By Tyler Ray, PTA at In Motion O.C.
I like hiking because it is one of those activities that has both physical and mental benefits. Physically, hiking is a great cardiovascular workout as well as a muscular endurance workout. As with any workout, hiking releases endorphins; the feel good chemicals in the body. Mentally, hiking allows me to let my brain turn off from all the stresses of daily life and “center” myself. When I see the pure beauty of nature that surrounds me, it makes me realize that I don’t need to “sweat the small stuff” in life. So whenever I have stress I always try to force myself to do some sort of activity outdoors because I know I will come back feeling good and mentally refreshed.
However, regardless of how wonderful hiking can be, and no matter what fitness level you are, we all need to prepare our bodies to take on nature. Whether on a day hike or on a weekend long trek you will likely have your fair share of experiences with gravel, tree roots, and maybe an occasional cliff or two, so it is crucial to understand the importance of becoming physically prepared for these obstacles. One wrong step can happen and BAM, you have an ankle injury, knee injury, or you’ve fallen 3,000 feet to an untimely death. ☺
Here are a few tips I’d like to share to ensure a successful hiking experience. But first, remember to start every hike with a warm-up and stretches. These two activities will prepare your muscles and joints for a successful day on the trails.
Take five minutes in the parking lot or at the trail-head to perform some light walking to get your body warmed up and to reduce stiffness even more.
After warm up, perform stretches to improve your flexibility and reduce your stiffness even more. Make sure to stretch your Calves, Hip Flexors and Hamstrings.
If you have any pain or injury, you should take care of that first. Or if you’re posture needs significant improvement, it would behoove you to address that first so that you are not making things worse on your hike. If you would like to schedule a free consultation to discuss your injuries or posture, email us at FrontDesk@InMotionOC.com.
If you want to get even more benefit out of hiking, general strengthening and cardio exercises will prepare you to enjoy this experience even more. These activities do not have to necessarily be very strenuous, but just enough to get the heart rate up and the muscles working. Strength training exercises should occur two to three times per week, that includes exercising the gluteals (ok, you’re butt), legs, arms, shoulders, chest and back. For cardio, focus on exercises that target muscles groups in the lower body since they are used the most when hiking. Stair stepping, cycling and running are great options to improve your endurance. If you would like our help in this area, scheduling a free consultation by emailing us at FrontDesk@InMotionOC.com.
Hiking burns lots of calories so it is very important to make sure that you consume proper foods prior to hiking. A diet rich in healthy fats, carbohydrates and proteins give you the fuel you need to get through the hike. Also, bring a small snack and a water bottle during your hike to keep your body fueled and to keep you hydrated. Adopting healthy eating habits and consistently staying hydrated will allow you to have more sustainable energy and keep you moving in the right direction. If you would like to schedule a free Nutrition Consultation, email us at Nutrition@InMotionOC.com.