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Having a husband and son who are hard core hikers,  I’ve  had to figure out how to keep up. With much encouragement  (and trepidation on my part) I made it up Yosemite National Park’s iconic Half Dome for the first time just 4 years ago.  Since that extremely challenging hike which literally wiped me out, I’ve discovered the magic of trekking poles and it’s made subsequent hikes so much easier!

What are some of the advantages of trekking poles?
  • Stability and balance-you’ve just added 2 more points of contact on the ground in addition to your 2 feet.
  • Power-as you pull yourself forward with your upper body, it creates more power and force to propel you
  • Integrated workout– you find you’ll use your upper body, core and hips in an integrated full body work out as you propel yourself forward in space.
  • Strengthening myofascial connections-For those interested in fascia, the connections of the posterior oblique fascial sling are magnified as you engage your latissimus dorsi on one side simultaneously with the gluteal muscle on the opposite side of your body. As the right arm extends back-you fire that right latissimus muscle, at the same time you are extending your opposite hip (left) gluteal muscle. They work in tandem in a powerful way to propel you forward.
  • Aesthetics-you look sporty!
When I ascend a steep hill, I’m working both my upper body and my hips and legs. The extra support from the poles and recruitment of my upper body almost feels like someone is offering me a boost from behind. It’s a tremendous help.
When I descend, the poles take some of the weight off my joints helping relieve possible overuse and stress to my knees.
Since incorporating trekking poles into my hikes, I feel more powerful, have better endurance and feel more stability with the enhanced balanced provided by additional points of contact with the poles to the ground.  I’m more sure of my footing as I’m able to test the terrain with my forward pole.
The mechanics of walking with the poles is simple but requires awareness and practice.  As you step forward with your right heel simultaneously the left pole touches done in front and vice versa.

Try this now with me.  As you step forward with the right heel, your upper body is rotated toward the front (right) leg-left pole on the ground in front.  Then your left lats fire as you pull back w/your left arm, rotating your upper body to the left as you shift your weight onto your rt leg and your left leg swings forward.

The kinetic chain continues with firing of the opposite right gluteal muscle in a diagonal pattern.  This is the myofascial posterior oblique line of connective tissue in action, firing in a coordinated fashion to promote healthy gait.

Recently my husband and son hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up in 1 day.  Though I had no desire to put myself through that, I joined my daughter and the rest of our friends for some challenging hikes offering breathtaking vistas and with every facilitated step I was grateful to have the poles ease impact on my joints during the descent and have the poles assist me to power my ascent.

The collapsible poles that I own provide absorption of forces, increased power to propel myself, and more stability and balance to reduce the risk of falls.  Poles come at set heights and adjustable heights.  If you’re buying ones at a set height- make sure your forearm is parallel with the ground when you’re holding them (elbow at a 90 degree angle).  If you want to share your poles, it’s better to buy adjustable poles where you can vary the height.

For me, the features most important were collapsibility (to 24 inches) and weight. I wanted to be able to tuck them in a backpack or hang them from a carabiner on my fanny pack and wanted them to be very lightweight.  I have no ties with any trekking pole company. I just wanted to share my experience in the hopes that it might inspire others to get moving more and enjoy the amazing beauty we have at our fingertips.

Stay tuned for my next blog post and video where I’ll share helpful stretches and warmups for hiking using the trekking poles.