Author: Olivia Saaroni, Physiotherapist
BHlthSci, BA, DPT Dip. FIFA Medicine
The body is put through strenuous work on hikes – and it is essential to stretch before your big adventure. Stretching keeps your muscles strong, flexible and healthy. It is integral that we work on flexibility to maintain a range of motion in our joints. Muscles can become tight and shorten if we do not stretch and maintain this range – the last thing we want is shortened and weak muscles.
Below are some essential pre-hike stretches that will help maintain your lower limb flexibility and help reduce future stiffness and discomfort.
Hold each stretch for 20 seconds, repeat as required if tightness occurs throughout your hike.
Find a wall or tree – place your heel on the ground and bend that same knee towards the wall/tree without lifting the heel up. The other leg is just behind with a slight bend. You may hold onto the wall or tree with your hands for stability. If your knee touches the wall/tree easily without lifting the heel, then bring your heel back a little bit to increase the stretch. Once you feel a stretch in your calf, hold.
Not only is this a great exercise for balance and ankle stability, but it is a fantastic stretch for your quadriceps – a large muscle group very important for propulsion when hiking. Standing on one leg, bend the opposite knee and hold the foot towards your bottom if you can. You can increase this stretch by pretending to push your bent knee towards the ground. You can hold onto something for balance if you need.
Sitting on the ground, straighten one knee and lean forward to touch your toes. If you feel this in your back too much, try keep a straight posture through your spine.
If you are wearing a backpack, it is important to stretch out your shoulders from time to time. You can do a gentle shoulder roll, but I suggest a straight arm stretch. This will stretch the posterior capsule of the shoulder and rotator cuff muscles. To do this, just straighten one arm out in front then grab that wrist with the opposite hand – take the straight arm across your body. You should feel a gentle stretch in the back of the shoulder.
Ankle rolls or alphabets
It is important to keep mobility in your ankles when hiking. Simply have a seat on a nearby stump or ground if no chair is available. Take your ankle through the range of the joint by making a full circle with your toes, or practice the alphabet in the air.
And if you want to know a little more about stretches check this link from the Mayo Clinic.
If you want to know lots more there is a useful resource provided by the UK's NHS here.