Winter sports are wrapping up, which means we will have access and opportunity to once again enjoy those higher elevation hikes here in Beautiful BC.
No matter how active you were over the winter, you’ll want to moderate how you get back into your summer activities. These are relatively new conditions and stimuli for our bodies to adapt to and the few months leading up to hiking season can be a key opportunity to prepare your body for the new stresses ahead.
Here’s my top three tips:
1. Warming up:
Consider doing some ‘warm-up’ hikes, before doing that 3 day backcountry camping trip.
Your body needs to adapt to specific demands because it means you will be more prepared to tackle whatever is on that bucket list. Good news for snowshoers! This sport simulates the stresses of hiking more than any other.
The best protocol is generally bringing the heart rate up gradually, doing movements that are specific to your activity, as this means those muscles are getting proper circulation and neural connection.
Leave the static (longer held) stretching for after your hike or during breaks on the hike, but include some dynamic stretching in your warm up, especially if you have been in the car driving for a few hours before starting your hike.
Three examples of dynamic stretches that target some of the larger muscles and joints you will be working during hiking are:
- Leg swings
- Deep squats
- Walking lunges with a side bend
2. What about strength?
“Hiking is an endurance activity, so lifting weights won’t help me perform better, right?”
This is not true.
As with any activity, hiking is not purely aerobic. Having a greater anaerobic capacity (ability to work at higher intensity, for shorter periods of time), can bring down the relative effort. This means you won’t fatigue as quickly, which means you’re less likely to injure yourself. Additionally, having strong muscles in your hips and core provide the foundation that you need to support the muscles in your legs that you use during the longer hikes.
As many hikes involve longer descents at the end (and this is where most people injure themselves), eccentric training (strengthening the muscles as they lengthen) can be an important element in a hiking prep program. The effects of eccentric strengthening have been proven extensively to reduce risk for injury by upwards of 50% (1).
Most of your strengthening should happen during the few months leading up to your season (that means now!) . . . but we all have very different goals, expectations and fitness levels.
Having a small set of exercises that target the foundational muscles that you will need to rely on during your longer hikes is key. Seeing a skilled kinesiologist or physiotherapist can be an ideal way to identify your goals and weaknesses and develop a program to target these.
Our team at Alaia would love to help you out with this, book an appointment with one of our kinesiologists or physiotherapists here.
3. What about mobility?
“Do I need to stretch to avoid getting injured?”
Well it depends . . .
Lack of flexibility and active range of motion (mobility) are known risk factors for sustaining muscle/tendon injuries, (De la Motte, et al. 2019).
There are many ways to improve your flexibility and mobility. A robust strategy would involve some combination of exercise and massage for regular upkeep.
For hiking specifically, stretches for the hip flexors, quadriceps (muscles at the front of your thighs) and calf muscles are ideal.
A 60-minute massage treatment is an efficient way of increasing the mobility of your soft-tissues, but you should also have strategies and tools to use throughout your days to address tightness that develop from activities such as sitting or driving long periods.
Our registered massage therapists can provide you with a few stretches at the end of your massage session to help maintain the flexibility of your hips and legs.
The mountains are calling – enjoy!
Arbind Bhangu, Registered Massage Therapist & Kinesiologist
1. De la Motte, Sarah J. ATC1; Lisman, Peter ATC1,2; Gribbin, Timothy C. ATC1; Murphy, Kaitlin MS1; Deuster, Patricia A. PhD, MPH1 Systematic Review of the Association Between Physical Fitness and Musculoskeletal Injury Risk: Part 3—Flexibility, Power, Speed, Balance, and Agility, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: June 2019 – Volume 33 – Issue 6 – p 1723-1735
2. Van der Horst N, Smits D-W, Petersen J, Goedhart EA, Backx FJG. The Preventive Effect of the Nordic Hamstring Exercise on Hamstring Injuries in Amateur Soccer Players: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2015;43(6):1316-1323. doi:10.1177/0363546515574057