For my birthday last week, my boys each gave me one Coleman trekking pole. I had been eyeing walking poles for some time as a way to up the cardiovascular benefits of my walking, without having to resort to running. (I hate running, I mean really, really hate running) The Norwegians have been using walking poles for a few years now as a way to keep in shape for cross country skiing during the warm months. Walking poles are used in the same fashion as cross country ski poles but are used while walking. They get your arms moving thus increasing the calories you burn while walking. Let me tell you, I am now a convert to the walking poles. My first few times out with them, I couldn't walk very far because I got so tired. My heart rate goes up much further than just walking alone. Not only am I using my arms, but I feel I'm building muscle as well. In just a week of using them, I'm seeing more definition in my arms and after the first use, I could tell by my soreness that I was using muscles not used to this sort of work. I feel my biceps and triceps working, and also my shoulder muscles (deltoids) and chest muscles (pectorals). For some reason I'm walking taller with the poles too thus lengthening my stride and engaging my stomach muscles. After a week, I'm now back to my longer walks and I'm seeing results on the scale too. I'm down three pounds, an awesome feat in my opinion the week of Thanksgiving.
My only complaints about the poles are the tips and the hand holds. The Nordic trekking poles have angled tips which help to grab the ground when you're pushing off. Since the Coleman poles don't have this, I sometimes push off the ground and the pole slips which gets a little frustrating. Also, the hand grip bites into my hand a little bit, but this could be my technique and I might be holding on a little too tightly.
In full disclosure too, I probably look like a huge dork using them. People have actually slowed down in their cars to watch me as they drive past. I know this is a small town and people have to get their amusements from somewhere, but it does make me feel a little self-conscious (not that I care though).
Dorkiness aside, if I am seeing results on the scale, and am feeling my fitness improve through increased muscle tone without really increasing the intensity of my workouts, I am sold. I love these things.