I grew up in north-west India, where I would walk for miles and miles every day. Even if I could catch a bus or rickshaw I would walk; I used to like it. I could eat huge meals and burn it all off, because I was so active. Moving to Britain in the 1990s changed me a lot, mentally and physically. I put on quite a bit of weight, because I was eating the way I used to, but not moving anywhere near as much, relying instead on cars. Getting pregnant didn’t help, either.

Nordic walking has been a revelation. It’s basically cross-country skiing, only without the skis. There are different intensities of walks to join, from gentle adventures to fast-paced and challenging workouts. On all of them, you carry specially adapted poles, which you use to push and propel yourself forwards. Once you get the hang of it, it turns every walk into a full-body workout.

I used to do spin classes at the gym three or four times a week, but I hardly go any more. I get so much more out of this. You’re outside, in the fresh air, doing exercise, but even after a hard workout you don’t feel tired, just uplifted, whatever the weather. On a workout walk you’ll be huffing and puffing the whole way, so chit-chat is kept to a minimum; but adventure walks are great for socialising, and we have a good laugh as we go. We’ll often finish at a pub for lunch, or go for afternoon tea. It’s a brilliant way to meet and catch up with friends.

Walks can be anywhere from two to 10 miles long, and they’re a wonderful way to enjoy the countryside. I remember going to my grandfather’s farm as a young girl. It was so beautiful, with all the rice and wheat growing in the fields. Now, when we walk through the farms of the West Midlands, it feels exactly the same. If anything, I would say the countryside here is even more beautiful, and Nordic walking allows me to explore it and keep fit at the same time.

Do you have a passion for exercise? Send your story to [email protected]

My weekend workout

Favourite time to walk? 7am (I’m a morning person)
Number of walks a week? Three or four
Longest walk? 10 miles
Most common conversation topic? The weather, of course

Five ways to get started: Nordic walking

1 Learn how to use the poles correctly: if you go off by yourself, you’ll just be going for a walk while carrying a set of poles. Find qualified instructors in your area at nordicwalking.co.uk.

2 To use the poles, we borrow a technique from cross-country skiing. As you’re finishing a step with your foot, drive yourself forward using the pole in the opposite hand, pulling your arm back behind your hips. Then switch sides.

3 It doesn’t matter how fit you are, there are walks to suit all levels. Start with a Learn To Nordic Walk course, which consists of four sessions over four weeks – it’s a bit like an induction at the gym.

4 The right footwear is vital. Walking boots are good for hiking up mountains, but for this you need shoes with a bit of flexibility. Invest in a pair of flexible-soled walking shoes with good grip.

5 Backpacks are useful, especially on longer walks, so you can carry water in summer or extra clothing in winter. Get a slim-fitting one, or you’ll catch your rucksack with your elbow every time you take a step forwards.

Ian Northcott, instructor, Mercian Nordic Walking

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