The first time I experienced Nordic walking, I was immensely disappointed.
I was a competitive power walker, regular runner and lover of sweaty workouts of all kinds.
When the Nordic walking company Urban Poling called me (over 10 years ago now) from Vancouver to see if I'd be interested in test driving their poles and the Nordic walking technique, of course I said yes.
I'd vaguely heard that Nordic walking was a huge hit in Europe, and I was keen to try it for both myself and for my personal training clients.
When my poles arrived, I carefully watched the accompanying DVD at least three or four times.
Feeling confident that I had the basics learned, I headed out with with a colleague and a spring in my step to Toronto's lovely Sunnybrook Park to give them a test run.
It was a frustrating experience to say the least.
Just when we thought we were getting the rhythm and arm swing, our boot tips would slip back on the asphalt and we'd lose our propulsion.
My boot tips were also doing an odd bounce, and we both agreed that it wasn't a very challenging activity.
With no one to troubleshoot these issues for us, we eventually gave up, tucked the poles under our arms and headed home.
Fortunately, a short time later I participated in the Urban Poling Instructor Certification Course.
In those four hours, all of my issues were quickly resolved. Turned out that I just needed an experienced eye to give me some quick tips and corrections.
While Nordic walking isn't a difficult skill to learn, it's the small details that can throw you off.
The slipping boot tip issue was resolved once I was told that my weaker left arm wasn't swinging fully up into position. Suddenly I was powering myself forward with my poles.
I also learned several ways to increase the intensity and that I should press more firmly on the ledge of the handles to stop the bouncing. Problems solved.
As the course wrapped up, it was clear to me why so many people are hooked on the Nordic walking workout.
Moral of the story? If you want to fully understand and master a new skill, self teaching is a good place to start. But it will never replace the experience of learning from a professional instructor.