When Liesl and I registered for last month’s No Barriers Summit, I signed up for a three-part trekking clinic. I chose that clinic, frankly, because it was less demanding than off-road handcycling, or even horseback riding. I didn’t expect much. After all, what is there to learn about walking?
Turns out, quite a bit. Keep your eyes on the horizon. Line up your heavy parts–your head, your shoulders, your pelvis. Do you drag your feet, and stumble a lot? Concentrate on landing on your heels, and rolling down your whole foot to your toes. Does your lower back hurt when you go for a long walk? There’s a muscle in your lower abdomen, just above your pubic bone. Strengthen that, and it will help your back.
The best part of the clinic, though, was learning about fitness/trekking poles. Here’s how I understand the differences between the two. Fitness poles have rubber tips, and are used on smooth surfaces, like roads and sidewalks. Trekking poles have carbide tips which bite into uneven surfaces like gravel, dirt and ice. For the most part, both kinds of poles can be used in either situation, simply by taking the rubber tips on and off.
I know this is confusing. It took me several days to figure out which ones Liesl and I needed, but we finally decided on the Leki Corklite Aergon SpeedLock trekking poles. REI had a fabulous sale, so we each bought a pair, and a set of rubber tips.
For Liesl, the poles are primarily a bike-trail activity. Her wheelchair’s front casters make off-road trekking with the poles treacherous–with the poles in her hands, she can’t lift her casters and balance on two wheels. Even with those limits, she’s really enjoying her poles. Using them to propel herself forward gives her a different way to move, and works different muscles. It opens up her chest and shoulders, and strengthens her core.
For me, the poles are most helpful in hiking situations. In the past decade or so, I’ve developed a significant fear of falling. Having trekking poles gives me two more points of contact with the ground beneath me, and gives me more confidence.
Liesl and I are delighted to have found an activity we both enjoy. As condo-dwellers, we’re also glad that the equipment is so lightweight, compact and portable.