Whether you are going on your first hiking trip, or you are an advanced hiker, it is important to know how to prepare for a hike. A lot of people will talk about hiking tips such as: what to bring on your hike, hiking safety tips, and where to hike. But they leave out one of the most important parts of hiking: preparing your body for a hike. Not a lot of time is spent talking about hiking training or conditioning. But, it is important to make sure your body is ready for the activity.
One important way to prepare your body for a hike is to do a dynamic warm-up routine before you hit the trails. Dynamic stretching is important for warming up your muscles and getting them ready for the adventure. It will help you to perform your best and get you to your hiking goal, no matter how big or small that goal is.
A good dynamic warm up will help to prevent injury by improving your range of motion and flexibility around the joints. No matter what your current fitness level is, following a dynamic warm up routine before hitting the trails will help keep you going strong.
Follow this dynamic stretching routine before your next hike to get your body ready.
Alternating Knee Lift
Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Lift one knee towards your chest and grab right below your knee with both hands. Bring your knee as close to your chest as you can and then slowly lower the leg back to a standing position. Repeat with the opposite leg. Don’t hold the stretch longer than a few seconds. You should be moving through the stretch.
Squat to Hip Flexor
Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Lower your bottom like you are sitting back in a chair, keeping your knees tracking behind your toes. While in the squat position, bring one leg back so that you are in a lunge position. Keep your hips pushed forward to get a good stretch on the hip flexor. Return to a standing position. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Leg Swing with Support
Stand on one foot and find a wall or another support (i.e. fence, pole, etc.) and ensure that you have plenty of room on both sides. Stand beside your support so that one hand can hold onto the support. Keeping your back upright and core tight, begin to swing the leg farthest away from the support like a pendulum. Start slowly at first, as you begin to warm up you can increase the height of your swing and the pace. You are aiming to achieve your full range of motion at the hip but be careful not to swing so far that the back starts to bend or your hips begin to rotate.
Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Bend at your waist and twist your shoulders so that you touch one foot with the opposite hand. Return to standing and repeat to the opposite side. If it is difficult to touch the foot with the opposite hand, try spreading your legs wider apart.
Alternating Quad Stretch
Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Bend one leg so that your foot comes close to your butt. Reach your arm behind you to grab the top of that foot with your hand. Pull your foot towards your butt to deepen the stretch. Release the foot and return to standing. Repeat with the opposite leg. Feel free to grab a railing or friend to help you maintain balance during this stretch.
This dynamic warm-up routine will help prepare you for the hike. After you have finished your hike, or when you stop to rest for the night, make sure to get some static stretching in to reduce the chance of soreness.
Make sure to listen to your body on the hike. Your current fitness level will determine what kind of hikes you should attempt. While you will continue to improve with each new trail hike, it is also a good idea to train your body for the hike in other ways, including strength and cardiovascular training.
Before you embark on one of your more strenuous hikes, be sure to schedule a consultation with one of our Physiotherapists at OHP to better understand where you stand as a hiker, so that you can take corrective action before the potential for injury realizes itself.
Source: Fit Life Pursuits
Shared and inspired by Glenn Charbonneau, OHP Physiotherapist.