Trekking Poles ROCK!
My very fit 81-year-old mother-in-law turned me on to trekking poles six months ago and I can’t stop raving about them. She’s unstoppable on them. She just completed a 26-mile walking marathon with them and she’s signed up for another. This from a woman who had stopped taking her daily walks because she wasn’t feeling as strong as she once did. Now we can’t catch her.
Watching her take off with them was enough to make me try them, and it’s all I can do to stop myself from gushing about them to everyone I meet on the trails. (To all my friends who had to listen to me, even as your eyes glazed over, sorry….)
I ordered Leki trekking poles from Sierra Trading Post and got a good set of sticks for a great price. My mother-in-law gave me a ten minute training session and an article to read and I was off. Now I use them everywhere – sidewalks, paved or gravel roads and on the trails. They make it easier to go on long hikes and tackle steeper terrain with much less fatigue, which has opened up all kinds of new possibilities.
But here’s the thing. Since I started using them, those sore joints are gone. Really gone – and that’s saying a lot coming from someone who has mainlined ibuprofen for years. My knees no longer wake me up at night. My hip doesn’t hurt the next day after an 8 mile hike like it often did before. I take about 1/4 of the ibuprofen I once took.
Could it really make that much of a difference? After doing some research, here’s what I found:
Poles reduce the impact on your joints, legs and feet. Some of the women in my hiking group say they really notice it when hiking downhill. According to 1999 study in The Journal of Sports Medicine, trekking poles can reduce compressive force on the knees by up to 25 percent.
Poles engage your upper body for a total body workout. Trekking poles make you walk with better posture and get your upper body get engaged so subtly you don’t really notice it. More muscle engagement = more calories burned. According to the Leki website, you’ll burn up to 40% more calories than regular walking without poles.
Poles add balance and stability for uncertain walkers. I gave my 77-year old mom a pair for her birthday and she took them like a duck to water. Turns out she was feeling unsure on her feet and afraid of falling. As a result, she was staying at home more. Now she’s using them on walks through the neighborhood, on errands, even at the airport. She’s in a better mood now that she’s gained some of her independence again.
Trekking poles are fun to use, and they’re handy for more than walking. Just last week I was finishing up a two-hour fitness hike with Charlie, a member of our hiking group, a transplant from New Jersey. It was hot. We were on a rugged trail that looked like it offered great camouflage for snakes, but what the heck, I was with someone who’d walked it many times. I trusted his judgement. He said he’d heard but never seen a rattlesnake on the trails in the two years he’d been in Alamogordo.
On the home stretch, we walked straight into a big, healthy diamondback, coiled and ready to strike. We froze for a moment and then my new hiking pal started throwing rocks at it! Realllly? Rocks? Then I realized, he’s from New Jersey, not exactly known for its rattle snakes – why did I expect that he’d know what to do? Me, I stuck my poles out in an attempt to distract the snake and beat a hasty retreat. I took off to a safe zone and waited for James to stop throwing rocks.
Seriously, I love the trekking poles for fitness and for navigating in tough terrain. And who knows, I might even stop a bear with them…