“I've had asthma for over 20 years. It's quite mild and I manage it pretty well – taking my preventer inhaler twice a day, going to regular reviews with my asthma nurse, and always keeping my reliever inhaler with me when I go out. It’s only when I catch a cold or get the flu that my asthma gets worse and I struggle to keep my symptoms under control.
“Although generally I cope well with my asthma, it’s made me a couch potato over the years. In the past, if I did too much exercise, like heavy housework or gardening, I’d get out of breath quickly and be gasping for air, so I avoided anything too strenuous. But I’ve always enjoyed walking and use gym equipment in my home as I find regular exercise improves my breathing and gets my mind and body into routine.”
Discovering Nordic walking
“In May, my wife Lynn and I heard about a local Nordic Walking group. We were intrigued by the idea of a fitness activity that wasn’t too strenuous and provided a whole-body workout and plenty of fresh air, and was something we could do together. So we booked ourselves on a beginner’s workshop with Bristol Nordic Walking on Clifton Downs, Bristol.
“The first class was a really fun outdoor session, where we were shown how to use poles to support our walking and engage all the muscles in our bodies. Nordic Walking is very much like cross-country skiing, but without the skis. We learned how to walk upright (to improve our posture) with our arms straight as if marching - while planting our poles in the ground at the right angle to help increase our stride and speed.
“There was a point where I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with everyone else. We were out walking and my fellow walkers were striding confidently up the hill, but I was left behind gasping for air, and had to use my reliever inhaler. But with the support of my instructor I eventually made it to the top. It made me realise I wanted to keep on challenging myself and get fitter. So I enrolled on a full Nordic Walking course.”
Getting to grips with a new hobby
“My wife and I now attend regular Saturday morning classes close to our home, and we’ve even bought our own poles so we can go out together at weekends. If I get the chance, I also go to other classes during the week – and I even walk the two miles to get there.
“Nordic Walking doesn’t have to be strenuous, and it’s more than just walking. Sessions begin with an instructor taking the group through a warm-up routine to loosen tense muscles and joints. Then during the walk we stop and do some more exercises – gentle ones that concentrate on working different parts of the body such as the chest, back and shoulders.
“The best thing about Nordic Walking is being outside and breathing fresh air while having a good laugh with others. And although it’s only been a few months, I can already feel the benefits of the regular exercise. I've lost weight and discovered muscles and joints I didn't know I had, and my posture has really improved. Even my wife has noticed a difference in me - I'm so much happier and healthier, and have a much more positive outlook on life as I approach retirement.
“Nordic Walking is also doing wonders for my asthma. I’m pleased to say I’ve only had to use my reliever inhaler once, which was while we were climbing quite a steep slope. Since then I’ve done some pretty challenging slopes but I’ve stopped wheezing and no longer need to rest before I reach the top. Better still, now that my posture is better, my breathing has really improved.”
Taking part in sporting events
“If someone had told me that I'd start entering sporting competitions I would’ve laughed. I’ve not taken part in any events since I was a teenager, but recently I decided to challenge myself and sign up to a number of Nordic Walking events.
“My proudest achievement was finishing the 5km British Nordic Walking Challenge in Lydiard Park in Swindon this September. I was over the moon when I realised I came 25th out of 47 walkers – crossing the finish line in 45 minutes and 47 seconds! I’m now training for my next event.
“The best thing is, thanks to Nordic Walking I’m leaving asthma behind me.”
- Do you feel inspired by Geof to take up exercise and get fitter? Read our top tips on exercising with asthma.
- Find out more about the Bristol Nordic Walking Group
Last updated October 2016