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Stretches To Keep Your Hike Pain-Free

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By Angie Austin, LPTA

There are so many beautiful places to explore around us whether is be within Virginia or elsewhere. From national parks to state parks, to local trails – you don’t have to go far to find a great place to explore. Hiking is one of my favorite ways to do this. Whenever I get out on the trails and am immersed in the natural beauty around me, I immediately find myself in my happy place. I enjoy the challenge of setting a goal and pushing myself to meet that goal! There is nothing better than returning from a hike exhausted and reflecting on what you’ve just accomplished. It gives you that natural high and makes you want to plan your next hike.

Hiking is a wonderful recreational activity that provides significant benefits to the body. It can workout pretty much every muscle in your body and also helps build up your endurance. Even if the hike is only a few miles long, if you’re spending much of it scrambling over rocks or walking up a steady incline, you will feel it! While hiking is challenging, adventurous and a lot of fun, it can be rough on the body. The constant pounding on your joints, particularly your knees, can wear out the joints and cause inflammation. Hiking is no different than any other sport or physical activity – it’s important to take care of your body before and after you do it. Stretching before a hike prepares your joints, muscles and mind. After any kind of intense exercise, particularly if haven’t prepared your body properly, your muscles can shorten and become tight and sore. Whether your hike is a mile or 10 miles long, stretching before you hit the trail will help prevent mild soreness and stiffness from turning into pain and a more serious injury. Stretching will also help keep your hike more enjoyable instead of painful.

Three stretches to do before your next hike:

1. Calf Stretch (Gastrocnemius)

Place you hands on a tree or car with your legs staggered one in front of the other. Keeping your heel down, your knee straight and both feet pointing forward, gently lunge forward into the stretch so you feel the stretch in the back of the calf/knee. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times on each leg.

2. Hamstring Stretch

Place your foot/heel on the bumper of your car or nearby log. Keeping your knee and back straight, hinge forward at your hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh/ knee. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times on each leg.

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3. Quadriceps Stretch: Using a tree or your car for balance, stand tall on one leg and grab the ankle of the opposite leg, bringing the heel towards your butt. You should feel a slight stretch in the front of your thigh. Make sure that the knee in pointed towards the ground. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times on each leg.

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**Some basic tips to remember when stretching.

A stretch should be held for 20-30 secs and repeated 3 times on both sides. Gentle stretching is best! If you are feeling pain, then you are over-stretching and putting yourself at risk for injury. While stretching before a hike is important it is also beneficial to stretch after a hike.

 to download your PDF of these stretches so you have them ready and remember to do them before your next hike.