Top 6 MVP Hiking Stretches
Healthy body, Big miles
Snickers, pop-tarts and ramen. These are the things fueling a typical hiker. Other than the fact that I am not bringing deodorant, my friends and family have been surprised most by this aspect of the trail. I cannot live like this. I cannot expect so much of my body and yet be feeding my big days with junk. But it’s not just that! Climbing mountains all day can abuse the body and yet no one feels like staying up to stretch when you could just crawl into your sleeping bag. My chiropractor, physical therapist and doctor said that won’t fly. So this post is about the small choices I have made in order to make my hike healthier! These stretches do not include typical calf/hamstring/quad stretches because I am writing under the assumption that you have already added those into your routine!
(I am adding pictures from my snow shoeing in Boulder on my 24th birthday to spice it up — Enjoy!)
Supplements and Vitamins
I have decided to take supplements on the trail. It’ll be worth their weight. Even though it feels like the dehydrator is always going, there’s no way I can consume the amount of fruits and vegetables I will need to stay strong and healthy. For this reason, I’ve decided to take some superfood capsules to add some nutrients into my diet! (Thanks to my aunt and uncle for supplying the veggie pills!) I am also taking along fish oil because this has worked WONDERS with my knee pain. I wish I would’ve started taking these after my second knee surgery because they have made my workouts so much more enjoyable on my knees. And finally, I am taking an electrolyte replacement. I am still researching the best option for me but I can tell you that my answer is not Gatorade — too much sugar. But I am a fainter so replacing those electrolytes while sweating on the hot trail will be crucial.
Warming up before hiking has not always been very high on my priority list — I definitely learned from my mistakes. But I am always feeling better at the end of the day and recovering quicker when I don’t skip this important 5 minute step. This list isn’t my entire warmup but they are recent adds that have been helpful.
- Ankle rolls – It’s almost stupid how much doing ankle rolls in the morning after crawling out of my tent has helped. All it takes is one shaky rock to make your ankle buckle and then the rest of the day your ankle continues to get weaker and weaker and it takes less and less to make it bend. Ankle rolls can help fire up your ankles and stretch. This is as simple as leaning on a tree, standing on one foot and digging the other foot’s toes into the ground and making clockwise and then counterclockwise circles with your foot.
- Knee warm-up squats – I have bad knees and taking the time to warm up my knees has been helpful in keeping swelling down at the end of the day. I’m not talking about an extra exercise. Just a few to warm up the joints…
- Neck/shoulder rolls – These are basic but are a nice add to the warm up when you’re preparing to wear a pack all day.
Taking the extra 10 minutes it takes to stretch will change your hike experience. Do it.
- IT band stretch – This one is a killer. My physical therapist taught me this one and we have had a love/hate relationship ever since. Your IT band runs from your hip to your shin and is one of the most common injuries during overuse AKA hiking 2,000+ miles. Mine has been tight and out of whack after one of my surgeries. You can stretch out your IT band to stabilize your knee and your hip. I like to stretch my IT band by laying on my back and lifting one leg directly into the air, leaving my other leg straight out on the ground. I then use my bear bag rope and stretch it over the center of my foot in the air and hold the other two ends of the rope so it pulls tightly across my foot. I then let my leg fall across my body towards the ground while keeping a straight leg. If my right leg is in the air, it falls straight across my hip to the left side. You will feel the pull on the outside of your right leg. Then you should repeat on the other side seeing how far towards the ground you can make it.
- Standing on one foot – This was the number one exercise recommended by my chiropractor. I have scoliosis (I know, the medical issues are limitless) and I was nervous about carrying a heavy pack for 6 months. Standing on one foot with your eyes closed and challenging your balance forces your involuntary muscles to activate to keep you upright. Working these muscles will keep your back strong and healthy. Switch feet and challenge yourself to balance longer each time.
- Low back stretch – Yoga with Adrienne (YouTube instructor) has taught me the best way to release my low back. If you stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and do a forward fold as if you’re attempting to touch your toes. You can then cross your arms, allowing them to hang down, while you sway your arms side to side. This will release the tension you’ve built up carrying your house, shelter, clothes, kitchen and bed on your back.
Deciding to eat healthy in 2015 changed my life. At first this just meant chilling out with the amount of french fries I was consuming regularly. It eventually evolved into investigating what and why companies were putting so many additives into my food. Now, I am conscious of the things I put into my body, especially when I am expecting it to get me up mountains. More on this to come….
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