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Align & Stabilize
Ski & Snowboard
Pole Walking to Prepare for Skiing and Snowboarding
By Sam Morishima
Ever wonder how great skiers and snowboarders stay Winter ready during the Summer? By practicing similar or like skills of winter activities during the Summer months is key to staying winter sharp.
During the Summer of 1930 in Finland a group of Fin Nordic skiers were looking for a way to hone their skiing skills. They started to pole walk and began bounding up and down hills with their ski poles. They found that when Winter came they were not only in excellent condition but they had improved their skiing technique. With Nordic skiing as one of Finland's favorite nation pastime their enthusiasm for Nordic pole Walking quickly spread throughout the country . “Nordic Pole Walking as a fitness program ” quickly enveloped the Scandinavian countries like an Avalanche. Now Nordic Pole Walking is popular throughout Europe and itself a recreational activity and used as a powerful conditioning and skill coordination training program for almost every sport that requires being on ones feet.
If you are like me and love to walk then make the most of it with Nordic Pole Walking and at the same time prepare for the coming skiing and snowboarding season.
Just by using the poles on your walk in the proper manner for Nordic walking you can turn a 100 calorie 1 mile walk into a 140 calorie burning walk. Not only that but your walking with a more energetic heart beat rate that can be 5 to 17 beats per minute faster building better endurance and a stronger circulatory system. Other key benefits are reduce stress on joints up to 26 % which can really save those knees and ankles for better things on the snow. You involve your upper body muscles when you walk with poles with up to 90% of your body's muscles group now in play and the great thing here for you skiers as well as snowboarders it builds the shoulders, back & chest muscles, the arms and hands for maintaining better riding posture. This really makes a 30 minute walk with poles equal to 50 minutes of walking without poles. you can feel the reduction of load on the back, spine and lower body.
I love using the poles for walking because it keeps me in a balanced up-right position with shoulders back, which is a great posture to have when skiing and especially snowboarding!
To start off you'll need a pair of Nordic or fitness or trekking/hiking walking poles. If your a skier just grab your ski poles and put a rubber tip on the end of it and begin your Nordic pole walking. If your a snowboarder borrow the ski poles or buy either Nordic walking poles or trekking poles at your sports store . They even sell them at Target or Wal-mart. Just check out their exercise or camping department. You can also obtain them on-line. Prices for a pair of walking poles ranges from $19.99 to $300. They all seem to work even the $20 ones. What you are paying for as the price goes up are the robustness of the pole, as well as more features such as various feet (steel or carbide tip, trail tips covers, angled pavement tips, larger base tips for greater stability), type of adjustable length mechanism, the number of length adjustment points which will determine how short you can make the pole compact for travel and storage, pole materials (steel, aluminum or carbon) and therefore weight for travel or for balance swing, type of handles (plastic, rubber, foam like, cork, combinations), type of straps, type of handle shapes and angles), anti-shock or shock absorption mechanisms and of coarse the esthetics's such as designs and colors. What I recommend if you are not caring for the Mercedes of walking poles and cost saving is a must then go with a pair of old ski poles or pick up a $20 adjustable poles. The most important thing is get walking and stronger for skiing and snowboarding. If you get into this type of walking as I have done you can always upgrade!
I use adjustable walking poles that allow me to change pole length for severe terrain conditions such as those that requires having the pole tips in front of me. A shorter length for going up very steep mountain sides or longer length required for very step trails. However, if you walk your favorite park or through the city, where the ground level doesn't have abruptly change in elevations then a single length pole is more than suitable.
What is the right length pole? When starting off I recommend a pole length that gives you either a 90 degree forearm or slightly higher than 90 degrees. Holding onto the handle with the pole standing straight up from the ground, your forearm is at 90 degrees to the pole or the forearm maybe slightly tilted higher up than 90 degrees from the elbow. If you are using your ski poles then the latter will most likely the case with a higher than 90 degree angle with the forearm.
Next put the straps on like you would putting on ski poles with the hand coming in the strap loop from below and then grabbing the handle. Part of the strap length is pinched between the hand and handle grip.
Now hold your handles of the ski poles placing the tips of the poles behind you. Let your hands and arms dangle down to your sides. Relax the shoulders and loosen the hand grip with the pole handles held up by your finger tips. With the pole tips back, look straight ahead at the horizon. Start by walking forward dragging the pole tips on the ground behind you. As you walk allow your arms to swing naturally keeping your arms straight or with a very slight bend at the elbow. Notice that as your left foot steps forward your right arm naturally swings forward. This opposite foot and hand helps balance you while you walk and is part of a natural walking gait.
As you continue to walk, the forward hand swings down pushing the tip of the pole into the ground behind you propelling you forward. Start off with just the weight of your arm and hand to help push you forward. As you become familiar with the arm movement you can add some additional downward force with the hand and arm making the walk a more power push on the pole. As you improve in your technique you won't be dragging the pole's tip but picking them up with the forward arm swing. As you further develop in your Pole Walking you will become comfortable to release your finger grip on the handle on the downward hand arm swing pushing down with the palm of your hand on the strap to propel you forward. This will allow a open hand on the downward swing and a closed hand grip on the upward hand arm swing. This becomes a more efficient pole walking technique with the hand being exercised.
As a review make sure to relax the shoulders and hand grip, keep the pole tips back, Look straight ahead at the horizon, assure opposite arm and foot movement, keep the walk natural, maintain a comfortable hand-shake position with the wrist and allow a up-right posture with your upper body.
Many Nordic fitness walking poles come with a DVD that explains the walking sequence or check on-line for Nordic walking u-tube videos. Just make sure you are looking at Nordic walking methods and not just backpack walking which can be different from the fitness Nordic Pole Walking you want to perform. I recommend the walking methods that have the tips at the heel of your feet which are more for fitness walking unless you need to plant the tips in front for stability such as coming down a steep grade or up one or if you are back packing. Another way to make sure your doing your best at it is to locate a fitness pole walking class/clinic taught by a certified instructors such as one at SnoZone Endless Slope.
As with every type of activity caution should be consider in certain situations such as:
Inspect poles before each use, do not use if bent, dented or damaged in anyway, do not extend pole sections past the STOP mark on adjustable poles, make sure pole joints are clean and tighten securely, maintain control of poles at all times to prevent tripping yourself and others, only use pole as properly instructed. Pole will not support your full weight, pole will conduct electricity. Do not touch electrical wires or use poles in electrical storms, careful and cautious walk with pole to avoid and negotiate, holes, dips, rises, ruts, gravel, boulders, loose soil, sand, change in terrain, ice, snow, water, mud, obstacles, anything that can cause you to lose balance and destabilize your walking or standing.
With that said I love my walks using the poles and they make my transition to Winter as smooth as a sheet of ice and all I do is turn that simple walk around the block into an efficient, effective aerobic & total body workout that can contribute to better skiing and snowboarding enjoyment.
Have a great Summer and a great beginning to your Winter by doing fitness Nordic Pole Walking and don't forget to further your techniques this Summer with lessons on the Endless Slope indoor skiing and snowboarding at SnoZone Endless Slope ski and snowboard school located in Sacramento.
SnoZone Endless Slope instruct classes in skiing, snowboarding, pole walking and surfing. Look us up at www.endlesslope.com and walk this way.
Summer ski and snowboard indoors on an Endless Slope, its cooler
All you need to do is make that simple walk around the block an efficient, effective aerobic total body workout that can contribute to better skiing and snowboarding enjoyment.
Have a great beginning to your winter and complement your exercise by improving at SnoZone Endless Slope ski and snowboard school taught in the heart of Sacramento.