High Praise for Pole Hiking – 2nd Edition Photo: SMS Nordic Last year, we wrote about how Chris got back to fitness after a long struggle with back pain and a neck and back fusion using pole hiking. This year, New Moon’s Steve Morales has a personal story about how pole hiking has helped him recover from a painful injury and surgery. Steve’s Story: When momentous things happen, one’s memory stores a vivid snapshot of the event. On Sept. 6, a little over six weeks ago, I was roller skiing down a quiet, beautiful country lane close to my home. I savored the first blush of yellow, orange and red on the trees, the pond reflections of a bluer-than-blue sky, the clean, fresh air, and a sense of achievement at finally getting out for my first roller ski of the season. It was a ski specific workout beginning a long, pleasant process of preparation for snow. I was near the end of my ski when this enchanted moment screeched to a halt. Quick as a flash, I was starring in a slow motion video of a true “Oh S..!” moment. I tripped, did a horizontal side layout, then slammed down onto the asphalt on my right hip. It felt like a sledge hammer smashing a stone to shards. My spandex workout shorts were the cushion. I lay still on the road for a while, assessing the damage, waiting for the pain in my right hip to subside. When the pain faded, I tried to get up and knew I wouldn’t ski away from this. Unclipping the bindings from the skis was agony. Only by supporting myself on my ski poles was I able to stand. Half a mile to the car. No traffic coming from either direction. I slowly hobbled toward the car on one leg and both poles, covering six inches per stride. It’s all still very vivid and is constantly accompanied by the extreme regret that I stopped paying attention, misplaced a pole plant, and now was paying a steep price. Fast forward to today. I pole hiked a mile, bounded some uphills, then rode my mountain bike 5 miles on the Hospital trails, all the while paying quite close attention. (Modern surgery is incredible!) I’m in a deep fitness hole with Birkie only about 125 days away. It’s not really about the Birkie for me, though skiing my 39th this February is a goal. It’s about being fit and how great that makes me feel. My surgeon has warned me not to break my new titanium hip with its cool pink ceramic ball and polyethylene lined socket because the second replacement will be a BIG DEAL! My favorite ski prep has been roller skiing. That being off the menu for now, my new favorite is pole hiking. It feels good and is infinitely adaptable. After two weeks of boring at-home physical therapy, I added careful, daily walks with ski poles down the driveway to the mail box and back. What a relief to replicate the total body joy of skiing outdoors! Legs, hips, back, arms…it’s all working as easy or as hard as needed! It’s not new to me of course, and it lacks the speed of skiing, but the footing is secure, and I’ve been able to gradually lengthen the stride and increase the force and intensity as I’ve recuperated. And it takes me to beautiful places outside! I’m convinced it has helped me to get back quickly to enjoying regular outdoor exercise. Marty Hall, Canadian Ski Team coach (and past US Team member and coach) said at a clinic we coached years ago that when a skier leaves the house on foot, she/he should have ski poles in hand. That will be me until the snow flies. We are all happy and grateful for Steve’s recovery. His journey to fitness is something we can all aspire to, whether or not we are working with an injury. If you are not a skier, if you are recovering or not as fit as you would like, using poles is an easy way to see results that can have a profound effect on your life. That extra ease-of-use and support can help someone get out in nature that may be a bit fearful of rougher terrain. That increased balance can help someone overcoming injury get back on track. And that full body workout can get the elite athlete ready for their best season ever. For those who aren’t recovering from injuries, let’s look at how pole hiking can be beneficial to your workout and your fitness goals. Ease-of-Use – This one’s a no-brainer. You have ski poles. All you need to do is walk out the door—ski poles in hand as Steve mentioned. There are different techniques you can learn, different pole lengths and tips, different terrain you can explore, but at it’s simplest, all you need to do is go. Balance – It’s pretty obvious that poles can be helpful in increasing one’s balance significantly reduce the risk of falling or injury. Using poles improve posture, and balance as well. But, along with that, two more points of contact can help you body relax into your workout, especially if the terrain is inconsistent. Feeling secure and balanced can also allow you to increase your stride length and use your whole body instead of focusing on what your feet are doing. Poles enable you to maintain forward momentum, particularly on tricky terrain. Stress Relief – Poles prevent pain and damage associated with repetitive motions by recruiting other muscles to take on more of the work, especially on moderate to steep uphills. When you spread out the workload and absorb some of the impact, you alleviate the stress on your legs, knees, ankles, and feet. Strength and Endurance – Here’s where poles can really make a difference for even the elite athlete. Using poles engages muscle groups that ordinary walking does not, including those in your arms and core. Add to that the swinging motion of your arms and you have a full body workout. They help propel you forward and upward, helping you increase your speed. Poles can also allow you to better your posture, which improves your breathing and lung capacity, increasing cardiopulmonary function and endurance. Try incorporating pole hiking into your workout regimen. Besides increasing your fitness and balance, strength and endurance, and taking a load off your joints, you can take in your surroundings and enjoy nature. Just grab your poles and go! Steve Morales is co-founder of New Moon Ski Shop along with his wife, Melisa. He is a major force behind CAMBA bike trail conception, planning, and creation.