Getting out on the trail is an absolute joy for millions of hiking enthusiasts around the world. Even if you are a beginner or a casual hiker, there is nothing more refreshing or exhilarating than getting out into nature and getting some casual exercise. Hiking can be great for your legs and core muscles and give your heart a boost.
Hiking has so many benefits that include a great cardio workout, time well spent with friends and family, and even breathtaking photo ops. Even if you are just taking a light hike, you still need to warm up your body properly to avoid muscle fatigue and injury. Walking on uneven terrain can be taxing on many of your body’s muscle groups so you want to be properly warmed up and limber.
You don’t want to end up with a sports injury that will sidetrack you for weeks, send you for treatment with the pros at a facility like Total Rehab and keep you off the trail. Stay active and healthy by following a good warm-up and warm-down routine during any exercise. Before you head out for a hike, whether you are an old pro or just a beginner, there are a few basic stretches that you should start with.
If you are new to working out or hiking, you may not know the difference between Dynamic stretching and Static stretching. Most people don’t really know that there is a difference at all. Stretching is just stretching, right? In the case of hiking, the difference can be very important to your muscle health.
Dynamic stretching is a way to warm up your muscles while you move through the stretch instead of holding it. Your movements will create a muscle memory routine and open the proper range of motion. This can help prep your muscles for the variety of motions that they will need to perform out on the trail.
Static stretching is also good for your muscles, where you hold a stretch, but it is best to do after your hike to help ward off any soreness. When you fail to complete a warm-down stretching routine your muscles can contract too quickly and make you really uncomfortable. This is the time when your tissues are the most susceptible to injury.
When you hike you will be using a wide range of muscle groups including your quads, calves, hips, hamstrings, and core. A good session of dynamic stretching lasting at least 10 minutes can help you reach your hiking goals and reduce the possibility of injury. By getting the blood circulating through your muscle groups and lubricating your ligaments and joints through stretching you can get your body primed for safe exercise.
Squat Hip Flexors
Stand straight with shoulders back and feet spread shoulder-width apart. Descend into a classic squat movement bending at the knee but keeping the knee from going forward over the tip of your foot.
From the squat position take one leg and reach it backward straight. While pushing your hips forward you should be able to feel the stretch through your hips. Bring the leg back forward after no longer than two seconds and repeat on the other side.
If you are hiking in a variety of elevations you may be doing a lot of climbing. These squat hip flexors will help you to have better balance and strength to carry yourself safely upwards.
Standing with your legs hip-width apart raise one of your legs with the knee bent towards your chest. Gently grab your leg in front of the knee and pull inwards toward your core. Hold for less than two seconds, you should feel a nice stretch through your hips and buttocks. Repeat on the other side.
This stretch can help to loosen your groin and hips and get them ready for the trail. You should feel the stretch through your hips and lower back as well. If you feel your lower back starting to strain you can take a break and repeat an additional series of stretches. Always make sure to hydrate to keep your muscles from cramping.
Hiking is all about leg power so your quads will need a good stretch before you head out. Standing with your legs hip-width apart, raise your foot up towards your buttocks. Reach back with the same side arm and grab the toe of your foot.
Deepen the stretch by pulling your foot further towards your body. You should feel the stretch all along the front of your quadriceps muscle. Repeat on both legs.
Heading out to hike without warming up your legs with the proper stretches can be risky. Not only do you want to eliminate any post-workout soreness but, you want to make sure that your joints and muscles are stretched and ready to work when you get on the trail.
Balance is a big part of being on the trail. When you are navigating rocks and roots it’s easy to twist your back if you are not careful. Stand with your legs hip-width apart and bend at the waist. Reach your hand down to your opposite foot and hold for no more than two seconds making sure to flex your sides and shoulders. Repeat on both sides.
When you are on the trail it’s important to keep your posture healthy with a strong core. You may be carrying a pack and need to stay balanced on uneven ground so it’s important to stretch out your core muscles and lower back range.
You may not realize the power and agility that you need to have in your core to keep you stable when you are out on the trail. By warming up with these torso twists you can get limber and warmed up for your hike.
Hiking can be an adventurous and rewarding workout to enjoy on your own or with family and friends. Always take a few minutes at the beginning of your hike to do some dynamic stretching to prepare your body properly for the trail ahead. Once your adventure is over, don’t forget to take a few minutes to cool your body down with a static stretching routine.