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Downhill hiking leg "shaking" at Yosemite Falls

May 7 2009 at 11:20 AM
Lynn Arave  (Login LynnArave)

As I've gotten older and especially the past few months, I've noticed that on steep hikes I am OK going uphill, but not downhill.
I never expected this problem, but my legs tend to shake or tremble now as I descend steep downhill stretches when I'm tired.
My latest episode was hiking Yosemite Falls last week.
No one passed me going up the steep 3.2 mile trail that climbs almost 3,000 feet, but going downhill my legs would not respond well and kept shaking, a bad thing on a trail with many rock stairs covered with loose dirt and gravel, some of it wet.
I got down OK, but felt I had to jog at times to keep my legs under control. I came down pretty fast and still passed a lot of people.
Does anyone out there have a similar problem?
I'm thinking one or two hiking poles might be the only solution to help ease my braking.
By the way, I thought that was a great trail, Yosemite Falls, with lots of shade, mist, rainbows and views.
It's one of those non-highpoints that's well worth doing.

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Jim Sutton
(Login JimSutton)

Shaking Legs and Trekking Poles

May 9 2009, 2:56 PM 

As we age, most of us become less limber, and the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints may not work quite so smoothly. Thus, we tend to descend more slowly. This means that you may be holding and supporting your body weight and gear with your leg muscles for a slightly longer time with each step (particularly during descent) than in the past, thus tiring the muscles more quickly (just think about standing on one leg with a bent knee for awhile and watch what happens to your thigh and calf muscles). I swear by the practice of using two (not one) trekking poles. They are a godsend for us older climbers (and younger klutzes). They allow me to pull with my arms on uphills, and provide support and reduce weight and jarring on my leg muscles and joints on downhills. I find them especially valuable when having to make large downhill steps, and when crossing small streams, slippery rocks, and/or icy patches. Three or four points of contact and symmetrical weight distribution almost always outcompete against just two. I know some disagree and don't like to use poles, but almost everyone I've talked to swears by them after a few miles in rough contry.

I also use the rest step on uphills, which allows the leg muscles to relax for a few tenths of a second, since my body weight is supported by the skeleton, not the muscles. It seems like a slower pace, but I find I can go much longer between breaks, because there is a mini-rest break with each step. Try it. Good luck! JES

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Stony Burk
(Login StonyBurk)

Downhill Legs

May 11 2009, 5:50 PM 

My own experience of really fatigued legs was trying to get off Wheeler Peak some years ago when a thunderstorm suddenly erupted. Running along the ridge and then the steep descent to the lake had my legs trembling and so wobbly, I thought they would just collapse beneath me. Later after reviewing the entire hike, I realized I had probably become dehydrated and hadn't been putting fuel into my system either. Later that same summer I let myself become dehydrated once again while peakbagging in the Whites of NH. This time I made matters worse and was given a choice of hospital or 3 days at home drinking about a hundred gallons of cranberry juice and water. Fueling frequently and staying hydrated seems to have solved the fatigued legs issue. I've also taken to carrying poles, which I sometimes use. As Jim mentioned, they do help distribute the load. Some type of crosstraining or certain exercises to balance out the muscles might also help.

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