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When you set off to go walking or hiking, you might not think about the need to stretch before you go. Many people think that because they aren’t going running there is no need for them to perform stretches. They couldn’t be more wrong. Your main priority before heading out should be to ensure that you correctly stretch your body. As a result, I have put this guide together for walking and hiking stretches, along with the reason they are so important. So if you are planning on heading out into the wilderness, make sure you read up on and practice these stretches.
Why Is It Important?
The main reason you should stretch is because it can help to decrease your chances of becoming injured, but also improves your physical performance during your walk. On top of this, it can also reduce the soreness of your muscles when you come to the end of your walk.
The other important thing to remember is that you should also perform cool down exercises after your walk. Much like when you go running, it is vital that you warm up and cool down. Failure to do so can result in a build-up of acid in your muscles and joints that can cause stiffness and discomfort the following day.
Below, we will take a look at some good warm up and cool down stretches for your next walk or hike.
#1 The Toe Reach
For this warm up you should stand with your feet slightly apart. Bend over at the waist and, with your knees bent at a slight angle, reach down to touch your toes. Hold your position for around 30 seconds, and then slowly return to a standing position. Repeat this two of three times.
#2 Hamstring and Ankle Stretch
For this, you should sit on the edge of a chair or park bench (depending on where you are. Even a tree stump will work). While sitting, have your right leg extended and your right heel on the floor. Flex your right foot while keeping your toes pointed upwards. Now, gently lean forward with your hips to feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Repeat the stretch with your left leg.
#3 Groyne Stretch
Stand with your legs slightly wider than the width of your shoulders and find something to hold on to so that you keep your balance. With the left foot facing forward, point your right foot at a 45-degree angle (to the right), and then lunge in that direction without letting your knees go past your toes. Repeat this stretch on your left side, and then repeat both sides two or three times again.
#4 Calf Stretch
Stand up straight, and put your left leg behind you while keeping your left heel on the floor. Bend your right knee and lean forwards. As you lean, you should feel the muscles in your calf begin to stretch. Repeat this stretch with the right leg, and then repeat both two or three times.
#5 Leg Swings
You will need a chair for this stretch. Hold onto the chair with your left hand for support while standing up straight. While standing to the side of the chair on your left leg, move your right leg to the front, side, and back while tapping your toes at each point. Repeat this with the left leg. You can also repeat this with both sides several times.
#1 The Standing Knee Tuck
Stand with your legs apart (hip width) and squat slightly. Lift your right knee up to your chest and hold it there with both hands. Use the muscles in your left leg and your core to keep yourself stable, and try not to lean backwards. Hold it for 30 to 60-seconds, and the slowly lower your foot back to the ground. Repeat with the left leg, and then repeat with both two or three times.
#2 Threading the Needle
Lie flat on your back for this stretch, and cross your right ankle above your left knee. Lift your leg and then grasp your hamstring with both hands before drawing your left knee towards your chest. While you are holding this stretch, move your ankle in a circular motion in both directions, while pointing and flexing your left foot. Hold the position for 30-seconds and then switch sides.
#3 The Stability Ball
For this particular cool down, you will need an exercise ball (like the large ones found at the gym). Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your hips. Move your pelvis in a circular motion, keeping your backside firmly on the ball and your upper body completely stable. You should complete ten circles before you switch directions, and then you can try a figure eight motion instead.
#4 The Torso Twist
Stand with your feet apart (hip width) for this stretch. Bend at your waist and twist your shoulders so that you are able to touch one of your feet with the opposite hand. Slowly return to your starting position and then repeat the process so that you touch the other foot with the opposite hand. As you repeat this movement, try spreading your feet a little further apart each time.
I put this guide together to highlight the importance of stretching before you set out on a hike or walk, because even though it is not as strenuous as running, it can be just as challenging. The reduced risk of injury, as well as the boost to your performance, make taking some time out to stretch well worth it. Just don’t forget to cool down after your trek as well!
Hopefully, you found this guide useful and will be trying out some (or all) of the stretches we have gone through today. We also love hearing from you, so please feel free to leave us a message with what you thought of the stretches in the comments below.