Muddy walks – why Nordic walking makes it easy (and gives you a GREAT workout)

Muddy walk

It’s been so wet recently that the fields I walk in are more like marshland, with large muddy sections around gates and paths where all of us dog-walkers channel through.

But today was a revelation: never has there been more mud in the fields; never have I had a better Nordic walking upper body workout; and never I have seen such an obvious contrast between the smooth, powerful efficiency of Nordic walking and the skidding and slipping around of ordinary walkers on the muddy terrain.

If you’re a Nordic walker you should be beaming. Most of us plant by our back foot and this provides a strong stabiliser as you push off, stopping you slithering around like the rest of the world. It’s also where the upper body muscle-strengthening party begins and why I’m writing this blog smugly enjoying that sweet post-workout muscle ache of my pecs (chest firming muscles), shoulders and arms as well as my legs and core. 

So how do you get the most from a muddy walk? Here’s my top tips:

  1. Push the pole firmly into the ground and maintain that downward pressure. It will reduce the amount of sideways and backwards slippage as you move forwards and give you a great arm, shoulder and chest workout at the same time. Always keep one pole in firm contact with the ground to provide constant stability.
  2. Relax your neck and keep your shoulders rolled back and down. It’s natural to tighten your neck and raise your shoulders when the surface you’re walking over is squelchy and unstable, but this will just de-stabilise you. It’s your arms, chest, core and legs (and poles of course) that should be doing the work.
  3. Reduce your arm swing. You want the poles to stay close to your body to give support.
  4. Always maintain good posture. Keep your weight even over both feet, don’t bend over at your waist, and keep your chest lifted.
  5. Good footwear is essential – think height, grip, waterproofing. A boot that comes over your ankle is going to provide better protection, both for your ankle and from mud ingress if you hit a deep mud patch. The tread on the sole of your boot shouldn’t get bunged up with mud. If it does you need better boots. With mud comes water – make sure your boots are waterproof. I’ve found that the only reliably waterproof material is leather.
  6. Use your poles to prod for deep mud. Nordic walker’s never need be caught out by a deep mud patch, just prod around with your pole to find the best route through.
  7. Pull your tummy button towards your spine to switch your core stabilising muscles up a gear. This coupled with firm downward pressure through the pole will give you a fantastic core workout and improve your core strength and balance.
  8. Cut back on speed and stride length. You don’t need to walk fast to get the cardiovascular and muscle strengthening benefits. This will happen automatically as walking in mud requires more effort and engages muscles that might not be utilised as much when walking on solid ground. Think of it as a fun resistance workout for your legs – strengthening your calves, thighs, and glutes.
  9. Gaiters, post walk stretches and boot cleaning will all make for a better walking (and post-walking) experience.

Your poles are your best friend. Not only will they keep you steady but you can enjoy a super-charged full body workout. And enjoy the afterglow afterwards.