How To Use Poles
A Quick Start Guide to get the most out of your poles. Covering set up, height adjustment and a practical beginner exercise.
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3 Top Tips for Poles
1. Invest in a lesson with a qualified instructor
2. Train with poles, don’t just get them out on race day
3. Walk before you can run, master the correct technique first
Step 1 - Set the height
Take poles out of their case, hold them up by the handle so the two connecting sections are loose
At the end of the handle section, pull the silver ring downwards to extend the section and connect with the other two sections until you hear a distinctive ‘click’
A silver button will pop out under the flip lock
Open the flip lock to adjust the height
Pull the pole to the length (in cm) estimated for you on the size chart
NOTE - Don’t pull beyond the stop line or the handle section will become separated from the rest. You can slide it easily back on again, but you don’t want to risk dropping a section of pole if you’re doing this on the move.
Flip the lock back into place. You can adjust the tension on the flip lock with the clear screw on the other side of it.
Step 2 - Choose The Right Tip For The Surface
Carbide spike - trails and uneven terrain
Rubber tip - tarmac and road
Mud basket - very wet and muddy
Step 3 - Correct strap position
Important - power comes from your wrist in the strap which also activates your core. Incorrect strap position and gripping handles tightly can cause discomfort and tiredness in your forearms.
Put your hand up through the strap from underneath so the fleece sits on the back of your hand / wrist.
Lightly wrap your hand around the handle. The straps should be inbetween your palm and the handle.
Feel the weight of your wrist sitting securely in the strap, it should feel comfortable and stable across the back of your hand.
You can adjust the strap length depending on how high you would like to hold the handle, you might change this as you get going but set it for what feels comfortable for now.
The grip on the handle should not be tight.
The momentum of the poles comes from your wrist in the strap, not from gripping on the handle. See the Quick Start Guide video above which demonstrates this technique.
Step 4 - Basic Walking Technique
Pole planting is when your pole tip touches the floor.
Plant at a 45 degree angle so the propulsion carries you forwards - if you plant in front or straight down you waste energy into the ground
Don't bear walk - where your arm and leg swing forward on the same side
Maintain good posture - no slouching!
Practice by trying the drag method first, then build up. See the Quick Start Video above which shows a demo.
Step 5 - Basic Hill Technique
On uphills you may want to shorten your pole slightly to take into account the raised gradient ahead of you.
Or for very steep climbs you can take your hand out of the strap and use the extended handle.
Single or Double Pole Plant
Single pole plant is the same as the basic technique above.
Double pole plant is great for steeper hills. This is where you plant both poles at the same time to propel yourself efficiently up the slope.
Going downhill on tricky. On technical ground you may wish to put your poles away, but if the path is smooth and wide enough you can gain even more momentum from a single pole plant every few steps.
You can even double pole plant to jump up, down or over rocks, and over puddles.
Double pole plant jumps with a run up are also fun to do when the path is clear to really get some momentum going!
Step 6 - Storage
Different race vests and running belts have different storage options. There are also quivers available as race vest attachments - a bit like arrows for a bow! The Harrier race vests have multiple built-in storage options:
1. Horizontal on the back
2. Vertical on each side at the front
3. Horizontal under each arm on the side
Don’t try to eat or alter things on your race vest whilst holding both poles in both hands – you may leg yourself up, not to mention stab someone else in the eye! Pass them both into one hand, put them under an arm or stow them away first instead.
Health and Performance Benefits
Better posture and stability
Using poles for long distances is fantastic for helping you maintain good posture when you are tired. They are also great for using on hills, giving you lots of extra propulsion which can see you overtake people who are putting in the same amount, if not more effort than you!
Some studies have shown poles can reduce the impact on your knees from 25-40%. They can be fantastic if you have previously suffered from a knee injury which is so common for runners. They can also help to reduce back ache by promoting a better, upright posture even when you are tired.
Saves energy and reduces fatigue
Poles don’t only help you improve your posture when fatigue kicks in, but they also delay it – as they work like a third leg that transfers part of the workload from your legs to your arms.
Poles prevent muscle damage and soreness. This study conducted by Northumbria University found that individuals who used poles while running demonstrated a reduced loss of strength and a faster recovery compared to the control group.
Using poles can be extremely useful in helping you move faster by adding propulsive force over four contact points (instead of just two). Of course, a higher speed involves a higher energy consumption so you may find you need a greater calorie intake during your time on feet.
Training consistently with poles will help you improve your economy when using them.
Helvellyn Carbon Z Poles
WINNER IN THE WILD GINGER RUNNING BEST VALUE CATEGORY
"As a running gear tester of 10+ years for Trail Running magazine and then Wild Ginger Running YouTube channel I was really pleased to be able to help Kate design the Harrier Helvellyn Carbon Z poles. I've now tested what she has created and I'm delighted to say that they have won the Best Value award in the Wild Ginger Running poles test for their excellent features and low weight at a really fantastic price! I am looking forward to using them on my next multi-day running adventure." Claire Maxted, Wild Ginger Running
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