New Moon News, Skiing/Rollerskiing

Pole Hiking Can Add an Edge to your Walking Workout

Pole hiking during Tuesday Night Under the Lights.
Pole hiking during Tuesday Night Under the Lights.

If you’ve been keeping tabs on our Facebook posts lately, you’ve probably noticed that as the weather has cooled off, the Tuesday Night Ride has morphed into a Tuesday Night Pole Hike. Not everyone from the biking group attends, but there is always a great mix of people to share the trails with who love adding poles to their regular workout.

New Moon crew pole hikes at the Hospital trails
The intrepid Tuesday night pole hikers taking on the Hospital Trails earlier this month.

Pole hiking/Nordic walking had been around for years before it was formally recognized as an off-season cross country ski training method in 1979 by the Finns. But you definitely do not have to be an athlete to reap the benefits of this low-impact sport.

Chris and family celebrating recovery and short and fat win
Walking with poles shortly after surgery enabled Chris to see his sister, Rebecca (2nd from left) win the Short and Fat in 2016. There were a couple hill repeats that day that wouldn’t have been possible without his poles.

In fact, Chris Y. really got into pole walking after his back fusion a few years ago. Over the course of his recovery, walking became a little too easy and he was looking for a bit of a challenge, “Using poles turned walking into a full-body exercise,” he says. “They added a component that helped stabilize my core and an aerobic component that helped me regain some fitness. I was able to achieve double the amount of exertion (than walking) in about half the time.”

Adding an aerobic component is just one pole perk. Using your arms not only ups the cardio but, of course, engages those specific muscle groups, promotes better circulation, and prevents swelling. Walking poles take stress off your joints, especially when climbing or descending. They also help you walk smoothly, usually at a slightly faster pace. Poles can help you balance over tricky terrain, water crossings, ice, or loose ground. And, use your them to check water depth, ice thickness, or the stability of a questionable section of trail.

pole hiking in fall
Kristin gets the most out of her poles on the slippery downhill.

Joel and Kristy decided to switch the Tuesday night group over to pole hiking for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is a great mimic of cross country skiing. “When you’re working out with poles, the muscle specificity is pretty analogous to xc skiing,” Joel explains, “You can feel each muscle group working—the lats, the triceps, the biceps.”

“But really, there are 2 main reasons I like to pole hike for exercise at this time of year. Number 1, I’m lazy,” laughs Joel. “I like to ride this time of year, too, but bike cleanup takes too long. It’s a half-hour more after I’m already wiped out. When I pole hike, I throw my clothes in the wash, put the Sidas Therm-ic UV pods in my shoes, and I’m done.” The most important reason, though, is the company, he says. “It’s very social. I don’t like to go out after a long day and work out. If I’m with a bunch of folks, that makes it easy for me.”

pole hiking at the hatchery
Another week at the Fish Hatchery for the Tuesday Night Group.

As with all pastimes, you can get deep into pole hiking/Nordic walking: technique, equipment, Nordic theory. But the great part is that it can be super simple, too. Grab some poles that are comfortable for you, some appropriate footwear, maybe a few friends and you’re ready to go. Not sure how long the New Moon pole hikes will continue, but check Facebook if you’re in the area. We’d be happy to trek with another hiker on Tuesday nights.