Aren’t poles for skiing?
You know those people you see out walking with poles… and you think to yourself “that is weird why are you walking with poles”… well these people are on to something. I have recently had quite a few people ask me about my poles while out running through trails and I always express how much I love using them and how much they have helped my trailing running experiences. I would like to share my love for running/trekking poles with you.
In August of 2013 I ran my first 50km race, the Squamish 50, during the race nearing 40-45km I had seen the lady running/walking in front of me with a walking stick she had found in the forest along side the trail. I though to myself ‘what a great idea maybe this will help me’ as I was battling a knee injury and was dying out there so I decided to find a stick also. I eventually did and as soon as I had it in my hand I felt like a warrior. Pushing myself to run and walk I would use the stick to help me climb up the hills and to help me balance on the down hills. It may sound silly but I really did feel stronger while I pushed forward with that old tree branch in my hand. Soon after that race I learned that there are these things called trekking poles… people run with them! This is when I headed straight for MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) and bought my first pair of trekking poles.
A group of us had booked our trip to run the Rim 2 Rim through the Grand Canyon in October and which is where I decided was going to be my first experience with the poles. The elevation gain was a big climb nearing almost 3000m, enough climbing for me to know that this was a great opportunity to learn to use them. A fellow runner and friend, Cindy, was in our group running the Rim 2 Rim, she gave me a few pointers on how to hold the poles properly and the technique of the placement of the pole on the ground while running and that was it off I went, I was hooked.
There are many different brands that make trekking poles, varying from what they are made of, how much they weigh, how many different activities they can be used for and how they pack or break down for transportation. After doing my research I came to love the Ultra Distance Trekking Poles made by Black Diamond – http://blackdiamondequipment.com/
I will explain to you why, in my opinion, these poles are the best and then follow with the pro’s and con’s of using trekking poles.
To start, because I am looking to use poles specifically for running/fast trekking and not a top priority for snowshoeing ect, I wanted something that was extremely light weight and that could be folded down small enough to easily transport and cary in my Salomon Advance Skin Set Lab Hydration Pack. I didn’t realize how light I could get poles until I picked up the Ultra Distance Black Diamond set. They really are light as a feather. Made with a 100% carbon fibre construction not only are they extremely light weight but they are also less likely to get dents or snap. Depending on the length you buy (according to your height) they weigh in ranging from 280g – 295g or 9.9oz – 10.4oz. Another amazing feature is how they compress, the innovative Z-Pole technology provides the ultimate packability, the revolutionary 3-section design features a coated inner cord, a single push-button release, and the speed cone technology for lightning-fast deployment-even while on the move. I knew these we the poles for me when they fit perfectly in my pack and when I wasn’t using them I forgot I had them on me (stored in my pack). Perfect for my running and adventuring needs.
This link is to a Youtube video about the construction and make of the Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Pole:
Im going to start with the Con’s of using poles to get them out of the way.
- they are another thing to carry
- can get in the way in some types of terrain (get caught in thick brush)
- they are not cheap to buy
- hands are not free when you are using them
- can become a safety risk if you are to fall
- takes time to learn to use
- not all poles are extremely light weight therefore can add extra weight to your pack
The Pro’s of using poles while running/trekking.
- they provide and help with your balance
- they help reduce stress on your knees and other joints (especially on the steep downhills)
- help with climbing up hills
- using them provides a distribution of weight through your body
- helps keep your back/posture up straight, preventing you from hunching over or putting your hands on your knees – this keeps your chest open and lungs open breathing to your full potential
- a way to keep your hands elevated to prevent swelling
- helps you keep momentum – this is my favourite pro, when you are mentally drained your have tired legs being able to move your arms back and forth or just the swinging motion of the poles can help you keep going, keep momentum even when your body is tired
- they are also great for knocking down spider webs, making noise, pushing back trees and vegetation ect.
- great aid if and when crossing creeks and rivers, lean on poles balance ect.
- they help propel your forward which can increase your average speed
- you can attache a go pro to the end of the pole
- they are fun to use
So how do you know if poles are for you? If your not one one of those people who sprints up all of the hills or climbs, if you get knee or joint pain halfway through your run or hike, looking for a little extra push in keeping your momentum, find your posture changing throughout your trek, or if you just think hey those look like fun (because they are) I encourage you to purchase a pair of poles. Try them out! You may just love them!
Take a watch on this tutorial video that explains the proper way to use poles and how they can help you, this might help you decide if they are something that will benefit your outdoor adventure.
This is an article I found at Runnersworld.com emphasizing the use of trekking poles for runners.
Runners rely on poles in the mountainous terrain of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. Photo: P. Tournaire.
Backpackers use them. So do adventure racers, day hikers, and mountaineers.
But why would a trail runner ever want a pair of trekking poles?
If you’re planning on doing any multi-day trail running adventures, like fastpacking or multi-day adventure racing, trekking poles are a must. And in mountainous trail-running races like the 103-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (with over 31,000 feet of climbing), even the very top runners carry and use their poles.
Trekking poles provide great support when hiking uphill—they take a lot of pressure off your feet and legs—no matter how fast or slow you’re going. And in a race or recreational trail outing in the mountains, running often turns into a hike when you’re climbing a steep trail.
Poles also offer traction and stability. Having four points of contact on the trail is kind of like hiking on four feet, and we all know that mountain goats have better traction than us two-footed beings. (At 8+-months pregnant, I’ve been using poles on steep hikes to keep from falling over.)
And on descents, tapping poles into the ground with each step takes a little pressure off your legs. Not a lot, but a little.
So, those are the benefits of trekking poles for runners. Now, for the most exciting part: There is a new pair of trekking poles that are simply just awesome. The Black Diamond Ultra Distance poles are HALF the weight of other poles—previously considered to be the lightest—tipping the scales between 9.2 ounces and 9.7 ounces, depending on the length. And the coolest thing? They fold down into a connected, three-part piece that is both easy to carry in-hand, or stash tidily away in a small pack. (see first video above for demonstration)
As someone who’s futzed with many trekking poles over years of adventure racing and mutli-day suffering of various sorts, this invention is really something. If you’re someone who doesn’t think you’ll ever need a pair of trekking poles for your trail running, just keep these bad boys filed away in the back of your mind. And should you ever need to reach for a pair, remember that these will do you good.
If you do decide that trekking poles are something you would like to try, I would suggest practising your technique on a flatter trail or surface. It will be easier to learn the movement of the poles with your body, creating a rhythm, on a flatter surface then hitting the climbs and really technical trails without practise. If you use the poles wrong you can actually end up using more energy, hurting yourself and slowing yourself down.
I would really like to thank Black Diamond for creating such an amazing product. Ever since I bought them they have been a huge part of my outdoor adventures and trail running life. My Ultra Distance poles were one of my life lines in Costa Rica while I was completing the The Coastal Challenge, a 6 day 235km race. At some points just the effort of moving my hands back and forth was all I needed to keep myself going, not to mention they came in handy for the climbing over 8000m of elevation gain!
I encourage you to do your research, go into your outdoor sports store try different brands, feel different weights and styles and pick the one that is right for you and for your adventures. Though after seeing how amazing Black Diamond is I don’t know what else I would choose.