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Trekking Poles Will Make Your Life Better... And Your Triceps Sexier.

CHILE | Friday, 6 March 2015 | Views [501]

Five boyfriends ago, I used to think that walking sticks -- err, trekking poles -- were dorky, overpriced and pointless. I'm not old, so why do I need sticks to help me hike?

But then he invited me on a backpacking trip, and he convinced me not to knock it till I've tried it. So I tried it.

Trekking (Poles) in Torres del Paine

 

I can admit when I'm wrong. And I was very, very wrong. The trekking polessuper helped. Specifically, they helped me:

  1. Save energy going uphill by allowing my to shift some of the work from my legs to my arms. Even just a few pounds really makes a difference.
  2. Save my knees going downhill. For me, walking downhill has always been more difficult than going uphill. When climbing, I feel this intense,ROOOOOAR! I'm kicking ass! sort of thing. My muscles are burning, and it feels good. Descending just sort of hurts. Probably because I, like most people, think of going downhill as sort of an easy break time -- but it's actually really strengthy. Think about doing a squat. The going down part isn't easier than the going up part. It's just different muscles. It's the same when you're hiking down a hill -- except with hiking, it's easy to just let gravity push you as you passively (or exhaustedly) absorb shock with your joints instead of your muscles. Trekking poles help with that. Trust me -- at the end of the day, your knees will feel better.
  3. Cross creeks and rivers. When you're walking on slippery sticks and rocks and whatever else, and you can't really see exactly what's going on under your feet, and the rushing water is keeping you a little off-balance, you'll be really glad you've got at least one pole for support. 

Day 3 of the W Trek - Torres del Paine, Chile

4. Improve my posture. I'm not sure exactly why, but my posture is alwaysbetter when I use trekking poles. Maybe something to do with having my elbows bent at 90-degrees while grasping something that's a fixed height? Or a mindfulness thing? Whatever the reason, I'm glad for it. Especially when I have a heavy pack, and it's so easy to slump or lean forward (which can cause all sorts of body problems). Plus, I think there's a big psychological boost to just owning a hill with a beautiful, upright posture.

5. Catapult myself over puddles. It's a fun way to keep your feet dry without causing erosion. Allow me to demonstrate:

Trekking Poles 101: The Catapult

Unleash your inner pole vaulter...

And that was all before I started using my poles properly. 

Trekking poles typically have a telescoping design with some sort of locking mechanism. This allows you to adjust the length. Your arms should be bent at about 90-degrees when you walk for maximum power. 

The Right Way to Hold Trekking Poles

 

They also have wrist straps around the handle. Until a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure what they were for. So you wouldn't drop them? So you can let go of the stick without it falling to the ground when you need your hands?

But then I noticed that the straps on my Leki Trail Antishock Trekking Poles(which I'm linking to because I highly recommend them -- they're light but sturdy, durable, collapsible and very easily adjustable. I've had them for years without any problems, and I'm not even the original owner. But if you're looking for something cheap, try the Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles -- they're nice, light and only $29.99) were adjustable. Butwhy??

After some experimenting, I discovered that you can use wrist straps like a springboard to get even more power out of your arms! It's sort of like how bikers clip their feet into the pedals, which allows them to get power on both the push down and the pull back up.

Adjust them to be loose enough that you can easily get your hands through, but snug enough that you can push against them without changing your grip on the pole. Then, as you're walking (left pole forward with right foot and vice versa),follow through! Even if your body has passed your elbow, keep pushing off the pole until your triceps are fully contracted.

 

Trekking Poles 102: The follow-through

I started doing this, and noticed an immediate effect on my speed and endurance going uphill. Later that day, I also noticed that my triceps felt great. And I developed a hypothesis that any woman who uses trekking poles religiously will end up with Michelle Obama arms.  

Or, at the very least, she'll increase her endurance and have happier knees at the end of the day.

Happy hiking!

Tags: backpacking, gear, torres del paine, trekking

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