Long-held stretches for deep myofascial release
Help to prevent post trekking DOMS
The other day when on holiday in Northern Spain I climbed the iconic mountain looking over Bilbao, Pagassari. Now being a yoga instructor and outdoor adventure addict, I shot up and down the mountain with relative ease in what amounted to a very enjoyable 4-hour trek. The problems started the next day when I woke up with extremely stiff calves and what felt like the onset of shin splints that left me walking like a robot for the whole day. Oh how I wish I’d done my stretches for post trekking!
So kicking myself for swerving my post-trek stretch out in place of biscuit eating on the sofa – I should know better in my line of work! – I proceeded to spend the next couple of days working with some deep stretches borrowed from Yin yoga, to release all of the stiffness in my legs. I hope these deep stretches for post trekking will help the same thing from happening to you.
Yin yoga for deep stretching after trekking
Yin yoga is particularly beneficial for supporting Athletic activities such as trekking and cross country running. The long hold time of the poses targets mainly the lower body and works into both the muscles and the web of connective tissue running throughout your body known as fascia.
Through gently stimulating this human architecture known as the fascial matrix, you can encourage hydration of the joints, reduce inflammation and relieve chains of muscle tension. By allowing your myofascial network to remain hydrated and mobile, you can prevent contraindicative movement patterns from forming as a result of stiffness in your muscles and tissues. Essentially 20-30 minutes practising the yoga poses below would have saved me days worth of stiffness, and let’s face it, quite a silly walking style!
How to approach the deep stretches post trekking
For as deep a release as possible, try to hold each pose in relative stillness for 3-6 minutes. This is except for the ankle and toe stretch, which can be very intense for some people and may only need a minute or so in the stretch. Using a timer helps you to focus on your breath, not on clock-watching, whilst trying to fall deeper into the pose. Working with stiff fascia and deeply relaxing into the major muscles takes time. So surrender completely to the poses and enjoy the wind down after all the hard work of your day’s trekking. Using props like cushions and blankets to support your joints will help to make this a more relaxing experience. As will closing your eyes and revisiting some of the beautiful scenery that you’ve seen that day.
For more stretches for body maintenance whilst trekking see Stretches for Hiking
Great for stretching out the hamstrings, releasing the whole back body and rejuvenating the spinal nerves. Being in an inversion slows your heart rate down, bringing you into your parasympathetic nervous system, known as your rest and digest system. The light compression on your abdominal and internal organs in this pose is wonderfully therapeutic for your digestive system.
Hinge forward at the hips with softly bent knees and gently lengthen through the spine, allowing the crown of your head to fall towards the ground. Once you’re down, grab opposite elbows and make sure that your weight is centralised between your heels and toes. Use your exhalations to release further into the forward fold.
Fantastic for opening up your toes and feet after being crammed into walking boots. This pose will also release tight plantar fascia on the soles of your feet. You may need to bring you hands to blocks either side of you, or place a blanket under your knees and sit up if it’s getting too intense on your toe joints or the knees themselves.
From kneeling tuck your toes under and come to sit back on your heels. To help distract you from the intensity of the stretch in your feet, cross your arms and hold onto opposite shoulders. This will stretch out between the shoulder blades after having lugged a backpack about all day.
This pose not only opens up and stretches out the ankles and shins, but is also a counterpose for the Toe squat before.
Start by sitting back on your heels and then lean back onto your hands, which are placed just behind you. If you can elevate the knees off the ground feeling a deep stretch along the front of your foot and shin. Your hands can be either side of you on the floor, on blocks, or placed on your thighs.
Myofascial release with a tennis ball
You can further release your plantar fascia by rolling a tennis ball about the sole of your foot for a few minutes. You’ll also be stimulating all of the meridian lines that start and finish in the foot, giving yourself a dose of revitalising post-trek reflexology.
This pose relieves tired legs and helps to stretch out tight quads and hip flexors. Some people may find this stretch for post trekking too intense on their knees due to tightness in the above muscles. Half saddle is a more accessible option whereby you keep one leg extended and the other knee bent, working on a leg at a time. Leaning back on your hands or elbows as opposed to releasing down towards the floor might be enough for you if you have very tight quads.
Sit back on your heels, with your feet either side of your hips or underneath you. Bringing your hands behind you and lean back, trying to lower down onto your elbows first of all. if you’re happy here try releasing your back down onto some stacked cushions, or completely onto the floor. Come up as you came in and then stretch your legs out in front of you after, maybe even coming into a light forward fold as a counterpose.
Legs up a wall
One of the best ways to treat shin splints and to ease tired legs is by inverting them. This restorative yoga pose inverts the blood flow in your body bringing an increased flow to all of your main internal organs. It also gives your lower lymphatic system a flush through, helping to reduce swollen ankles and knees.
Start with one hip stuck to the wall and then swing your legs up the wall coming to lie on your back. If you can raise your buttocks a bit with a couple of cushions then do. This will make your heart the lowest part of your body giving it a much-earned rest after all the day’s exertion. Your palms can be either side of you, relaxed overhead, or placed on your abdomen to connect with the gentle flow of your breath.