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See Helsinki with a spring in your step

By Fran Weaver, September 2010

Photo: Anna BlumméA healthy view of Helsinki: Lina Laurent – here crossing Market Square – offers customised, guided jogging tours of the Finnish capital.

Personalised jogging and Nordic walking tours are now available for 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 heads a team of three jogging guides 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.

Tours start from The Jogging Guide's base camp at Klaus K Hotel 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. A 50-minute tour costs 35 euros for one person and 55 for two or three people. Other lengths are available.

Talk the talk, walk the walk

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

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. "If we pass the Presidential Palace, for instance, we could talk about President Tarja Halonen and what her achievements have meant for women in Finland."

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.

Taking exercise to extremes

Finns Jukka Viljanen, 47, and Kirsi Montonen, 45, and South African Greg Maud, 36, have just completed a gruelling 1,000-kilometre run across the Kalahari to raise awareness for the endangered cheetah. Between the three of them, they've participated in the North Pole Marathon, a 195-km Sahara race, a 100-km Antarctica race and – oh yeah – don't forget climbing Everest.

Viljanen is a motivational speaker and helps organise extreme running trips (20 kilometres per day) to Nepal, Libya and other exotic destinations with Aventura Travel Agency – for those times when a jogging tour of the Finnish capital just isn't enough.

Peter Marten


The Jogging Guide
Trans-Kalahari Adventure Run – photos and blog 
Aventura Travel Agency


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