Trekking poles, these amazing little tools are something you might not know about, but will be glad you learned about them after finishing this. Many athletes and adventurers are turning to these things for aid during long hikes, trail runs, ultramarathons, etc. But why? While at first glance these hand-occupying sticks might seem cumbersome, in reality they are a lifesaver when adding propulsion to difficult uphill terrain, control on steep downhill descents, support during the longer runs where you may be more fatigued, helping to absorb shock and prevent knee injury, and many other uses. But like using any tool, to reap the benefits of trekking poles you have to be sure you are using them correctly. So today, we will be discussing trekking poles and how to properly use them to enhance your performance. Also, be sure to check into regulations for your races, not all races allow trekking poles so it’s good to be prepared and knowledgeable about race restrictions.
How to hold the poles:
One of the first techniques you’ll want to learn is how to use the straps on a trekking pole. You would be amazed at how many people I hear tell me that they just cut their strap off, but in fact it is there for a reason. Now if you think about it, by cutting the strap off you then physically have to grip the pole which results in wasted energy going into the hand grip, and as we know energy is precious in those race situations.
To use the strap properly, insert your hand from the bottom and bring it back down over the top of the pole grip (as shown in the image to the left). The strap is supported on the wrist and the hand is gripping the pole just enough to keep it in place without falling out. Remember the key is to use as little energy as possible so that you can utilize that power in different areas.
One thing I like to do is add an extra elastic strap that is the same diameter as my wrist. With this, I do the same technique as above to grip the pole but I put my hand through the elastic band as well as the normal strap. This keeps the strap on my wrist at all times with no need for any extra adjustment. Remember we want to focus all time and energy towards other things and nothing extra towards the trekking poles themselves.
Trekking poles on technical downhill terrain:
I really enjoy trekking poles on downhill terrain; they act as an extra leg in certain situations.When on this terrain you can pick your way down the trail and by using poles, you can also protect your knees and keep you injury free. Ideally, you want to have the poles take some of the weight of your body during downhill sections (this can be a lifesaver). You can see in the image to the left, I am coming down some technical terrain and the poles are supporting the majority of my weight for a brief second. As an added benefit, you also have extra support in case one of your feet slip.
Trekking poles on uphill terrain:
Trekking poles should help to reduce stress on the body while working on uphill terrain. More importantly they can be used for added propulsion which helps the overall goal, to conserve energy and utilize it in other more necessary areas.
What options for trekking poles do you have?
Deciding between your options is largely a matter of preference. You have 3 main options to choose from, Z-poles, adjustable, and fixed. Each of these have some unique benefits.
Z-Poles: These poles break down very small, this makes for easy stowing on the go or for times when you only need to use them for a short amount of time.
Adjustable: These don’t break down as small, but are very quick to adjust.
Fixed: These poles are not adjustable nor do they break down, but what you sacrifice in that aspect you make up for with weight. Fixed length poles are traditionally lighter than the other options.
There are many tools that can be added to your arsenal as an outdoor adventurer. Trekking poles are another item example of how we can be more efficient in our journey through the outdoors. If you want to see how to use trekking poles in a video, I will provide a link to some clips we have of how I like to use them:
Do you like using trekking poles? Leave a comment and tell me how you have used them and which option you like! #runsmart