Trekking Poles by Ann Caviness

After having my left hip resurfaced in July 2007, for my recovery I focused on PT exercises, water walking and exercises, and swimming. I also gradually increased my regular walking. I went from two crutches to one crutch, to a cane, to nothing, then to one trekking pole for trails with steep inclines and loose rocks. I was reluctant to use two trekking poles, because I really didn’t know how to use them, and they reminded me too much of using crutches. However, my brother told me how much he enjoys hiking with trekking poles, especially on steep terrain and when crossing streams. Trekking poles are like having four-wheel drive, and all the serious hikers use them. They enhance stability, improve your posture, spread the workout over many muscles, and save your knees. I am so glad he encouraged me because they certainly have sped up my recovery and taken me to a whole new level of stamina and strength.

I tried surfing the Web to learn how to use the poles, but what I really needed was a hands-on experience. In August 2008, I attended a free REI clinic, “Poles for Hiking, Trekking & Walking” by Jayah Faye Paley, and bought her DVD on pole technique. Jayah is a breast cancer survivor, who found trekking poles to be an essential part of her recovery. And since then, she has become a trekking pole advocate and travels all over the US teaching people how to use them. Watch video. For people who want additional instruction, Jayah works with individuals and groups. Also, she is releasing a new DVD, “POLES for Balance & Mobility," which might be helpful for people before and right after surgery.

Jayah is high-energy, fun, and extremely informative; and she gets you outside to practice right away. Between the clinic and her DVD, you learn the essentials to get you out on the trails with a 100% improvement in your trekking pole technique. You learn proper grip and use of the strap, how and when to adjust your poles, pole maintenance, proper technique, and many tips.

The biggest mistake people make is “the death grip”, which just adds a lot of strain to the neck and shoulders. This is corrected by proper use of the strap and correct pole height. Basically, you learn that when you go downhill, your poles should be in front of you and longer than when you go uphill—this gives balance and control. When you go uphill, your poles should be shorter and behind you for power and leverage. On the flat, your arms should be in a relaxed, neutral position. With proper technique, one’s gait is balanced, upright, and graceful.

With trekking poles, my recovery has taken a big leap forward. I am now able to take strenuous 10 to 15-mile hikes on the nearby mountain (2,571 feet elevation). Being out in nature is so wonderful and healing, and I can finally get a good workout! What a change, after ten years of limping around in pain with a degenerative hip!

My overall health and outlook is greatly improved. I am able to hike on steep, mountain trails with full confidence. It is like having an extra set of legs—there are so many times I have caught myself from falling because I had the poles. With trekking poles, you become like a mountain goat—fast, sure-footed, and agile. When I am looking out at a beautiful view high up on the mountain, I think of the condition I was in before surgery, and I feel so utterly grateful to be where I am now.

Ann Caviness, USA
July 3, 2007