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Pole Danc...Hiker!

When I first used a trekking pole there, admittedly, was a part of me that thought, "this isn't cool" and "you look like an idiot Jody." For a long time I (wrongly) stereotyped walking poles into the category of those who were elderly, and those who were unstable on their feet and so needed a little extra stability.

I was given a pair of trekking poles several years ago when I thought I may need them for my trip to the Lake District. However, I had it in my mind that I would look silly and why would a 30-year-old need trekking poles when I was perfectly fit and able to trek up a mountain without them?


Boy, how stupid and wrong was I?!

Fast forward a few years and I welcome a far less snooty version of the Jody I once was. I've never been "cool" so why I worried so much about how I'd look hiking with a trekking pole is beyond me. But I was going through mental health struggles which involved an identity crisis and a ton of anxiety so, I tend to shift some of the blame for my reactions and decisions to this.


One of the other reasons I put off using trekking poles was not having enough hands. When I am out with my walking group, I tend to have a dog lead in one hand and a phone for navigation in the other. On top of that, if it's raining or windy I need a hand to hold my hat down or an arm to help me over a stile. Or even just a hand to articulate a point I am making or to point in a direction. And because of not fully getting to grips with using trekking poles, I always put off having enough hands to use them. I also didn't understand the actual benefits behind trekking poles and what they were actually used for.

It wasn't until one noteworthy walk when I was navigating a particularly treacherous section of the coast path and, very literally, on my hands and knees because it was so steep and slippery through mud and loose rock, that I remember thinking to myself; "I wish I had something to keep me stable." And it was at that point I realised I did, but they had been rolling around in the boot of my car untouched for several months, waiting for the perfect opportunity to be used!


I started to introduce my trekking poles into my rambles by keeping them folded down in my rucksack. Every now and then I would take one out and use it for parts of the walk until eventually, I started to rely on having at least one trekking pole attached to my wrist.

If it was a route I knew then I would keep it folded down in my rucksack. But I started to learn and get used to having a pole out at all times and now feel I use it much more than I thought I would.

Personally, I prefer to only use one trekking pole when out for a hike - I've found I currently don't need to use them both when rambling. However, that's not to say I won't head to locations or take part in hikes where two would be necessary, which is why I always keep them in my car as a failsafe. Also, using two is a lot more effective if you are looking to increase your upper body fitness, something which I will go into further throughout this blog.

Trekking poles aren't for everyone. But I feel they are a resource I'm glad to have available to me, especially as I can be a little clumsy at the best of times. I also feel trekking poles are something you'll use regardless of how stable and non-clumsy a person you might be.


I've listed below just a few simple benefits I have already found through using my trek pole:

  1. Knowing how deep the mud is

  2. Steadying yourself over slippery stepping stones

  3. An extra leg when getting down from a high stile

  4. Helps the back and knees as it takes some of the joint stress away

  5. A nettle/bramble weed-whacker

  6. Keeping upright when wading through mud

  7. They are an actual workout for your arms

  8. Good for keeping steady on loose rocks

  9. Handy for pulling you uphill

  10. Gives you more momentum when walking

  11. Prevented slips, trips, and falls over loose rocks, tree roots...air!


I included above how a trekking pole can also be a workout for you and thought I'd elaborate a little...


Fitness Benefits

There is evidence that trekking poles can actually enhance the muscle-building and aerobic benefits of hiking. With trekking poles, hikers will use upper body muscles they may not ordinarily engage, like the biceps, muscles along your sides, pecs, and triceps. Regularly engaging these muscles while swinging and placing trekking poles will strengthen them and, in addition to building upper body muscles, engaging these muscles during a hike creates a full body workout, enhancing the already significant aerobic benefit of hiking.


Stability

Trekking poles will provide the user with one or two extra points of contact with the paths and trails. With more points of contact, hikers are less likely to slip in the first place, and slips are less likely to turn into falls.

Poles can also help ramblers maintain a forward momentum uphill or on tricky terrain, navigate over and around trail obstacles like stream and river crossings, and traverse slippery logs and rocks.


What trekking pole(s) do I choose to use?

I have one particular favourite trekking pole which I use on all my ramblers, and it is the Trekmates Trekker Compact Pole which is a single, compact 4-section pole with double locking twist adjustment.

The specs for this pole are:

  • 6061 Aircraft aluminium for durability

  • 4 Section pole

  • Double locking twist mechanism

  • Extended, ergonomic multi-grip EVA handle

  • Tungsten carbide tips

  • Supplied with 32mm mud baskets

  • Packed length: 58cm (Single Pole)

This trekking pole is 265g in weight and made from 100% aluminium and comes in a gorgeous blue colour which, yes, I do enjoy because it matches my coats and car!!

Although I was very kindly gifted this trekking pole by the loves over at Trekmates, I do want to reiterate that I have previously purchased trekking poles from them with my own money and loved them. When Trekmates suggested the collab, I gladly said yes because I love their products and have only ever used Trekmates. I was also gifted a pair of trekking poles, the Walker Shock Poles, which I have used on many occasions and found wonderful to use.


Something to consider when using poles

It has been evidenced that trekking poles can cause damage to vegetation, soil, and rocks, and can increase erosion which could quicken the possibility of trails and paths “washing out.”

For those of us concerned with lessening the impact of their poles, try the following tips;

  • place your poles on the trail/path surfaces rather than off the trails or onto the vegetation that lines the paths

  • consider the use of rubber pole tips to prevent rock scratching

  • use pole baskets to minimize sinkage (but beware of large baskets snagging vegetation)

  • limit the use of poles, especially in ecologically sensitive areas.

With proper use, the improved balance and agility trekking poles offer can help hikers stay on the trail and durable surfaces and off fragile vegetation, minimizing erosion and impact.


Fancy giving them a go?

So there we have it - my thoughts on trekking poles and why I can no longer ramble without one. Do you use trekking poles? Or has this made you rethink investing in trekking poles?

Will you be trying out trekking poles?

  • Already use trekking poles and love them

  • I'm tempted to try them out, thanks!

  • Still not bothered about using trekking poles

  • I will absolutely be giving trekking poles a go now!


Side note: trekking poles are not to be confused with nordic walking, that's a whole other wormhole of information! Happy exploring and thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings...

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20 de mar. de 2023

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