See Helsinki with a spring in your step

Personalised jogging and Nordic walking tours give busy visitors a fresh view of the city – and some healthy exercise.

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Personalised jogging and Nordic walking tours are popular with busy visitors who want to get a fresh angle on Helsinki, insights into Finnish society and some healthy exercise – all at the same time.

The tailored tours are the brainchild of Lina Laurent, who wanted to combine her interest in fitness with her professional experience as an intercultural communications trainer. “I realised that business visitors here for just one or two days might not get much chance to get out into town and talk to people informally,” she explains. “Since many might also like to go jogging or walking, it seemed a good idea to combine these things.”

Laurent started a business now known as Jogging Helsinki. She and her jogging-guide colleagues are available to trot around town at just about any time that suits foreign visitors’ busy schedules, whatever the weather. Clients appreciate this flexibility, as well as a chance to sightsee without being herded round like sheep. “Businesswomen may especially appreciate local company when walking or jogging in a strange country – even though Helsinki is among Europe’s safest cities,” Laurent says.

Talk the talk, walk the walk

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It’s a perfect day to try Nordic walking, a Finnish invention, by the sea in Helsinki.Photo: Fran Weaver

Tours start in downtown Helsinki. I choose to go Nordic walking – a Finnish invention – and pick up a pair of poles for a brisk 50-minute guided walk taking in the city’s southern seafront. After simple instructions I soon get the hang of this popular activity, which has many physiotherapeutic benefits for anyone who often sits in meetings or hunched over a computer.

Laurent is an informative and vivacious guide during our walk. She clearly enjoys sharing her views on all aspects of Finnish life, positive and negative. “I also like to hear foreigners’ impressions of Finland. Our clients are very interested in how we live, housing conditions, prices, food and political issues, but we might also talk about problems like alcohol abuse or declining services in the countryside,” she says.

Kindly praising my fitness as we march energetically up a hill in Kaivopuisto, a waterfront park, Laurent stresses that tours are paced just as fast as the client is able and willing to jog or walk. “If I get a really fit marathon-runner client I take my bicycle along,” she laughs. Routes and distances can be tailored to fit anyone’s interests, from architecture to shopping.

As we stride vigorously through Helsinki’s streets swinging our Nordic poles, no one seems to think we look out of place. Enjoying the fresh seaside air while having a nice chat with a friendly local guide feels infinitely more enjoyable than staring through the windows of a tour bus.

By Fran Weaver, September 2010, updated April 2018

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