Exercises and Tips to Keep you on the Trail
Do you have difficulty with muscle recovery after a long hike?
Do you have a tendency to get shin splints, knee pain or hip pain after hiking?
Is your body limiting you from meeting your hiking goals this year?
Are you gearing up for hiking season and want to know how to prep your body NOW so that you won’t be sidelined with a nagging injury this season?
Let’s get you out there safe and energized
before and after every hike!
Like you, I really enjoy the outdoors and find that hiking can take me to some really incredible places. I believe time spent on a trail allows me to appreciate nature, clear my mind, explore, and many times enjoy really great conversation with my hiking partner. In order to stay fit to be able to get out there, it’s really important to take care of my body appropriately.
Below, you will find my top tips to prepare for a hike, enjoy the hike, prevent overuse injury, and to recover afterwards so you can bounce back!
BONUS: Download Balanced by Katie’s Physical Therapy Guide to injury free hiking. Guide includes pictures of 3 stretches and 4 strength exercises with detailed instructions. Save to your mobile device and take it to the trail to make sure to get in your stretches!
TOP TIPS TO TAKE CARE OF
YOUR BODY FOR HIKING
Start at a Slower Pace
Start at a slower pace + let your body warm up. If you are getting out early in the morning it’s likely temperatures are low and your joints and muscles need time to warm up before going at it. It also could be likely that you drove more than 1 hour to the trailhead. What this means is that you were in a position that puts maximum compression on your spine for a long time. Once you get out of the car and upright, the muscles of your trunk and legs need time, again, TO WARM UP. Start SLOWER to avoid injury. Pacing is the name of the game :)
Alternate the Leading Leg Going Up
Alternate the leading leg going up and down steep inclines, boulders, or steps. If you take time to assess this you will see that you have a dominant leg that likes to take the lead. For me, it’s my left - it’s stronger and more stable. The problem with this is that that left leg doing all the work will wear out and give me problems sooner. If I start getting left knee pain, each step with be painful and it will be a rough trip back to the car. SO ALTERNATE the leg that leads to keep the loads through the legs BALANCED.
Adjust your Stride for the Downhill
Shorten your stride and lean back on moderate to severe downhills. Going DOWN puts a lot of eccentric load on your quads and shins causing you can easily guess it - pain under your knee and those nasty shin splits. *Also as a generalized note the downhills are tougher on your muscles than the uphills. I know, counterintuitive, but it takes more effort for muscle tissue to control your repeated possible fall than push you up the hill. By leaning back a little you are putting your weight to the back of your body taking it off the front (where the quads and shins live). Try IT OUT!
Train for moderate to difficult hikes with squats, lateral lunges, reverse lunges, and stair workouts. Here’s the scenario: Your buddy texts asking if you want to head out to the mountains Saturday morning for a 8 mile day hike. You have been running a little bit here and there, you went to a yoga class last week with your girlfriend, and you’ve been out surfing a bunch this summer with the warm weather. AWESOME! I know you are sporty superman. But guess what? Those activities have not specifically trained you for a “difficult rated” 8 mile hike, meaning you are at risk for injury. Instead of surfing all week, get your butt on the stairs, at your gym or outside your home and start loading those legs. Click here to download a guide to my top picks for exercises that you can do to train your muscles for your next big hike or set of hikes.
Stretch after you Hike
If you are reading this, it’s likely you are not 16 anymore and as you get older you muscles don’t just bounce back like they used to. And sorry to be the bearer of bad news but this will only get worse as you continue having birthdays so do yourself a favor and start the habit NOW! The Guide to Injury Free Hiking demonstrates my top simple stretches you can do before you get back in the car to drive home. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds AT LEAST, or even better 5 nice long deep breaths. I PROMISE this will make a BIG difference in how you feel later in the day, tomorrow, and the next day. Also, you can bounce back better for your next athletic event.
Note: This blog is a collaboration between myself a friend and fellow entrepreneur Larissa Bodniowycz. Larissa is an attorney, hiker, and travel writer. I highly recommend you check out her witty and informative blog called sortoflegal.com. She has traveled up the west coast, into Canada, and through Wyoming, Montana, and CO and writes about work on the road, traveling as a solo female, and as you might suspect, hiking.