Hiking Poles - The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread
People who have been following me - either here on my blog or on Instagram - know that I love being active. I feel even better if I can be active in the great outdoors. This passion for being
physically active out in mother nature did not change when I decided that it was time for my leg and me to go separate ways. On the contrary, it actually increased as after almost 20 years of
being limited by my endoprosthesis I finally had the feeling that everything was possible again. Being active in the outdoors might need a different approach than before, but suddenly the limit
was the sky.
Develop The Right Mindset, Build Skills And Confidence And Get The Gear You Need
Fellow lower-limb amputees often ask me how they can increase their activity level. Nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary; just some ideas to identify an entry point to have a more active life-style. And then see what develops out of it.
For me that is an easy question to answer. Start walking more. Do more things on foot. No matter how much you walk at the moment, for most of us it’s easy to increase our current level, even if only by 15 or 20 percent. Once you have a regular walking routine, try to walk faster, try to walk with a backpack, try to walk on increasingly difficult terrain and in more and more remote areas. The possibilities are endless.
Why Is Walking The Ideal Way To Start An Active Amputee Life-Style?
Why do I think walking is the ideal way to start being more active? Well, there are plenty of reasons. And here are my top eight why I think walking is a real winner:
- Sooner or later, every lower-limb amputee needs to get back into walking after the amputation. Full stop. So make a conscious decision that you want to be able to do things on foot again as soon as possible after the limb loss. And make a decision that you want to walk again not just to cover all the necessary distances to manage your daily routines, but to be able to cover any distance to fully participate in social life and fully enjoy your life.
- Walking can easily be done without any special - and often expensive - equipment. In the beginning a pair of shoes is all you need to get started. And even in more challenging settings, there is not much more you need.
- Walking can be done without a coach, a physiotherapist or any other person to assist you.
- Often a walk can be integrated into our daily schedule, turning it from something you do every once in a blue moon to a regular routine.
- Stating the obvious: Walking helps you to stay generally fit. In addition, walking helps to exercise your residual limb. It helps to sustain existing and build-up new muscle.
- Walking helps you to develop new knowledge and skills. The more you use your prosthesis, the more you learn how it behaves in different scenarios; e.g. on muddy paths, on wet leaves, on snow or ice, when you are tired and concentrating less on how you place your foot, with heavy boots. You build a memory of various experiences. These experiences and continuing practice will translate into new skills.
- New skills and a pool of experiences are a necessary pre-condition to increased confidence in your day to day use of your prosthesis. Seeing an increase in the distance you are able to walk, the difficulty of the terrain you are able to safely and securely navigate or the load you are able to carry is directly reflected in a higher level of confidence and trust in your own abilities as well as in your prosthetic device.
- Regular walking helps to develop a „Yes, I can do that!“ mindset.
Why Trekking Poles?
I mentioned earlier that walking is great because there is no need for any special gear. Once you start wondering off the beaten tracks and begin to walk on muddy paths, rocky hill tracks or on snow and ice, you might want to consider getting yourself a pair of hiking poles.
In my eyes a pair of high quality trekking poles is the most important piece of gear for any active amputee. I love them as they opened a new world for me. And I encourage others to use them. If you get a pair, I strongly recommend to invest in good ones and to skip the temptation to buy them from any of the discounters. You might be fully dependent on them in some situations. So getting a decent pair of trekking poles is money well invested.
- They help with the balance, especially on uneven ground.
- They help when walking on smaller boulders, scree, wet/slippery surfaces, ice and snow.
- They help getting down from a hill as they take load of your remaining leg/knee, thus preventing injuries.
- They help getting up a hill as you can use your arms/upper body to push yourself forward.
- And last but not least (and this is an important one): With my microprocessor knee I have the problem that walking uphill on steep slopes - with most of the weight slowly moving to the toes - tricks the knee into thinking that I walk on even ground and are just about to initiate the swing phase to bring the leg forward. This means that the knee suddenly bends unexpectedly and leads to rather clumsy attempts on my side trying to prevent a fall. Especially when I’m carrying a backpack. Using my trekking poles helps me to make sure that the sensors in the prosthesis do not get this kind of wrong information.
Any other questions around hiking or useful gear for active amputees? Please do not hesitate to contact me any time.
Post by Bjoern Eser, the creator of The Active Amputee.
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