Before you head out on a hiking trip, take the time to perform a few stretching exercises. Stretching before your hike (as well as after) grants you a greater range of motion and flexibility, and it also lessens the amount of soreness you experience after a hike. Hiking stretches are key to safely navigating trails and can even help to prevent injury. Utilize the following stretching exercises in your hiking routine to ensure a safe and happy hike.
Best Stretches before Hiking
Calf stretch: Find a tree (or wall), and step back with your right foot. Point your toes toward the tree, and place your hands on the trunk. Bend your left leg forward, and hold for about 30 seconds. Switch legs, and continue holding the position for another 30 seconds.
Standing quad stretch: Keep your feet hip width apart, and stand up straight. Raise your right leg back, bring your heel up, and grab your right foot in your right hand. Your thighs should be lined up next to each other in this position, and your left leg should still be straight. After holding for about 30 seconds, stop and repeat with your left leg.
Backroads Pro Tip
The standing quad stretch is a great way to cultivate balance, but if you need added stability (especially if you’re new to the stretch), use a tree to help you balance.
Shoulder rolls: Standing up straight but relaxed, place your feet shoulder width apart. Begin rotating your shoulders forward in big circles. Do this for about 15 seconds, and then repeat the movement backward for another 15 seconds.
Hamstring stretch: While standing, bend your left leg slightly, and extend your right leg out in front of you. (Make sure it’s straight.) Tilt your hips forward until you feel the stretch in your extended leg. Hold for about 20 seconds, and then repeat with the other leg. You can keep your hands on top of your extended leg or on your hips during this pose.
Wrist stretch: Extend your right arm forward with your palm down. With your left hand, pull your right hand down toward your body, keeping your arm straight. Hold this position for a few seconds, and then take your left hand and pull your hand upward toward your body for a few seconds. Switch hands, and repeat the same motions.
Backroads Pro Tip
The wrist stretch is especially useful if you’re planning on using a walking stick while hiking.
Best Stretches after Hiking
Standing saddle stretch: Stand with your legs spread far apart and with your toes pointed forward. From there, turn slightly so you’re in line with your right leg, and begin bending. Use your hands to pull yourself toward your right calf. (You should only feel slight discomfort while pulling yourself closer.) Repeat the same movement on your left leg. Next, face forward, and grab onto both calves, or try to place your hands on the ground as you hinge forward.
Runner’s lunge: This classic yoga pose is great after a long hiking session. Start in a push-up position, and bring your right foot up so it’s next to your right hand. Hold this position for at least 15 seconds. (You can bring yourself forward to deepen the stretch.) Bring your right foot back, and repeat the motion with your left foot. If this stretch is difficult for you, try bringing your knee to the ground for added stability.
Rag doll pose: This is another classic yoga pose that’s great after hiking. While standing, bend your knees slightly, and hinge forward from your hips. Cross your arms, and grab your opposite elbows. You can bend your knees as much as you like and sway side-to-side for an extra stretch. To do so, shift the weight from one foot to the other. Stay in this position for about 20 seconds before releasing.
Ankle stretches: These feel great after a long day of hiking. While sitting, extend your legs out. Move your foot up and down 10 times. (You should not feel any pain.) From there, begin making circles clockwise and then counterclockwise with your feet and ankles. Do this another 10 times.