Making Progress - by walking better....
Heather Rhodes © 2010
Our natural bipedal "walking" gait - moves the vertical trunk upwards and forwards stride after stride, with co-ordinated muscle work keeping the shoulder girdle over the pelvis - for better posture so the back can be 'straight' allowing the rib cage at the front, space to fully expand for better breathing.
Pacerpoles address this, as their unique handle-contours control the arm's stride which is 'walking' above the legs. These synchronised lever actions of the arms and legs (legs under the pelvis - and arms/Pacerpoles under the shoulder girdle) lift the vertical trunk upwards and forwards together at each stride. It is this "Double Biped" approach which can sustain better body posture, and maximise the walking potential of the user - whatever the fitness level, or terrain to be covered.
Not helped by our modern lifestyle - and irrespective of age - the shoulder girdle muscles at the top of our vertical trunk have a familiar tendency to droop (poor posture / "bad habit"). It is this group-action of muscles controlling our upper girdle of bones which need attention - so that these muscles re-learn (as a memory pattern) how to co-ordinate together to maintain a strong 'girdle' for better posture. They need practice in working together to keep this strong girdle form out of habit (a good one!) which happens when using Pacerpoles correctly.
Compared to the strong circle of bones which make-up our pelvic girdle, the shoulder girdle is relatively flimsy and relies on muscle groups working together to keep it in place, retaining our erect posture. The scapula is the flat triangular shaped bone which forms the back of the girdle. However - it has to pivot around the chest wall (weakening the girdle form) as soon as the upper-arm moves forward of its vertical position at the side of the trunk (you can feel this for yourself by putting your left hand as far as you can under your right arm-pit ...and then move the right upper-arm from its vertical position, forward - you can feel the scapula moving ... ). If the arm's function is to maximise walking performance - whilst reinforcing better postural habits and better breathing - then for this role the shoulder "girdle" needs to keep its strong "form" - just like the strong pelvic "girdle" underneath. Working from this firm base, the arms walking stride leverage can thrust downwards and backwards effectively lifting the trunk upwards and forwards whilst reinforcing our erect posture so we can perform at our best.
To avoid confusion - the range of movement (ROM) of the shoulder joint can be considered in 2 phases. The first is the pure movement of the shoulder without the need for the scapula to move around the chest wall; this ROM is the one which retains the integrity of the firm "girdle" i.e. the "form" which can fulfil the "function" of the arms "walking" stride ..... levering the trunk upwards and forwards effectively. The second phase is where the arm and scapula move together towards 'elevation' - for throwing or climbing etc and this phase is not relevant to include as part of our natural "walking" gait. The ROM therefore for Pacerpole use is not extreme - but uses the full range (as in phase 1) of our arm's "walking" stride.
Maximising our walking potential can only be achieved by effectively controlling the alignment of the arm's and leg's stride leverage, whose joints control movement in 3 dimensions in order to lever the trunk upwards and forwards each stride. Poor control equates to the legs walking on soft sand - where the feet/lower legs keep pronating/twisting around in the sand as they try to push-off (with a greater potential for muscle or joint damage through poor control); this wastes effort - when compared to pushing-off from firm ground. Similarly when the hand/arm pushes against something which is unable to control its twisting action to keep the forearm aligned to optimise leverage - then this also equates to 'wasted' effort. It is this wasted effort which can be directed into more effective propulsion to improve performance, so instead of underperforming, maximum potential is achieved .....which is where Pacerpoles excel. Their contoured handles control the alignment of the arm's stride in a similar way as a contoured footbed controls the alignment of the foot/leg to optimise performance and minimise need for any corrective muscle work which wastes effort.
Having strong muscles, which need strengthening exercises to keep them that way - does not necessarily mean having good posture i.e one can have a slight frame - and good posture or a muscular frame and poor posture.
Using a forward arm swing instead as an exercise when walking with poles, is also a repetitive action. The muscles producing the movement are learning to work together as a memory pattern (i.e. a habit) so the arm will automatically stretch forward each time; this produces an arm leverage which rotates the trunk as a strong exercise when the pole touches down each time. If however, the main reason for including the arms is not only to exercise muscles per se, but direct their leverage into maximising walking potential, then an arm lever-action in front of the trunk is not the best one. If this action has been used repetitively and a muscle memory pattern established, then the body has to be re-programmed i.e. take time to 'un-learn' one habit to replace it instead by another which reinforces the memory pattern of our postural muscles as a good habit - and why using Pacerpoles is more effective.
The benefits of exercising this way is the positive effect it has on the body, our posture and our walking potential.
As an experienced health professional - I understand the need to enhance better posture to maximise walking performance for all; this has been the basis for my motivation over the last 20 years ........... and why Pacerpoles are available so everyone can benefit - from Adventure racers, experienced trail walkers and ramblers who want to maximise performance and endurance levels - to those of any age wanting to become fitter, regain a better posture and improve their general health.
The Pacerpole Handle design is unique. Its complex shape is not arbitrary - and results from a deep understanding of anatomical and biomechanical dynamics of our arm's leverage as it walks stride for stride above the legs.