Gear Review: The Stick

One of the many reasons I fell in love with snowshoeing is because it’s a great workout. It’s easy to exercise when you’re having fun in the snow, and it’s also easy to spend an entire day or weekend snowshoeing and savoring winter’s scenic splendor. Although I’m generally an active person, I often experience muscle fatigue, stiffness and soreness after a long session on my snowshoes. In my mountainous backyard, those heart-pumping climbs and exhilarating descents leave my quads, hamstrings and assorted other muscles screaming, and not for joy!

I recently discovered a product that helps me significantly reduce much of this muscle soreness, and feels a whole lot better than reaching for a bottle of anti-inflammatories. Known and used by runners since the ‘80’s, the Stick is a simple device, basically a center rod surrounded by several spindles that roll over your muscles. It is constructed of a smooth, heavy plastic material with comfortable handles at both ends. The principle, according to the developers of the product, is to “convert non-compliant muscle to compliant muscle”. I started using the Stick early in the snowshoe season and have come to rely on it for warming up and loosening my sore and tired muscles, essentially making them more compliant.

It would be difficult to use the Stick incorrectly. It can be used before or after snowshoeing and either way the technique is the same. Simply grasp the handles and roll it over muscles lightly and frequently. As you become more comfortable, pressure can be increased slightly. A general recommendation is for about 20 progressively deeper passes over each muscle group. If pain or discomfort is experienced, you have likely located a tender knot in the muscle known as a trigger point. Muscles containing trigger points are often weak, stiff and sore. According to the Stick’s developers, muscles containing trigger points need 20 additional passes over the involved area, and may require even more attention.

In addition to frequently overusing my quads and hamstrings, I have chronically tender calves. I have noticed a marked improvement in the way my muscles, and especially my calves feel since I began using the Stick regularly. The Stick is marketed as a “toothbrush for your muscles” which I found puzzling at first. However I now believe that this refers to the daily maintenance necessary to keep muscles operating as they should. For me, this maintenance leads to improved performance where it counts, out there snowshoeing.

The Stick is available in several different models. I initially preferred the 20” Marathon Stick for its slight flexibility. However for a slightly deeper massage, I now find I am often turning to one of the more rigid models. It’s really a matter of personal preference. Developers of the Stick have also come up with a small single wheel roller called a Trigger Wheel for deep penetrating massage of isolated areas. For more information, check out http://www.thestick.net.