Stretches for before, during and after hiking
Stretching is an essential tool in any hikers camp kit to better equip you for an enjoyable exploration in beautiful Mother Nature. Skip your stretches when hiking at your peril! As next day muscle stiffness is almost a given. Making sure you look after your walking muscles properly when hiking, will mean more time spent focusing on the fresh air and scenery and less time distracted by annoying niggles and strains.
Likewise, it’s important to include stretches at the three stages of your hike: before, during and after. By spending as little as 10 minutes on these helpful hiking warm-up stretches, you’ll prepare your legs, hips and lower back ready for your outdoor adventure. Whilst out on the hike itself, if you stop to take in the view and some water, then why not do one or two of the recommended stretches for during your hike. This will give your hard-working muscles a little rest bite before getting back on the open road.
And finally, when you get home, don’t forget to take some nice long-held stretches to prevent the onset of next day DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) or shin splints. This is especially important if you’re doing a few days out on pistes and paths consecutively.
Before: Standing forward fold holding opposite elbows
Try to keep a slight bend in your knees in this pose. You can even rest your belly all the way onto your thighs, which will begin to fire your quads up in the process. The straighter your legs the more your hamstrings and calves will feel the stretch.
During: Pyramid pose
With your hips angled in the same direction, lean as far over your front leg as possible, using a tree if you can’t fold down over the front leg due to tight hamstrings.
After: Downward facing dog
Peddle out your legs in Downdog and then find some stillness for a minute or two. Bend your knees slightly to get as much length through the spine before lowering your heels towards the ground.
Before: Chair pose to strengthen, Standing Quad stretch to lengthen
Keep the chest open and lifted whilst squatting down into your chair. Alternatively lean back against a wall with the spine straight and lower down into a squat.
For a quad stretch, bring one foot behind you and direct the knee down to the floor whilst pushing your hips forward. You can use a wall to steady yourself here.
During: Dancers pose with a tree
Stretch into tired quads and hip flexors by raising your leg up behind you and grabbing it with your backhand. Place the other hand on a tree to lean into the stretch.
After: Hero’s pose to relieve tired legs and stretch out the ankles
You can lean back on your hands or elbows, or lower all the way down onto your back resting on some cushions to support the curve in your lower back.If you have sensitive knees be mindful of not going too deep too soon. Allow time to gently drop you deeper.
Before: Runner’s lunge
From kneeling, step one leg forward into a lunge position and then draw your weight back. At the same time bring the toes of the extended leg back towards you. Lower your torso over the extended leg to deepen the stretch in your hamstrings.
During: Wide-legged forward fold
Bring your legs wide apart and hinge at the hips folding forward. This will stretch your adductors in your inner thighs along with the back of the legs. If you want to give your chest and shoulders a bit of light relief from your backpack at the same time, then clasp your hands behind your back and draw your hands up and over your back.
After: Supine Hamstring stretch
With your back body relaxed on the floor, extend your leg and hold it behind the thigh. Point and flex the toes of the extended leg a few times and then roll the ankle. Next, bend your knee and take it across to the other side of your body for a supine spinal twist, turning your head in the opposite direction. This will help release any built-up tension along the spine and outer hips.
Before: Bound angle pose
Externally rotates the hips and starts to open up the groin. Lean into the pose to deepen the stretch in your inner thighs and across your lower back and buttocks. This pose taken as a reclining version is also a nice way to wind down after a vigorous day of exertion.
Not only a great hip opener but also decompresses the sacrum at the end of the spine and strengthens the ankles and shins. Pressing your hands together, use your elbows to push your knees out a little further intensifying the stretch.
After: Pigeon pose/Figure of 4.
Depending on your hip rotation and knee sensitivity you may want to take the less intense version of this hip opener by taking Figure of 4 on your back. This pose targets all the same muscles as Pigeon but without the weight-bearing element from above.
Before: Cobra or Locust for strengthening
Lying on your front, inhale and raise your arms and legs a few inches from the ground and hold for a few breaths. This pose also tones your spine and abdomen.
During: Eagle Pose
This pose is particularly effective at stretching the gluteus medius. You can include the arms in this pose to stretch out across the shoulder blades, or simply hold onto a tree for balance support. Alternatively, take a standing version of figure of 4 pose.
After: Happy Baby
Keep the spine grounded and feel a nice stretch across your buttocks and inner thighs. You can rock side to side in this pose massaging the back of your pelvis. Grab hold of your shins if you can’t reach the outside of your feet and try not to lift your head or your tailbone.
See also 6 Deep stretches for post trekking