As hiking season starts, many people increase their activity level with long day hikes and multi-day adventures. This increase in activity can lead to repetitive stress and strain on your muscles and joints, and increased load on your body with heavy backpacks. As physiotherapists, we are routinely asked what can be done to reduce muscle soreness, joint stiffness, and the risk of injury while hiking.
One of the easiest, most in-expensive, and effective things you can do to prevent injury and maintain a pain-free healthy body during hiking season is to add a warm-up and recovery routine to your hiking plans. This will prepare your tissues for activity, improve your joint range of motion, aid in the recovery of sore muscles, and prevent your risk of injury. In this blog we have highlighted some key exercises for a pre-hike Warm-Up and a post-hike Recovery that are lightweight and easy to do on or off the trail.
If you want more tips on how to properly wear a heavy hiking backpack click here to check out our blog on Hiking Tips to Prevent Back Pain.
Pre-Hike Warm Up Tips
Many hikers get by without doing a warm-up. There is no denying that. The truth is, a warm-up routine can be quick, effective, and in-expensive, and provide some great benefits. So why not incorporate it into your routine? The main purpose of a warm up is to prepare your muscles and joints for activity. You can achieve this by doing mobility exercises targeted at the ankles, hips, and mid to upper back, which are problematic areas for most hikers.
Warm Up Exercises: mobility exercises are great for warming up as they move a joint through its full range of motion while also stretching some of the surrounding musculature. Here are some simple and quick pre-hike mobility exercises to get you warmed up and on the trail:
1) Knee to Wall Stretch : 2 x 10 repetitions on each side
2) Standing Cat Cow : 1 x 10 repetitions
3) Hip Rotations 1 x 10 repetitions on each side
** Hot Tip**
If you plan on warming up before a hike, arrive at the trailhead a little early or, if you are doing an overnight hike, make sure your backpack is packed before everyone else. It is really easy to skip a warm up if someone is waiting for you.
Post-Hike Recovery Tips
Once you have finished your hike, a recovery routine consisting of static stretches and myofascial release techniques, is a perfect way to relax, improve your sleep, and reduce muscle or joint aches and pains. There are many stretches and techniques a hiker can do as part of a recovery routine. We’ve included our favourites that are easy to do at home, in the car park, or at camp.
Recovery Static Stretches are slow and controlled stretches held for 10-30 seconds and are perfect exercises to include at the end of a long hike. Static stretches focus on muscle elongation and relaxation, and can decrease musculotendinous stiffness. Here are some simple static stretches targeted at problematic areas to add to a hiking recovery routine:
1) 3D Calf Stretch: 10-30 sec hold in each position, repeat 2-3x on each side
2) 3 Way Pec Stretch: 10-30 sec hold in each position, repeat 2-3x on each side
3) Figure 4: 10-30 sec hold, repeat 2-3x on each side
Option 1: Standing Option 2: Seated
4) 3D Hamstring Stretch: 10-30 sec hold in each position, repeat 2-3x on each side
Myofascial Release (MFR) Techniques are various techniques that help release muscle tension and trigger points (taught bands of muscle) and are great to include after activity. Common MFR Techniques include foam rolling, massage gun, or trigger point release with a ball or your thumbs.
**Another Hot Tip**
Check out the ‘The Training for Trekking Podcast’ for more awesome hiking tips. Episode 190 has some great mobility tips for hikers:
If you are planning on hiking this summer, give these Warm-Up and Recovery Tips a try. With consistent practice you will hopefully experience reduced muscle and joint pain during hiking season. Like always, everyone is different and you may have more specific areas of concern, so if you want to learn more or need a more tailored approach, book an assessment with one of our physiotherapists today!