and SkiWalking.com, email GetFit@SkiWalking.com, or call 231-334-3080.