How to Stretch Before a Hike

How to Stretch Before a Hike
Stretching isn't just for yogis or gymnasts. In fact many people combine simple athletic or yoga stretches with climbing, mountaineering, skiing and backpacking. Stretching before your hike prepares your muscles, joints and mind. It enables you to have a more enjoyable and safer hike. It doesn't matter if you plan on hiking for three hours or three days, stretching before, after and during your time on the trail can help prevent injuries and keep you feeling your best.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Step 1
Stretch your thighs. Use a simple runner's stretch by standing on one foot and bending the other leg at the knee while holding your foot in your hand behind you. Reach your foot all the way up to your rear and count to 15 and then switch to the other side. This also begins to loosen the knees.
Step 2
Stretch your calves. As a hiker, your calves get a substantial portion of the workout. Find a sturdy tree or your car and keeping your body straight like a plank, press your hands against the car or tree with your feet flat on the ground. Step further away from the object you are pressing on, creating a sharper angle between your feet and calves so that your lower calf muscles get more of a stretch.
Step 3
Loosen your ankles by gently rolling them in a circular motion. You may need to take off your hiking boots to do this if your boots have high ankle supports. Hiking on stiff ankles can sometimes encourage a rolled ankle.
Step 4
Stretch your spine. Many hikers will complain of a stiff neck and shoulder area by the end of their hike, especially if they are carrying a pack. Loosen this area before, during and after your hike by finding a solid wall, car or tree to press your hands against as you bend to create an L shape with your body. Plant your feet firmly on the ground and feel your spine extend as you press with your hands and your feet. This standing forward bend will often crack your back once you get the hang of it and will also stretch your hamstrings.
Step 5
Loosen your shoulders and neck area by clasping your hands behind your back and fully expanding your chest and lungs forward away from your hands. Roll your head gently from side to side to relieve any stress which might be there from driving to the trail head.
Step 6
Ease your lower back anytime on the trail by taking off your pack for a few minutes and squatting. Squat comfortably with both feet flat on the ground and keep your back straight. Your shoulders should rest between your knees. This stretches out the lowest parts of your spine and tail bone, which need to decompress after carrying weight all day.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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