Meet Gareth Davies, instructor, gold medal winner, and much more August 18 2020
Gareth Davies is a British Nordic Walking instructor, Master Personal Trainer, GP Exercise Referral Instructor and Weight Management Specialist for Diabetes and Obesity. He took the gold medal at the 2019 INWA World Cup in Estonia for the 10km distance in the Masters category with a time of 01:09:44 - a time which he has since beaten in our recent Virtual Nordic Walking Challenge at 01:07:23.
Gareth has been a British Nordic Walking instructor for 10 years. Here's what he shared with us about his experience.
How would you describe Nordic Walking?
If someone asked me, “What is Nordic Walking”, my simple reply would be “Cross-Country skiing without snow or skis; a totally unique physical activity that is so much more than just ‘walking with sticks, as is commonly mis-perceived. If, perhaps, you’ve never seen cross-country skiing, Ben Carnes, one of my clients, has described it as "A way to get active or keep in good health, that's unique and astoundingly simple to start but has the potential to grow into something extraordinary."
Using specially designed/custom fitted carbon poles, Nordic Walking technique transforms an every-day walk into a low impact whole body form of exercise suitable for all ages and levels of fitness; to illustrate, have taught children as young as 8 and, equally, more mature 80 year olds. Nordic Walking is universally accessible, achieving all the health benefits of running, but without the most commonly experienced lows, including joint pain and impact related muscle soreness. As long as you can walk, you can Nordic Walk, meaning nearly everyone can give it a try and feel for themselves the life-long total body workout experience.
What does Nordic Walking mean to you?
Having trained with British Nordic Walking in 2010, I became an INWA (International Nordic Walking Federation) accredited Instructor and have over 450 qualified students to my credit. Every individual has been taught using the official INWA 10-Step Method, recognised internationally and representing the most comprehensive and structured system available worldwide to learn the technique correctly. INWA was formed in 2000 and remains the world’s leading authority on Nordic Walking with member associations including Japan, France, China, France, Italy, Latvia, Estonia, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Finland, Netherlands, Spain, Croatia, India, Korea, Iran, Greece and the UK.
Nordic Walking has unquestionably been my ‘calling-card’ for over 10 years, generating so many special moments of personal, individual and team achievement.
From weight loss, injury rehabilitation and improved mobility to National and International Competition success – the journey and diversity of lives it has touched is endless. It remains a great source of pride for myself and those I teach.
The true value of Nordic Walking, however, is its unique ability to create a sense of community, enabling every individual to progress relatively and feel a sense of empowerment over their physical and mental well-being.
Case studies from a number of clients have illustrated the effectiveness of Nordic Walking to help and support in areas such as obesity, diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease and general mobility.
Equally, the activity, as we have proven with World Cup success in 2019, lends itself to competitive engagement at all ages and on so many fitness levels, once more colluding to an overall sense of achievement for each and every participant.
Why is Nordic Walking important right now?
2020 has seen extraordinary times affecting the way we all live day-to-day, socially interact and travel. Whilst maintaining physical and mental health has long been promoted as the idealistic life-style choice, the COVID-19 outbreak has taught many the difference between life and death can be how well we manage both. In times where indoor gym environments remain closed or at best subject to ongoing strict social distancing/cleanliness guidelines, Nordic Walking represents a much safer outdoor but equally effective exercise option available all year round whilst requiring minimal equipment.
For some, the unprecedented state of lockdown has brought sharply into focus our primal instincts of survival, being forced to think about how or if we take daily exercise (particularly difficult with gyms closed and fitness equipment rapidly selling out), and the type and quality of the food we eat. For many, it has also meant difficult choices and circumstances that have involved family/friends and loved ones often causing emotional or physical upheaval and/or exceptional stress.
I have been no different and it has been in these challenging times that an activity I started many years ago has yet again proven to nourish my body, mind and soul offering a familiar life-line to those in my circle I choose to call not clients, but my Nordic family. Leading by example has always been my mantra and I am proud to say many have responded by success in achieving their own physical and mental goals. Having won several British Nordic Walking Challenges since 2014 and in 2019 become the INWA World Cup Masters Winner and Overall Team Winning Coach, (the first ever Team from Great Britain to take part),
I believe during the present climate, there exists an opportunity, a truly pertinent moment, to reach-out and infinitely share the diverse physical and mental health benefits of Nordic Walking with those who really need it... everyone.
How does Nordic Walking benefit mental wellbeing?
Though the physical benefits of exercise are typically well publicised, acquiring a sense of mental and emotional fortitude remains crucial, yet is often under-valued. Having a form of exercise that is incredibly simple, yet expansive, encourages social interaction, and above all else affords an increasing sense of personal achievement, encapsulates what Nordic Walking is all about.
The associated benefits to mental well-being are significant; increased mobility allows a greater sense of independence, e.g. a previously unthought of walking trip into town to enjoy coffee and breakfast with a friend; entering a Nordic Walking Challenge Event for the first time ever; having more energy to do the things you’ve always wanted to do but felt physically and mentally inhibited about; or wanting to engage in more social events… your mental and physical horizons quite literally expand and your confidence soars through the activity of Nordic Walking. Rewardingly, these positive mental attitudes subsequently enhance other areas of your life and result in personal growth, contentment and a greater sense of overall well-being,
I have, over several years, taught people with a variety of physical and mental barriers to exercise. Conditions such as Parkinson’s, depression, joint replacement, sight impairment, anxiety and diabetes are just some I can mention. Each client is different and provides me with constant challenge, (but also opportunity), to develop professionally. Individuals are often happiest when they feel they are making progress. It is through Nordic Walking we can all grow together; empowered to find the best version of ourselves both physically and mentally.