Monday, May 27, 2019

Pole Etiquette, Safety and READ BEFORE you Borrow My Poles

September 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Pole Tips, Poles, Uncommon Sense

The other day a participant in my class was walking and eating an apple with her poles dangling in front of her.  My immediate response was – STOP!  Please don’t walk with your poles dangling down because you can trip on them.  I know this because I have (several times) gotten all mixed up – poles, legs, hiking – yikes!

Then it registered to me that she was EATING an apple.  She was borrowing my top end, foam grip poles.  They’re discontinued and I have only a few pairs left to loan or sell.

This put me in the VERY uncomfortable position of having to ask her to please finish her apple and wipe off her hands before she resumed with my poles.  She completely understood and was gracious.   I loan gear and people expect it to be CLEAN.

Please, if you are a participant in one of my classes, consider that bananas, apples, sticky energy bars, etc.  do not mix well with high-performing pole grips.  Sticky grips – yick!


Mindfulness prevents falls

This is the exercise I teach at all my mobility classes because it encourages and enhances mindfulness.  Mindfulness is the syncing of the brain with the body.  As our body slows and our brain speeds ahead at its “regular” rat-race pace, this imbalance puts us at increased risk for falls.  When using poles for mobility, this mindfulness enables you to take a moment to remember to take your hands out of the straps.  Remember, never stand up or sit down with your hands in the straps. 

MODIFIED SQUAT:  This one simple exercise is excellent for slowing the brain down as well as improving:

  • leg strength (great for balance)
  • circulation
  • improved function (what’s more functional than standing up/sitting down?)
  • core strength which can significantly relieve back pain/discomfort/strain
  • plus it “tunes” the vestibular system  **  (see below)
  • excellent for posture and posture awareness (again, when done optimally)

The key to this exercise is the breath.  Learn and practice pursed lip breathing (also known as Pilates breathing)

  • Inhale fully thru your nose
  • Exhale thru pursed lips as if whistling
  • Notice the feeling in your tummy muscles (rectus abdominus) – the tightening (engagement/contraction/recruitment) of these core muscles is what helps your back

Starting Position:

  • Standing in front of a chair, feel the front of the chair at the back of your legs
  • Neutral Spine (see elsewhere on this blog for tips on optimal posture)
  • Feet and legs approx. hip width apart, keep parallel
  • Knees aim in same direction as feet (either straight ahead or slightly out – not in)

To Sit down:

  • Inhale and stand tall, feel front of chair at back of legs
  • Pursed lip exhale as you Slowly lower into chair, hinging at the hips (stick your bottom back – this is where you think of a public toilet)
  • Use arms if needed
  • Don’t “plop.”  Plopping Impact is really bad for the back
  • Use an arm chair if necessary – it’s the same amount of effort, but redistributed
  • Keep knees aligned (weakness in legs often brings knees together as a compensation)

To Stand:

  • Inhale while seated, elongating spine
  • Pursed lip exhale to rise, exhale throughout the entire standing process
  • Shift weight forward and rise. (as rising, lift from hamstrings, push forward with gluts and press in to feet – as in a dead lift)
  • Pause standing, check your balance
  • Squeeze gluts as you stand
  • Use an armchair if you tend to “hoist” yourself up.  This use of momentum often involves the low back vs. using the breath and the core

Return to seated position with legs also wide apart and knees pointing same direction as toes.

  • Each one of these is a rep (short for repetition)
  • Do up to 10 reps at a time until fatigue.
  • No pain!  Nothing should hurt even a little.  Use a sturdy arm chair if your knees complain.
  • When this is easy, slow them down .  Slower is harder and works (strengthens) the legs more.  Follow your breath.


  • If you stand up without good form, you didn’t forget – you remembered late and you get free do-overs for life!
  • Called public toilets because as you sit down you stick your bottom out as if you don’t want to touch the toilet
  • Really focus on your body mechanics on this exercise.
  • This highly functional exercise will strengthen your legs.
  • Do these more slowly as you progress
  • Progress to arms crossing chest as legs get stronger.  You can also reach arms forward as you rise

**How to create healthy new habits that improve performance & safety.  Going the Distance, Article in 12/29/13 Parade Magazine by Bruce Grierson

“Simply standing up more is the best thing sedentary people can do to start becoming healthier, maintains Joan Vernikos, Ph.D., the former director of Life Sciences for NASA and author of the book Sitting Kills. The painless act of rising from your chair pumps blood from the feet to the head, and tunes the vestibular system, which helps maintain blood pressure and keeps you steady on your feet.”

Blister Prevention

June 23, 2015 by  
Filed under Trail Tips

Whether you’re walking The Camino or just day hiking, blisters can ruin your day/week/journey.  Here are some tips:

  • Sock liners – for more challenging hikes, I use compression socks as my sock liners.  (search this blog for more info on compression socks) – they reduce fatigue.  The friction occurs between the socks, not between the hiking socks and your feet.
  • Keep moisture to a minimum.  Alternate hiking shoes if you can.  Make sure shoes dry completely between wearings.  Use a fan or boot dryer – air circulation is key.
  • Stop immediately if you feel a “hot spot.”  That’s a blister trying to form.  Do not tough it out.   Affix some sort of protection.
  • Make sure your shoes fit properly.  Lace creatively to reduce unwanted friction.
  • I prophylacticly prevent blisters on my RIGHT heel by placing a piece of moleskin (not mole foam) lengthwise at the back of my heel and then I put a piece of cover-stretch tape over it.   I then carefully put my compression socks on making sure I don’t curl the edges of the tape.
  • Carry pre-cut mole skin and pre-cut cover-stretch in a little plastic baggie in your medical kit.    Cover-stretch tape will stay even with moisture.  It’s gentle on the skin.  If you try to put moleskin on when you’ve been hiking, it will not stay.   Practice with the cover-stretch so you learn how to “stretch” it over the moleskin.
  • Treat blisters with Glacier Gel or some other fancy, space-age treatment.   REI has lots of options.  Carry several in your medical kit.  We like Adventure Medical Kits (available at REI).  They’re a bit more expensive, but so worth it quality wise and sport-specific.

Cover-Roll Stretch – 2″ x 10 yards available at medical supply or compression store

Got a blister prevention or treatment tip?  Please comment!  🙂

Addendum from Dr. DMP:  …from a medical perspective sometimes “blisters” can result in complications and cellulitis and be more serious than you allude to; a warning about seeking medical attention if the lesions do not heal is warranted.

Please remember to shop REI and/or Amazon FROM THIS BLOG – click link on right hand side.  It affords us a small commission that costs you nothing.

Hiking Etiquette – Listening to nature

June 22, 2015 by  
Filed under Nature, Trail Tips, Uncommon Sense

I was MORTIFIED the other day when hiking with a regular hiking group.

We started at Muir Woods and I wanted to go ahead to warm up before our climb.  Plus, the quiet of Muir Woods early in the morning is magical.  I passed a gentleman and his son experiencing the wonder of this national monument.  I overheard the tourist quietly challenging his son to find a more wondrous experience.  He said it’s better than being in church.   I stopped to point out a few of the natural wonders with them.  We found ourselves whispering because the silence of the woods was serene and profound.  There’s even a sign asking people to respect the quiet of the woods.

Towards the end of the woods, I heard a cacophony of sound resonating thru the forest.  I knew immediately that it was “my” hiking group approaching.  I felt embarrassed.  The man and his son pulled to the side so the group could pass and I told him to go along because – thankfully – we were heading up a trail out of Muir Woods.

This hike was on the small side for this group – maybe 10 people, vs. the usual 15 to 20.  Imagine what that kind of noise an even larger group would have made.  This is a nature experience people go to early so they can enjoy the serenity and majesty of the big trees.

Large groups often have multiple conversations going on and people have to speak more loudly as they compete to be heard.  Long ago a woman, standing on a bridge over the stream at Muir Woods, asked our small group of 4 to be quiet.  I thanked her for reminding me.   I have a friend who hikes behind just so he can hear the sounds of nature.  Many times, I’ve had to remind  our hiking group to please be quiet as we approach and are near water.   I wish I did not have to remind people that part of the experience of hiking – in addition to the EXERCISE and the socialization –  is being able to hear the birds and the water and the wind.

I am going to request RADIO SILENCE the next time I lead an early morning group through Muir Woods.  Good luck to me.

Does this post resonate with you?  Or tick you off?  Either way, thanks for reading!

Pole Care

May 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Gear, Pole Tips, Poles

Take good care of your poles and they’ll take good care of you.

  • When your poles get dirty – wipe them down.
  • When your poles get wettake them apart and let them dry overnight.
    • morning dew, fog, rain, stream crossings – any moisture at all can cause corrosion
  • If you get poison oak on your poles, wash them with soap and water or rubbing alcohol, using enough soap or alcohol to cut the oil not just move it around.   Do not use Tecnu.
  • Never lubricate your poles.
  • If your poles start “sticking,” you’ll need to clean them with a pole cleaning kit – outside, with newspaper to prevent metal shavings from causing trouble.  With a little preventative care you can avoid this and you’ll keep your poles happy and healthy for YEARS.  🙂

You need to know how to take your poles apart and put them back together.  Some people are actually fearful of this and it’s a basic requirement  for pole care and travel.  It’s easy when you know how.

Annual Gift Guide for Health and Wellness in 2015

Top of the list again this year.  If you love the outdoors, Bay Nature Magazine is a gift that gives all year long.

If you have a skeleton, Dr. Lani’s Bone Health book is a must read.  I waited to read Susan Love’s Breast Book until AFTER I was fighting breast cancer.  Please DO NOT wait for a diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis to read this book.

Click here to order Bay Naturegiftforallseasons

Eating on the Wild Side:  This life-changing (but badly named) book will help you make better, more nutritious choices.  Learn how to buy, store, prepare fruits and veggies in order to make more nutritious choices, save money and shop smarter.   More info and great pod cast – click here.

Once again this year – if you have feet – these massage balls will help them stay healthy.  If you have a HINT of Plantar Fasciitis (or know someone who does), get them – don’t wait!

With Dad dying this year and mother-in-law failing, I’m aware that many of us are helping or dealing with an older adult who is at fall risk.  This simple, high quality bed rail helps stabilize at one of the most risky times – getting out of bed.  This is the one you want!  Also, I carry a Handy Bar for helping clients get out of the car, it’s a great stabilizer as well as a seat belt cutter and window smasher.  I hope I never need to use it for that!

What gift guide would be complete without a plug for POLES?  Consider gifting a class (if you’re in Northern CA) or a video (for hiking or mobility) and or a new set of poles.   To learn which poles best fit a person (and will help him/her achieve her goals), just complete the consultation form on this web page.  I have some poles that are discontinued, so my stock of high quality poles is selectively available for special needs (like extra tall people, wrist or shoulder issues, etc).

For locals (Bay Area Residents), anytime tickets to the Mountain Play are a great gift.  We go every year and the anytime tickets enable us to go when the weather is what we want (not hot).  They are only on sale for a short time in December.

Happy & Safe Holidays! 

New LEKI Poles – Improved Comfort

August 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Gear, Poles

2014 – There’s been a re-design of our favorite trekking pole.  We love the comfort of the foam grip….it’s SO worth an extra $20 over the composite or rubber grips.  Also, the long foam grip is wonderful for frequently changing or rocky terrain – when you’re not using the straps.

The redesigned strap is sleeker and many people find it more comfortable.  Here’s photos of the 2 models we like – the Double SpeedLock and the SpeedLock Anti-Shock.  Click on the REI link below to shop REI – we get a small commission and it costs you nothing.  Thank you!

2014 Themolite-XL-Anti-shock 2014 Thermolite XL

Shop REI for Great Outdoor Gear

As always, you can contact us via the website Product Consultation Form to learn which poles best fit your body and will help achieve your goals.

Click on either photo for a close up view; click the back button to return to the blog.

Exercise to Improve Mindfulness & Balance

When I teach a POLES for Balance & Maintaining Mobility class, I work to achieve TWO goals:

  1. Helping people experience the freedom of movement possible when using poles for walking
  2. How to improve mindfulness

We do exercises for balance, ROM (range of motion), gait, etc.   I use the sit-to-stand exercise to help improve mindfulness.  We break this (very complicated) movement down to its individual elements.  Here’s an excerpt from an article which discusses one of the MANY benefits of this exercise:

Going the Distance, Article in 12/29/13 Parade Magazine by Bruce Grierson

… Simply standing up more is the best thing sedentary people can do to start becoming healthier, maintains Joan Vernikos, Ph.D., the former director of Life Sciences for NASA and author of the book Sitting Kills. The painless act of rising from your chair pumps blood from the feet to the head, and tunes the vestibular system, which helps maintain blood pressure and keeps you steady on your feet….

Some of the benefits of the sit to stand exercise (done optimally and progressively):

  • Leg Strength
  • Circulation
  • Core Strengthening
  • Low Back Healing (it’s true!)
  • Balance
  • Mindfulness


Improve BALANCE and ENDURANCE with Communication

How are you feeling?  OK?  Fine?  Good?    A little tired?  Wobbly?  And what ON EARTH do those mean?  (they’re called fuzzy words)

I work with many people – some of whom have mobility and balance challenges.  If a person says – I’m OK, maybe s/he is, or perhaps I’m reading something else in his/her form.  I use a simple Zero to Ten scale to help us both communicate endurance.

You know the pain scale, right?  Zero is no pain; Ten is put me out of my misery.  This is the OPPOSITE.


  • Zero is the worst it can be (almost no one I meet is really a zero, cause they show up).
  • Ten is the absolute best (think gymnast doing a back flip on the balance beam.)


  • Zero means – Completely Empty Fuel Tank – if I don’t sit down, I’m going to fall down – I’ve got nothing left.
  • Ten is the tippy top of my endurance.  Let’s stop talkin’ and let’s keep walkin’

Another example:  We’re walking along and my client communicates a Five.  It’s probably time to turn around or rest – certainly not go farther.  Be proactive.  Rest before you absolutely need to.  Slow down vs. stopping.  (see endurance tips on this blog)

If you have a partner/friend/buddy – consider using this method of communicating.  It’s helpful for you, BUT it’s also extremely helpful for the person with mobility challenges.  S/he will start to be more aware of the need to rest or slow down or turn around.

All kinds of things drain or energize people.  Just when you think someone has gone from a 5 to a 3, they communicate a 6.  They’re having fun!

Remember that this is very subjective.  A person’s “number” is just the first number that leaps into their consciousness.  It can change and refine as s/he becomes more self aware and this simple tool helps people to become more self aware.  Many of us lose the mind-body connection as we age.  Some really smart/cerebral people never worked on it to start with.  This simple tool will help us be/stay tuned into how we feel/are. 

Thanksgiving Hiking Pole Adventure in Utah

December 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Gallery, Gear, Travel

We arrived to RAIN in Las Vegas and snow on the roads to Moab.   Even over a foot of snow and cold mornings did not stop us from enjoying the magic of the Utah National Parks.  Our first day included 2 short hikes in Arches  (Park Avenue & Delicate Arch), then we went to Canyonlands Island in the Sky.  We arrived to find NO ONE in the gray and snow-covered parking lot.  No one had hiked the Neck Springs trail * since it had snowed.  We had to find our way by locating what we thought were cairns – little snow pyramids.  We were the footprints, so the next hikers had a clue where to go 🙂

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird

Snow-covered Cairn

Snow-covered Cairn

Natural Lichen Smiley-Face

Natural Lichen Smiley-Face

Island in the Sky, Canyonlands

Island in the Sky, Canyonlands

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

Oak Leaves

Oak Leaves

We explored some new trails in Arches & Canyonlands as well as visited some old favorites.  Weather has always managed our Thanksgiving journey to Utah.  We had great gear and felt well-prepared as we headed out on cold mornings.  Yaktrax are like tire chains for your feet – they kept us  from slipping and sliding on icy trails.   Here’s a link to the ones we like:  Yaktrax Pro  Get one size larger than you think you’ll need.  We think the sizing is a bit off.

Yes, that is Bob walking down away from Delicate Arch.

Where's the trail?

Where’s the trail?

Made it to the top!

Made it to the top!



Bob learned rock climbing as a youth.  He talked, encouraged, even bullied me thru some of the most difficult terrain I’d ever been on.  Because of the wet conditions, the rocks were not as grippy.  I made it, but only with the help of my hiking buddy.  Putting poles “away” on packs:  You need a pack that can accommodate this.  Grips down, tips up.  Rubber tips affixed for safety.  We affix the poles by looping  a strap from the pack thru the pole straps and snugging them up towards the pack.  Regarding our packs – I often snug up a seminar participant’s pack.  It helps the pack be more a part of you and less floppy (which can send you off balance.)  It always feels better 🙂

A real trail in Needles District

A real trail in Needles District

Bob crab-walking down steep rock in Arches

Bob crab-walking down steep rock in Arches

Time to put away camera & poles so we can climb

Time to put away camera & poles so we can climb

That's an Ice Pond!

That’s an Ice Pond!

Water everywhere!  Park Avenue, Arches

Water everywhere! Park Avenue, Arches

Yes, it's a road

Yes, it’s a road

The day we wanted to go to Bryce it was 1 degree.  We managed a short loop on our last day and it was warmer and magical!  You can see (bottom middle below) the trail condition – very narrow – making pole use difficult.  We did not have our snow baskets with us 🙁

The Peek-a-boo loop is one of my favorites.  It’s short, but you’re in the Hoodoos.  To get to it and back, it’s about 3 miles – so a total of about 6 miles.  In these conditions, it took us 2 hours to do the 3 mile loop.  That’s SLOW!  You can see that it was starting to cloud up towards the end of our hike.  Nice way to end a week of hiking in Utah!  When we have more time for a longer loop, we like the Fairyland Trail.

Bryce Canyon (Large) 3 kings (Large) ice cream tops (Large)
Peekaboo sign and clouds (Large) Bryce Snow Trail (Large) Bryce Gear (Large)

and finally – with my obsession with trekking poles and cairns 🙂   I love to do a little Cairn-Topping as I hike.  Because of the storm that came thru a few days before we arrived, many of the cairns were in need of a little maintenance 🙂

Cairn and Poles (Large)

* Neck Springs Trail – the longest 5.8 mile hike I’ve ever done.  This glorious trail heads down into a canyon and then back up onto the mesa.  It’s one of my favorite hikes on the planet and suitable for moderate level hikers.  If you head to Moab, put it on your list.  Our favorite place to stay in Moab?  Aarchway Inn – tell Pam I sent you 🙂

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