I've put together a video of exercises that I do before I head out on a hike. Most people are aware of the importance of stretching after activity and I don't disagree. Let me explain to you why stretching before might be even more productive.
You've hopefully heard me talk about movement patterns. Poor movement patterns or joint misalignments cause certain muscles to work more than necessary and other muscles to not work enough. If I head out on the trail and walk in the vicinity of 12,000 to 24,000 steps (I know this thanks to the Apple Health App), then the muscles that already work too much on a regular day will get really cranky with the extra few thousand steps.
I can help my body to find more symmetry by doing a few targeted stretches and fascial release exercises. Then with each of the thousands of steps I take, I'm helping the correct muscles work. The result? I end up with less soreness at the end of the day. (The best part is that I can do the same thing again the next day without needing to rest.)
Quick note: this is not THE ultimate hiking preparation. This is what MY body needs. I know my patterns. I hope you know yours. If you do, please adapt your routine accordingly.
- Roll Out gluts on the foam roller: I usually start on a firm roller. If it’s bearable and I think I can stand more pressure, then I’ll switch to the Rollga or a massage ball to get deeper. I include the outer hip area (gluteus medius) that’s very often tight in my body.
- Calf squeeze with half roller
- Calf stretch with half roller
- Supine twist to "crack" my back
- Thigh Stretch with foot up the couch
- Standing knee bend (calf stretch), first both then each individually
Related: Pilates For Hiking
How long do I roll out each area or hold each stretch? It depends on what I'm feeling in the moment. Most of the time I spend between 15-30 minutes depending on how much I feel I need the preparation or how eager I am to get outside.
Now, if you're thinking "But, Mara, hiking season is over! It's getting cold."
Well, to this I can only say "No way! Winter hiking is the best!" Here's why!