According to Sakyong Mipham, “When people say meditation makes them calm, they are often referring to this stability of the mind. A stable mind creates the foundation for a happier and more contented person.”
Likewise, a stable body can create the foundation for a happier and more contented runner, hiker, and walker.
One of the best ways to ensure a stable body is to increase your core strength. A strong core will help you run, hike, and walk longer and faster and with less effort. Consider incorporating planks, sit-ups, pull-ups, and other core strength exercises into your workout routine. Searching for “core strength exercises” on Google or You Tube will provide a vast number of tutorials to help you get started.
But sometimes we need extra help. For example, for those prone to osteoporosis, walking (as well as other weight-bearing exercises), can be a very effective way to increase bone density. However, a fall could result in a broken bone. So, what to do? Should you walk for exercise and to improve your bone strength, but risk a fall? A single walking stick or a pair of poles could be the answer to allowing you to walk farther with less risk.
Hiking poles are also great for trail running and for…well, duh…hiking. If you have never used poles while on trails, you are in for a treat. Poles not only help with stability while climbing and descending hills and mountains, using poles gives your upper body a workout as well. Therefore, not only will you be able to traverse steep or rocky terrain more confidently, you will also get a full body workout while doing so. I used to hike without poles until a hiking buddy recommended them to me and I realized how helpful they really can be. Now, I am much faster climbing mountains than I ever could have been without poles and much more confident descending.
I was recently asked which brand of poles I recommend (and no, I do not get a commission and this is not a sponsored post). I personally have a pair of less expensive Leki women-specific poles that collapse (but do not fold up small). I use these regularly for hiking and they do fold up enough to fit in my suitcase when I travel. However, while they fit inside a carryon-sized piece of luggage, you are going to have to check your bag when flying because they are considered by TSA to be a weapon.
I recently bought a pair of ultralight Black Diamond poles that do fold up very small for trail running. Obviously, the ultralight weight and small size profile add to the cost of the poles. However, I cannot tell you how helpful these have been! They are featherlight and I do not even notice I am carrying them. They fold up so small that they fit inside my hydration vest. And when I get tired toward the second half or end of a trail race, they easily pop out of my hydration vest and unfold quickly into a very stable and durable set of poles to help me in the final stretch. I am so happy I invested in a good set of trail running poles.
If you are buying the poles for walking stability on pavement, however, I do not think the weight and size features are critical. Poles that are not “ultralight” are still not heavy, so do not feel compelled to spend extra for these features unless you plan to use them for trail running or really want to carry them around in your backpack or purse all the time.
If you are buying poles for walking on pavement (as opposed to hiking on trails), I highly recommend you buy tips to put over the bottom of your poles that will make them better suited to walking on pavement and more stable on sidewalks. Here is a link to the proper tips for walking on pavement:
Again, I don’t get a commission, so feel free to buy them wherever you would like. I have included the link so you can see exactly what I am talking about because I want you have the right stuff. One reason people are unhappy when they run/walk is because they are not using the right gear. The right gear makes all the difference. So, if concerns about stability have prevented you from going out for a walk, or a hike, or a run, I hope you will realize that there are tools that can help you. So, keep moving!