Author Topic: My pole experience ( not for the faint hearted or those short of time)  (Read 2964 times)

sussamb

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Yes, itís true, Iíve turned to the dark side  :)

Iíve long held a view that, for most walkers, poles are one of those accessories that we simply donít need.  Folks say they can go faster, that it helps spread the load on their knees/legs, helps with balance and a myriad other reasons that justify the fact they use them.  Iíve never subscribed to that for most of us, though have always accepted that for some with medical or other conditions poles may be useful.

Iíve argued that your body only stores so much energy, so when you start using poles you donít gain any extra, just use it differently.  Sure, you may think youíre moving faster, and even may be doing so, although Iíll return to that later, but if true youíll also run out of energy more quickly.  As an example, and to keep my thoughts simple, someone moving at 5mph as they are using poles may only be able to keep going for 4 hours, someone without may only manage 4 mph but will keep going for 5 hours, so distance travelled would be the same.

Also, if poles do indeed reduce the strain on your legs/knees, your muscles/tendons/ligaments wonít (because they donít need to and arenít pushed to do so) be as strong as someone who doesnít use poles.  The stronger your muscles etc are the better the joint can resist forces that might cause injury, so those using poles are more likely to injure hip/knee/ankle joints.

Plus of course, although they donít weigh that much, youíre still carrying extra weight Ö

So, why have I now bought some poles?  I have a mad wish to do next yearís Spine Challenger, having been on the safety team for the Spine Race this year and having dot watched for many years before that (thanks Dave aka Slogger!).  Iíve been reading various blogs and one thing sticks out, it seems you need poles to cope with the myriad of conditions you may have to face.  Well ok, in that case Iíll get some and see if they do make a difference I thought, especially as one blog recommended a rather cheap pair of poles, that I got for £18.95, so a relatively cheap experiment.  It would also allow me to practice IF I end up being mad enough to enter the Challenger.

Iíve now used the poles for a few months, and the jury is still out.  The caveat is that theyíve only been used in walks over the South Downs, so they wonít get a proper work out until my C2C towards the end of June.  Here, for those still awake, are my initial findings.

Uphill speed.  I certainly feel Iím moving faster, only problem appears to me that when I crest the top I then seem to move slower than Iím used to.  There are numerous reasons why this could be so, but see my comment below on overall speed.

Downhill speed.  If anything this feels slower, but I have to admit it does also feel as though my knees take less of a pounding (although Iíve not sure thatís a good thing for the reasons I described above).

Speed through mud (and I suspect therefore any similar slippery surface) is definitely faster, and stops the two steps forwards, one step backwards feeling.

Balance.  As Iíve aged Iíve certainly noticed my balance isnít as good as it used to be, no longer can I bound down scree slopes digging in my heels as I go  ;)  Here the poles definitely help.  Theyíve not really been tested but Iíve had to step over a couple of fallen trees blocking paths recently, and felt more secure doing this than normal.  I wait to see if theyíll help the same way on the C2C.

Overall speed.  Here it gets interesting in my view.  My general walking speed carrying a 12kg pack across the South Downs is 3.5/3.6 mph.  Before anyone says crikey, how come youíre carrying 12 kg, itís simply to help keep my fitness levels up, and on a day walk itís mainly bottles full of water.  Iíve used poles on routes I know well and walk often, and have an accurate idea of how fast (or slow) I can walk them.  Poles make absolutely no difference to my overall speed or time.  My only conclusion at this stage therefore is that while I feel at times that Iím moving faster overall Iím not, so either that Ďfeelingí is wrong or going faster at some parts of the walk means Iím slower in other parts.

So, as I said earlier, the jury is still out.  More on this epic tale when I return from the C2C


Where there's a will ...

Ridge

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I know there was some stuff about poles but SPINE RACE, wow, keep us informed.


I've used poles an very steep slopes since I had back problems a few years ago. Depending how it is feeling I will use them more or not at all. They don't make me feel like I am going faster but I do feel more stable so less likely to jar my back.
Over hill, over dale. Thorough brush, thorough brier....
I do wander every where

richardh1905

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Thanks for sharing your experience, sussamb.


I've 'inherited' some poles, but the furthest that they have got is into the boot of the car - I forgot to use them on an overnighter in the Cairngorms as I was so eager to be off! My motivation would be to reduce strain on my knees when ascending or descending with a heavy pack, and also improve my balance when heavily loaded, rather than any nominal increase in speed.

Rob Goes Walking

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I've got poles but never use them. I did feel a bit more confident descending Castle Crag with them but I'm really not too sure about them. Most of the time I don't think I need the extra stability. Might have to get them out again for the sake of my knees, they're still sore 5 days after my last walk :( Perhaps knee braces would be the better option?

As for only having so much energy maybe I'm not sure. I do know I get a higher heart rate and sweat more on the cross trainer at the gym (when I used to go years ago) than on the treadmill for the same perceived amount of effort. Might be relevant?

Warbler

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Interesting review, sussamb.


I'm also a pole resister, but have recently considered giving them a try, hoping they'll extend the life of my knee joints. If I do succumb, like you I'll search for suitable cheap option. I'll be interested to see how you get on with them on your C2C.

Bigfoot_Mike

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Another benefit of walking poles is improved posture, preventing the walker from being hunched over when ascending steeper slopes. This improves lung capacity and enables deeper breathing, providing the body with more oxygen.

jimbob

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The great advantage of my Exos knapsack are the stick loops, you don't have to have them held at all times.  I now pick and choose when I use them. Sometimes up steep hills, just to keep my shoulders up and usually always downhill especially if it is loose underfoot. This us for the sake of my balance.
In general the less time I spend on my backside means sticks  help me walk faster. But generally they just help me out, never really noticed any acceleration to my very slow plodding due to sticks.
I do however think they take strain off my knees and back in those situations when I do use them.  Strain could potentially lead to injuries over time so I believe that may be a benefit of sticks.  Also they do bring a different  group of muscles into play which if used correctly could potentially aid propulsion thus saving some work from the larger leg muscles and saving overall energy.As I said at the beginning  I do appreciate the loops on my knapsack . They give me freedom of choice.
Too little, too late, too bad......

ninthace

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Your experience does not reflect my own. I am quicker with poles than without. Alternatively, if I reduce my speed to my poleless cruise I am less out of breath and have a greater range.  If it were not so, I would not have stayed with poles.
Your argument that we have a fixed quantity of energy omits the element of efficiency. In a real world system, the amount of work that can be obtained from a given quantity of energy depends on the efficiency of the conversion.  In my experience, walking with poles is more efficient.
Solvitur Ambulando

sussamb

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Clearly our experiences are different. Out of interest how fast do you walk?
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richardh1905

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Your argument that we have a fixed quantity of energy omits the element of efficiency. In a real world system, the amount of work that can be obtained from a given quantity of energy depends on the efficiency of the conversion.  In my experience, walking with poles is more efficient.



This is an important point.


William Sichel, the 65 year old who has just finished running the North Coast 500, is very much into biomechanics, vitally important on an endurance event.

ninthace

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Clearly our experiences are different. Out of interest how fast do you walk?
About 5 kph on good going dropping to 4 kph in rougher country.  Iím an overweight going on 69.
Solvitur Ambulando

Slowcoach

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My overall experience with poles leads me to the conclusion that they are useful to me under certain conditions.
I now use them regularly in  mountainous terrain areas  where over time my balance and nimbleness of foot have reduced.  I find them particularly useful when descending where i would have to drop down a level rather than step down. The poles take my weight as i lower myself down. I also like them in snowy conditions, again for balance.
Generally I do not use my poles on walks locally..Somerset and Dorset except on the coast path which has some long flights of steep steps not designed for average length legs and some very steep slippery when wet grass hills.
So to sum up poles are great when i chosse to use them.




It's all uphill from here.

Islandplodder

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I am totally converted to poles.  My knees aren't in great shape (though walking does improve them) and I find them invaluable on steep ground.  I also find, as I get older, that my balance isn't as good as it was, and poles give me a lot more stability and confidence, especially if I am carrying a pack.
That said, I don't use them on all walks.  I think Sussamb has a point about reliance on poles maybe making balance, joints etc weaker , so I don't use them on local walks, small hills and where the ground isn't particularly rough.  But when I am on rough ground, trackless bog, very steep ground and so on, I think they make the difference between me still being able to manage that kind of walk and giving up, and they have frequently saved me from falls.  I just put them into that handy pole-holder on the rucksack once I am back on easy ground.

sussamb

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About 5 kph on good going dropping to 4 kph in rougher country.  Iím an overweight going on 69.


I'm going on 69 too, but slim and walk a tad faster than you, perhaps that accounts for our different experiences. Interesting though how different folks find poles  O0
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sussamb

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My overall experience with poles leads me to the conclusion that they are useful to me under certain conditions.
I now use them regularly in  mountainous terrain areas  where over time my balance and nimbleness of foot have reduced.  I find them particularly useful when descending where i would have to drop down a level rather than step down.


I think this too is where I'll find poles most useful  O0
Where there's a will ...