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Thread: Trekking Poles: Energy

  1. #1
    Goon Slioch's Avatar
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    We may have been here before, but I can't find the relevant thread, so my apologies if I'm revisiting old ground.

    Watching a parade of be-poled people in Rosset Gill the other day, I began to muse. The effort involved in using the poles and consequently the upper body must be significant. Fine if you are out to loose weight or just get fitter, but what about when you are tired at the end of the day. Surely the extra energy cost of using poles could be a deciding factor in just how knackered you feel.

    Any thoughts, anyone?

  2. #2
    Ultra King Mole's Avatar
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    I read an American 'scientific' study online somewhere (can't remember for once ) which claimed to have measured this and it concluded that properly used poles do not incur any extra energy use, and have a positive benefit on knees etc. and fatique.

    Unfortunately, from what I see, most users don't use poles very efficiently....

  3. #3
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    Here's some research. Conclude what you will.

  4. #4
    Ultra King Peter Clinch's Avatar
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    I have long been of the opinion that overall energy usage will be higher with poles. You're doing the same basic work to hold yourself up, but you're doing some of that with arms which won't do it as efficiently as legs, and with that efficiency loss the energy budget will go up. Note that's an opinion bereft of proper backup measurement, but it's also the case that human power vehicle designers after land records (bikes but without UCI's design restrictions) only bother using the rider's legs as they can take all the output capacity up all by themselves and adding arms in to the equation actually slows things down in practice.

    But, there's more to it than just plain energy usage. It's really down to what (if anything) ends up suffering. If it's your knees but you're otherwise feeling okay then poles should be a win. if your knees feel fine but you're just basically knackered all over, you'd probably be better off without them.

    Pete.

  5. #5
    Ultra King Parky Again's Avatar
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    what peter said.

    alsoconsiderthe psychological impacton feeling knackered if using poles. this may be far more significant than any think of a number energy measurement.

    "from what I see, most users don't use poles very efficiently"lol. very true. from bits i've read there is thought that most people don't usetheir legs/stride/gait (or whatever it's called)very efficiently either and using poles properly helps in this.

  6. #6
    Initiate SteveD's Avatar
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    never been so knackered that poles felt like they were an extra burden. I tend to use them when more heavily loaded or if I haven't been out for a while to help my knees, especially when coming down. Having said that I also find them very useful climbing uphill on occasions, as soon as I start to need my hands they go in the pack.

    They are not just used as a walking stick though, I find them useful for 'spotting' myself coming down, not much weight on the pole, it just gives an extra point of reference for balance.

    In an entirely non-scientific trial. I did the Round the Island walk a couple of years ago, 40-odd miles. The first section is on cliff paths - lots of steps! I did all my training on the cliffs without poles, on the actual walk I took some along and found it significantly easier climbing the steps with them than without. I would assume that total energy used was about the same but legs felt much stronger. I have noticed that I tend to use the poles shorter than most so that I am not lifting my arms up too high and on the flat they are used almost as power poles, hitting the ground near my rear heel with arms held naturally.

    At the end of the day if you don't want to use them, then don't.

    Steve D

  7. #7
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    What we seem to be talking about here is redistribution of energy expenditure for a particular activity. It is only reasonable to think that there may be overall increases in total energy expended due to the introduction of inefficiencies into locomotive activity and also the additional weight carried (the poles). In my own case however, these things were never a consideration my only concern being to spare knees that are well beyond their prime and were giving me some problems while descending steep uneven terrain under abnormal axial loading (carrying the extra weight necessary for living outdoors for a day or more). I thought that was the reason poles were carried.

    During discussions with my son on this subject, his argument that using poles in such circumstances actually only leads to weakening of the knees, or at least obstructing development of knee strength to cope with the activity described, seemed to me to have some logical merit.

    I have since tried myself to go pole free but last Friday on a linear from Tal Y Bont to Storey Arms taking in all the summits of the northern escarpment on the way, I became a victim of over optimism and suffered greatly. I took 4.5 hours to complete a route that I completed less than 6 months ago in 2.5 hours. At the end of it my knees (particularly the right), my back and my right ankle were wrecked. Admittedly, on the previous outing I'd carried a light daysack of less than 4Kg and I used poles whereas this time I carried a 12Kg pack and no poles.

  8. #8
    Ultra King Peter Clinch's Avatar
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    During discussions with my son on this subject, his argument that using poles in such circumstances actually only leads to weakening of the knees, or at least obstructing development of knee strength to cope with the activity described, seemed to me to have some logical merit.

    I think there's a very big place for working directly on knee support muscle strength, and also backing that up with poles.

    The main improvement in my knees appears to have coincided not with pole use but with doing lots of cycling spinning lower gears at higher cadences, and subsequently with XC skiing and telemarking. All of these have built up my quads, which support the knees. I've also changed downhill technique, keeping knees bent and taking the loads on the quads, and this saves my knees a lot of grief. So that's a Good Thing, but it takes effort and there are still times where my knees start to protest and it's then it's a good idea to prop them up a bit with poles. Taking it on muscles is all very well until those muscles are knackered, and then it's nice to have a prop. It's also the case that you'reless likely to get to the point where you need that prop if you're using them to start with... But I'd wholly endorse the idea of building up supporting muscles independently, which doesn'tneed to be done on your recreational walks (I still prefer shorter walks without them as they're a faff and get in the way).

    Pete.

  9. #9
    Initiate SteveD's Avatar
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    Mal

    I think if you are in a position to be out on a regular basis then your son's argument makes some sense. But I get out on the hill only a few times a year, there is no way that I can keep hill fit and my knees are the first to let me know.

    Being 52 and spending too much time in my youth running down hills probably didn't help either (come to that, learning to ski on 2m planks, and cycling many 1000's km's probably added to the wear and tear) But I am still able to get out and hold my own with the nippers that I walk with.

    Steve D

  10. #10
    Ultra King Mole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Mawr View Post

    on the previous outing I'd carried a light daysack of less than 4Kg and I used poles whereas this time I carried a 12Kg pack and no poles.

    wrong way round I think Mal.

  11. #11
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    Yes Mole, that was before the discussion referred to or at least before the decision to try to do without was made based on that discussion.

    I think the bottom line is that there comes a time when poles are pretty much essential. At 62, I think I've reached that time.

  12. #12
    ‹bermensch Benco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Mawr View Post

    I think the bottom line is that there comes a time when poles are pretty much essential. At 62, I think I've reached that time.
    At 34 I've reached that time (for one knee anyway, If I do anything over 10 miles or so with a bit of up'n'down without at least a pole to favour that knee then I'm paying for it with a couple of weeks of pain).

  13. #13
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    "...I am still able to get out and hold my own with the nippers that I walk with."

    I could say that too, at 52. In fact, I had no difficulty overhauling people 20 years younger when I was that age. Now, I make Brian look fast and Mister Rusty look young.

  14. #14
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    Thought I might join in on this thread. I too find walking poles
    very useful, not only for assistance in hill climbing and decending but crossing rivers etc..I prefer the style with the "normal"walking stick handle which may also be gripped like a ski pole, mine are
    I am up in the Applecross /Torridon area from May 10th for twelve days.
    and as I don,t expect to resupply and no BBs. until Fort Aug. or Dalwinnie my pack weight will be 15 18kg. These poles must be good, I am in my 82nd year and still cover 12 15 miles a day in the hills.
    Cheers Waldo

  15. #15
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    I seem to be the opposite to everyone so far! I've tried poles for 18mths on and off and can't get on with them. I end up 'sorer' for some reason, my back/shoulders are sore at end of day, which doesn't usually happen. Even my knees feel more painful if using poles.

    My 'gut' feeling is that poles give me a sense of security and I don't place my feet as carefully as I do when not using poles, therefore putting extra strain on knees.

    As for back/shoulders, probably using them to 'pull me' up hill instead of using quads. !!

  16. #16
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    I've never used poles and don't intend to, i like my hands free.

    What i was wondering though, and a bit OT is how do you go on if you take your dog along as i do. ?

    Should he also use poles.

    Just joking, seriously, how can you hold the lead when he needs to be on it. ?

  17. #17
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    Only use one pole or one of them extendable leads.
    another reason I don't like poles!!!!

  18. #18
    Ultra King Parky Again's Avatar
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    isn't that rather more can't than don't like.

  19. #19
    Ultra King Mole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waldo View Post
    Thought I might join in on this thread. I too find walking poles very useful, not only for assistance in hill climbing and decending but crossing rivers etc..I prefer the style with the "normal"walking stick handle which may also be gripped like a ski pole, mine are I am up in the Applecross /Torridon area from May 10th for twelve days. and as I don,t expect to resupply and no BBs. until Fort Aug. or Dalwinnie my pack weight will be 15 18kg. These poles must be good, I am in my 82nd year and still cover 12 15 miles a day in the hills. Cheers Waldo
    Have a nice trip. Waldo. I hope to be emulating you in 40 years....

  20. #20
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    Thanks for your comment Mole, must look up what emulating means.
    Hoping to walk through to Blair or Pitlochry, I,ve done the actual route many times.Its a nice finish with plenty wild camp spots on the way , Dalwhinnie,Glen Bruar, Blair Athol,R. Tummel to Pitlochry and train home.Cheers.

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