Which would you prefer when Nordic Walking when faced with a choice of boardwalk or paved surface?
I currently prefer paved surface; but most of my friends prefer boardwalk.
Where I live in the Beaches area of Toronto, I have a choice of both. (There aren’t really any dirt trails.) In some places, the two run side by side, but in most places the paved path is about 10 metres north of the boardwalk. The paved path used to be called the “cycle path” and have sprayed markings on it indicating bicycles only, but now it’s been rechristened to be a “fitness trail” recognizing that it’s also being used by roller bladers, joggers pushing baby strollers, skateboarders and now, Nordic walkers. It is very busy at times.
When I go out with friends norking along the lake, I often get them to try both the boardwalk and the pavement, to see which they prefer. Here’s a list of things I’ve thought of so far for pros and cons of Nordic walking on each.
- Height of boards gets to be irregular in spots and over time as they warp, shrink and crack with the passage of time and weather, so you have to spend a lot of your walking time looking down to make sure you don’t just plain trip;
- In some spots, large cracks between the boards have opened up, forming small but eager gaping maws hungrily waiting for the tip of a Nordic walking pole to come near them. I can just imagine the SPROING effect on you as your pole suddenly gets stuck in one of those cracks;
- Owing to the above two factors, you can’t really relax a lot, or at least I can’t: I find I’m always paying attention to the boards underneath;
- Lots of apparent stray dogs / off-leash large dogs (with no apparent owner nearby all the time) wandering off the sand onto the boardwalk, and you just have to hope those animals will be friendly;
- The wood surface gets slippery when wet and you are trying to move fast over it;
- NOT plowed / cleared in winter. Owing to its nature (boards) the city can’t send its small snow plows along it. It gets covered with compacted snow that turns into sheet ice and stays that way for weeks and weeks on end, making it treacherous. There’s nothing very healthy about spending the next six months in a hospital with a broken hip because you tried to Nordic walk over sheer ice.
- The boards, friends say, are “softer” than the paved surface and so therefore kinder on the joints;
- On the boardwalk, you’ll only encounter walkers, joggers and people with baby strollers. Cyclists, rollerbladers and skateboarders avoid the boardwalk completely (likely owing to the irregularities I’ve described above as well as the occasional spike that has worked its way out of a plank.) .
Paved Surface Downsides
- Harder on the joints, people say;
- You have to share it with a lot of “traffic” moving very fast, so you should cling tightly to the right to give them lots of room to pass freely (I did at one point even try doing what I know as a small-town boy — walk facing traffic — but THAT really weirded city folk out who just didn’t get it);
- Occasional deep, wide puddles form during rainy weather forcing you onto muddy bits off to the side;
- Occasional shout from a cyclist still under the impression that the path is reserved for cyclists only (or thinks that those good ole days should come back.)
Paved Surface Upsides
- Further up from the lake edge than the boardwalk, so just that little bit more out of the way from illegally uncontrolled off-leash dogs that might not be friendly (and it happens all too frequently);
- Smooth, even surface which means that, while you must keep tightly to the right to stay out of people whizzing by on bikes and blades, you can relax, zone out, lift your eyes up off the ground and look around you and let your thoughts wander a bit;
- Often plowed in winter, and on warm days snow and ice on it will melt and clear away (while it remains on the boardwalk.) While it will of course get slippery when iced over, it does not get as slippery as the boardwalk does in the rain.
So, that’s why I prefer the paved surface trail for my Nordic walking: a bit more avoidance of possibly vicious dogs, not having to watch every step, ability to relax a bit more, and, a safer walking surface. The caveat is that I must always hug to the right to be respectful of faster moving traffic and let them whiz by, but I’m okay with that.
Dirt trails with no ‘wheeled traffic’ at all are amazing, but the above are the two choices I face where I live.