Now that the colors are starting to change with the fall season, it is perfect weather to go on a hike! First things first, ensure you have a good warm up. We will go over four quick and easy exercises to get you started before your hike. We will also talk about some gear that will make your hike a lot easier.
Your quads will be one of the most used muscles on this hike. It is good to get a dynamic warm-up of these muscles in different ranges of motion. You do not have to do a ton! This will also get your heart rate up and circulate your blood to your muscles!
Walking up inclines challenges your ankle range of motion – specifically your calves! Make sure to get a good stretch in before you start hiking!
Dynamic Achilles Warm Up
The achilles gets stressed significantly walking up inclines, while pushing off your toes, and when stepping down and landing on toes first. This exercise will load the tendon to warm it up as well as provide a stretch at the same time.
Standing Hip Abduction
This exercise is good to “turn your glutes on”. The glutes are a dynamic stabilizer of your hips, knees, and ankles. When these muscles are active, they stop your knee from falling inwards – this can cause knee pain or ankle pain. The more your glutes are working, the less stress that goes into your hip and knee joints.
Having the appropriate gear can make your hike a lot easier! Below are four important things I think everyone should have on their hike:
- Hydration Backpack
It is extremely important to stay hydrated on your hike. Water helps regulate/maintain your body temperature, transports nutrients, and lubricates joints. It can also help prevent muscle fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, and other serious complications. Water will help you perform at your highest level! These packs carry enough water for any hike and allow some room for storage while keeping you hands free! Another benefit of these packs is that some have straps across the chest and stomach. These straps add additional support and help to prevent neck, upper back, and low back pain!
- Hiking Boots
Hiking boots provide more comfort and support than normal tennis shoes. Most hiking paths are ungroomed and have roots and rocks throughout. This, unfortunately, is a prime environment to roll an ankle or twist your knee. The last thing you want to do is get injured in the middle of a hike. If you have a history of foot and/or ankle pain hiking boots will provide the additional support you need. Many paths slant inwards from people walking the middle and cause the foot to pronate (flatten inwards). Some people like to slide an over the counter orthotic in their boots if they do not have enough support. Keeping the ankle supported and in a neutral position will also keep the knees and hips in a better position too! The above linked boots are an example of hiknigs boots that have qualities I look for.
Laying your clothes is a must and oftentimes the hardest thing to master. If you start early it is often cold because the sun hasn’t risen yet; however, once you start hiking and the sun comes up and you are working hard climbing a hill/mountain, you start sweating. If you have the option to take a layer or two off it helps prevent excessive sweating and dehydration. If you are doing a hike with a lot of elevation, it gets very windy and cold at the top and that sweat can also freeze and make you very cold! I have found that a lightweight breathable windbreaker is a must! If you keep the wind out, you do not need as many layers on. You should be able to tuck the layer you remove off into your hydration pack!
- Camera with Selfie Stick
You will need this to take amazing photos of your hike! Tag us @orthorehab_pt we would love to see your amazing views plus everyone staying active and healthy this fall! The selfie stick is even more important during a national pandemic when you are trying to socially distance!
Physical Therapy Tips:
- When descending the hike, make sure you are slow and controlled. People are often tired from the way up and let gravity and momentum take them quickly down the hill. When you do this, you rely on passive structures – joints, ligaments, and tendons to take stress vs absorbing the force in the muscles.
- Make sure when you are climbing and descending hills and/or steps that you keep your knees aligned with your toes. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but make your best effort as this can help reduce hip, knee, and/or ankle pain.
Please let me know if you have any hiking related questions! Again, we would love to see you hiking! Don’t hesitate to tag our instagram @orthorehab_pt.