Like most Alaskans, the team at Reger Physical Therapy in Anchorage loves hiking and backpacking. Stretching before and after is a highly effective way to prepare your body for physical activity and to and prevent injuries. Below are a few top stretches that can help any backpacker or hiker prepare for a walk in the woods.
Before we get started, a few quick tips:
Steep inclines and uneven terrain put a lot of strain on the muscles of your lower legs. To perform a calf stretch, face a wall, pole, or tree and stand about 1 foot away. Place the ball of one foot up against the wall, keeping the leg straight and the opposite foot on the ground behind you. Slowly lean forward until you feel a stretch in your Achilles tendon and calf. To stretch the deepest muscles in your calf, slightly bend your knee and then lean forward for a stretch.
We're sure you've felt the quads burning on a tough trail! To prepare the muscles on the front of your thigh, stand on one leg while holding a sturdy surface for support. With your other hand, grab the top of the same-side foot. Pull your foot toward your buttocks while pointing your knee toward the ground.
To safely stretch the muscles at the back of your thigh, place one heel up on a low stool or step, with your hands on your hips. Keeping both legs straight, tilt your hips forward (this should feel like you're sticking your butt out). Then, keeping your back straight, slowly hinge forward at the hips until you feel a stretch.
Less of a stretch and more of a dynamic warm-up or cool down, a shoulder shrug is a great way to release tension in your upper traps and neck muscles after backpacking and hiking. To perform, shrug your shoulders up, back, down, and forward. Repeat at least 10 times, then switch directions.
This stretch is a great way to counteract the forward leaning we tend to do while backpacking and hiking. Hold both arms up over your head, palms facing in or fingers interlocked. Holding your abs tight and your arms relatively straight, gently lean back while reaching your hands back. If your neck feels fine, feel free to look up toward your hands. Otherwise, keep your gaze forward.
At Reger, our Anchorage physical therapy team has helped many hikers and backpackers both recover from and prevent injuries. To learn about how we can help you, call us today at (907) 677-9112.