Get Loose Before You Hit the Trails
With the season officially turning from spring to summer, it’s a great time of the year to get outside and start doing some of those outdoor activities most of us can only dream about during the cold winter months. One of the most popular outdoor activities is hiking, which allows us to get away from it all and enjoy some reflective time out in nature.
Taking a hike is a great and healthy way to check out all of the scenery around you. Hiking can be a very rewarding experience, since many trails offer beautiful wildlife that is not seen in your everyday environment.
But before you lace up your shoes and hit the trail for that first hike of the season, ask yourself this: after a possibly very sedentary winter, is your body as on board with the program as your head is? Check a hiking map before you embark on your hike, to get a better feel for the terrain of the trail that lies ahead of you. Elevation, location and difficulty of the hike are important considerations. Set realistic goals for how far you would like to go, based on mile markers or landmarks on the trail. Check if some parts of the trail have more difficult terrain and require more strength to get through them – perhaps it’s best to save the more challenging hikes for further into the season, once your body is back into the swing of it.
To prevent cramps, muscle pulls, or other painful injuries while on the trail, it’s a good idea to do some hiking-specific exercises before you start off. Some of the exercises are similar to those that runners do when training for a marathon. Even some mild loosening up and stretching can really help the body get through hikes without injury. Of course, you should take into account your own individual health history and physical conditioning when hiking or doing any other type of rigorous outdoor activity. Listen to your body and don’t overdo it when you’re on a hike.
Here are eight great stretches that can help you warm up for a hike. Any of the following stretches can also be done during breaks to stay loose on your hike or after your hike is complete to help cool down.
|1. Ankle stretch||2. Knee stretch|
|Keep your feet shoulder width apart. Stand flat. Now, rock your feet back and forth from your toes to your heels and shift your weight from front to back. Continue this exercise for about 30 seconds. This will help warm up the muscles, tendons and other tissue in your ankles.||Bend your knees slightly, allowing your hips to fall back behind you. Slowly move in a clockwise motion for 30 seconds and then repeat, going counterclockwise for 30 more seconds or until the knees feel warmed up.|
|3. Hip stretch||4. Hamstring Stretch|
|Place your hands on a stationary object like a rock or a wall, stand tall and slowly swing one leg across your body, allowing your toes to come down toward the floor and away toward the ceiling as you come away from the body, while balancing on the other leg. Repeat this on the other leg as well.||Sit on the ground with your legs extended out in front of you. Pull one leg in toward your body as you would to sit cross-legged and reach for your toes. Make sure to bend at the waist until you feel the stretch in the hamstring and repeat with your other leg.|
|5. Leg stretch||6. Trunk stretch|
|Stand tall. Slowly swing one of your legs from front to back, while balancing on the other leg, almost like you are winding up and kicking an invisible soccer ball. Repeat this on the other leg as well.||Take a parallel stance with your feet spread as wide as your hips and your arms out to your side. Slowly rotate through your trunk and through your spine, rotating from side to side. Make sure your feet pivot.|
|7. Arm stretch||8. Neck stretch|
|Hold both arms out to your sides. Do circles with your arms, 15 going forward and 15 going backwards with each arm.||Stand tall. Move your chin down to your chest and go back and look toward the sky. Repeat this for 5 to 10 times.|
We hope that you enjoy every bit of your time outside – from prepping to actually hitting the trails! If there are any other stretches or exercises that you found to be useful, please, leave them in the comments below!