13 May 2016

Running Poles

Running poles can be very useful when running, or hiking on steep mountainous terrain. They can give you extra push when going up or help balancing on difficult downhill trails. On steep downhills they also help taking away some of the weight from the knees.

I should also mention that they can also be used for self-defense... if attacked by a pack of stray dogs for instance... There are no dangerous stray dogs around here... more likely to meet a bear in the forest... but somehow I feel safer when I have the poles with me.

What I did not realize initially is that if not used wit care, the poles can be dangerous when running. As a skier I am well accustomed to using poles, so using them for running was natural for me from the beginning. I started using poles from my first mountain trail runs. However,  soon I fell twice as a result of tripping with my own poles. Once I even managed to break one pole. This happened on narrow mountain trails on flatter (and faster) short sections of the trail. They are designed to break easier than bones, but still, is better not to break anything.

For a while I did not use poles at all, then I realized that they can be useful on the mountains and I started to use them again on the more technical mountain runs.

Old school pole gripping. No straps.Use your thumbs!

Here are my running pole rules:
  • On uphills always keep the tip of the poles behind. It has to be there anyway for efficient pushing. 
  • On flat sections of the trail, when running, it is better not to use the poles
  • When running and not using the poles, have each of them in one hand, holding them by the middle, whit the tip behind, pointing slightly to the ground.
  • When using poles on downhills, keep them far from the body, and never have them in front of you, never plant it in front of you!
  • Get rid of the strap!
 The last point may sound strange and uncomfortable. But it has two main advantages:
  • Safety. If tripping or falling, I can get rid quickly of the poles
  • Convenience. On varied terrain with frequent changes between up- and downhill I can quickly change the way I hold the poles between using or not-using them.
Then... How do I hold the pole without a strap? Well just old school.. very old school. I use my thumbs as in the photo above. I learned this from an old teacher during a ski camp... Believe me, you get quickly used to it. I also use it wit a pair of plain, basic and very lightweight poles I made myself from two straight hazelnut branches...