Nordic Walker - Janine Lewis
Janine Lewis has been Nordic walking since 2005 and has completed several ultra marathons and charity events. As a qualified outdoor fitness and Canicross (running with dogs) instructor, Janine offers training and support to people and their dogs to introduce more people to the sport.
How did you get involved in Nordic walking?
About 12 years ago I lost 7 stone in a year by walking and eating a very sensible diet. I ditched the rubbish and got moving again as I was too heavy to play or do much with the kids. I loved the new energy and started to apply for a few challenges. The first one was a walking marathon, the Moon Walk for Breast cancer. I do love to go all or nothing and decided to do a bigger challenge; a race to the North Pole. The organisers prepped us with the relevant training including Nordic walking. I managed to find a local instructor, and I was hooked! I didn’t raise the £25,000 entry fee, but I did find another challenge, 5 marathons in 5 days, The Forces March for the Veterans Charity. I did this is what has become my signature outfit, A Duck suit. I continued to Nordic walk for other long distance events preferring Ultra marathons. I always did these in the duck suit and for charity.
I am predisposed to an inherited medical issue, hypertension, and it was important to stay active and keep my weight down. Three years ago I gave up corporate life to train as a Nordic walking Instructor and set up the Berkshire based business, 3JFitness.
I have had dogs since I left home at 18. My first dog was a rascal called Rusty, an Irish setter/retriever cross. Totally nuts and with so much energy. he died at the heart breaking age of 12, when my daughter was 14 months old. I decided I would not have another dog as bringing up a family was hard when working too. I lasted two weeks. My daughter missed Rusty. So, along came our first lurcher, Ben. He had really bad recall and hated being left on his own. This becomes the pattern for all our future rescue dogs! Fast forward to about 12 years ago, and we got our second lurcher, Cassie, for my daughter. This brought the tally up to three dogs.Cassie and my daughter went to dog agility together. I had started doing my long distance events so trained Cassie up to walk or run with me, in a harness, which were the competition rules. That is when I first got interested in Canicross. It was also the perfect solution for the lurchers we had been rescuing as they had high hunting instincts and awful recall! I now had a way to exercise them safely and it kept me fit too!
What has been your greatest Nordic walking challenge so far?
There have been so many, such as the 5 marathons in 5 days, three 24 hour solos on a 5 mile circuit, a 24 hour run around a 400m running track in a bear suit, running my first marathon this year - the London marathon, in my duck suit on the hottest ever London VLM. But I think this year’s Round Reading Ultra, a 50km ultra on home turf was tough mentally and physically as it was on the back of a heatwave and my Mum had just died of a heart attack and stroke. I was Nordic walking it with two friends, also members of 3JFitness, and all other participants were runners.
This has been primarily a low key hobby for me. But as I was now a qualified outdoor fitness instructor I wanted to introduce the sport to more people. I become a Canciross instructor with one of the few companies who offer training and support, DogFit UK. My biggest challenge was to manage my energy levels running two businesses that had a high demand on my body! I set up the business Pawfitness.co.uk and offered a Canicross sport to beginners who needed a course such as couch to 5km, but with Power walking or a low impact running style I call Cloud Running (born of the Nordic walking technique and chi running).
What are your aspirations in Nordic walking in 2019 and beyond?
I do love a challenge and it gets harder each year to run two businesses and get involved with physical challenges. I have a few new qualifications to obtain and want to use my Nordic Walking experience to help more people with Parkinson’s to get outside and exercise with confidence and independence; the Nordic walking technique has been shown to be of huge benefit for them. I will then help them participate in a challenge. One member already has his eyes set on the Bournemouth Half Marathon in 2019. I may have to shadow him and enjoy his limelight. I would also like to do the Round Reading Ultra Marathon again, but with my little Canicross partner, Tag!
I would like to grow the Canicross group focusing on the members who don’t want to run or think they can’t run. It’s teaching people that if they believe in themselves they can do anything. It is about teaching a safe running style that is low impact and focuses n postures. The challenge is to ensure the members adopt the notion to tune into the heart not the ego! Plus, as I will detail further down, do an ultra marathon with my newest and smallest edition to the pack, Tag.
How is Nordic walking different from walking?
With ordinary walking and running you are mostly moving the lower body, so using about 45-55% of your muscles. Add poles and the technique then you are working 90% of the body and it becomes a weight bearing activity as you are lifting and propelling your body forward. Perfect for people with any lower body ailments and it’s a great all over body workout! It also has a bigger calorie burn increasing it by 40%. It is a sport in it’s own right. Often people think we are “cheating” when they see us use poles at events. These are not for mobility and it is a tougher workout! It was a sport adapted from skiing so that skiers could train in the dry summer months - no snow or skis required!
This is a sport whereby your dog is your personal trainer and you get fitter together! Canicross developed from the origins of skijoring, where people ski with their dog pulling out in front of them. The kit is very straightforward and designed especially for the sport. The owner wears a waist belt, the dog wears a harness and they are attached to each other via a 2 meter bungee line. So, very little equipment is required to get started.
What are the top three benefits of Nordic walking?
This will vary for people depending on their own needs. It is describe as a cheeky exercise in disguise so 3 key attributes for most of our members is that it helps with weight loss, it’s a sociable outdoor exercise and the body can strengthen and tone. I train a vast range of people from those who have had knee or hip surgery to triathletes.
You can safely exercise your dog in a harness that is both efficient and comfortable. As well as providing the perfect way to exercise and bond with your dog, Canicross is ideal for dogs with high energy levels, behavioural issues or that simply cannot be let off the lead for whatever reason. I also love just going out for a dog walk hands free so I can take lots of photos!
What motivates you to take on Nordic walking challenges?
For as long as I can remember I have heard people say, “She won’t stick to that”! or similar comments. When I first said I was going to lose weight, I stuck to it and succeeded. When I said I was going to race to the North Pole, most people thought I would last two weeks with the training and notion. 12 years later and many 1000’s of miles of training and competing, I think I can say, yup, done it! It’s not my biggest “why” or motivation, to prove the doubters wrong, I do it for charity. I love to beat the drum for causes to share what they do, for who and why. If I can fundraise too then it’s a bonus. Hence the attention seeking outfits I wear such as the duck suit or my infamous jazz-pants.
I have 4 lurchers and a little jack russell/chihuahua cross, Tag. I have worked for many years with the lurchers so am happy to work with their varying traits and energies. Tag is a complete unknown for me! He has oodles of energy but does he have endurance? I would love to have the added new angle of training for an ultra with a dog. There will be a real science behind that as he will need the whole think tank about refueling, nutrition, rest, just like humans! But what and how? A new pet project, literally!
What interests do you have outside of Nordic walking?
I have five dogs, two very talented children and a love of water! I enjoy walking the dogs and exploring our Berkshire countryside, enjoying a cheeky G & T in pub, sharing the passions of my children - my son is studying a degree in Music Composition and my daughter is a very talented equine photographer. I love to swim and have swapped the kayak for a paddle-board. I love to try new foods but I have to be sensible as I do put weight on quickly and I have to eat to keep my hypertension at bay.
How important do you find nutrition and training is for Nordic walking?
This is absolutely essential for me. I Nordic walk at least 12 miles a day. I also have to walk dogs, run the household (shop, cook, clean, etc). Good nutrition helps to boost the immune system as well help me to recharge, refuel and repair or my body rebels! I also have to come up with ideas to eat foods that are quick to eat and digest so that I not coaching on a full tum. If I don’t shop and prepare food in advance I am doomed! Again, it is essential that I am eating foods with the key elements to combat hypertension and that can often go awry if I over train, or don’t relax and take time out.
At the moment I just put in three hours to the Canicross business. It is young and I am still finding my niche and making sure I don’t burn out. The same rationale applies to me as for the Nordic walking. I can’t over eat before a session so i have to think about high calorie, low density, but then also make sure I don’t overload the body and pile weight on! It’s a fine balance to getting it right. I walk all five of our dogs with my husband twice a day. I train with two of the dogs once a day for about 20-30 minutes. This is as either a power walk or light run. I don’t need to do much extra training as I am on my feet most of the day!
Why do you use Beet It Sport and how has it helped you?
Beetroot is my secret weapon to improve my energy levels and support my system to help combat my severe hypertension issues. I can not eat the weight in nitrates I would need to get through my kind of day with Nordic walking plus the other sport I teach, Canicross (running with dogs). I discovered Beet It a few years ago when I started my training for the 5 marathons in 5 days. I had to decant the juice from the tetrapaks into travel bottles so I could take a swig every couple of hours. Then the shots came out which were fantastic! I do eat beetroots too! I did used to make my own juices and beet bombs (like truffles) but why reinvent the wheel when Beet It have the perfect product! ah, and those flapjacks..thank you whoever came up with those. I do not leave home without one! The Beet It shots at the end of the day help my blood pressure ease back down to sensible numbers at the end of the day. So it’s not just about the energy buzz that I get from the morning shot, it is also my own little First Aid kit in a bottle.
Anything additional you would like to add about Beet It Sport?
I have loved the social media support from Beet It. It’s not just about downing a shot. These are like liquid love for the body and you can play with the product! I love the informative videos of how else you can use the shots, such as adding it to a juice, or a yoghurt with fruit. I make a mean #purplepower flapjack with beetroot and Beet It juice! There are some weird combinations. The Beet It family is awesome!
Click here to learn more about Nordic walking and/or Canicross.