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Backpacker Magazine – March 2013

Trail-Specific Stretches

Stay fit and healthy with these static and dynamic stretches, and secrets from Yosemite National Park wilderness ranger Mark Fincher.

by: Julie Beer & Editors

Fincher nears mile 12 on a 13-mile Yosemite day (Ken Watson/NPS)
Fincher nears mile 12 on a 13-mile Yosemite day (Ken Watson/NPS)

SLIDESHOW: Dynamic Stretches
Pre-hike, try these five stretches that mimic hiking movements to warm up muscles and reduce your risk of injury.

SLIDESHOW: Static Stretches
Perform these five stretch-and-hold moves for elongating muscles and flushing lactic acid after a hiking workout.

Mark Fincher's Pain-free Hiking Secrets

With a daydream-worthy job as a Yosemite National Park wilderness ranger, it's hard to believe that Mark Fincher has anything to groan about. But anyone whose workweek includes 60 trail miles and 12,000 feet of elevation gain certainly suffers some serious aches and pains. Fincher, 50, knows better than most that properly taking care of muscles reduces post-hike soreness and prevents injuries like sprains and strains. The backcountry patroller puts a premium on stretching before, during, and after his hikes. Stay loose like Fincher does with these trail-specific moves developed by Lynn Millar, professor of physical therapy at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

In the morning
Before hiking, Fincher focuses on his calves.

Stretch Place both hands on a tree at shoulder height. Keep one foot close to the tree and step back two to three feet with the other. Press your hips forward while keeping your back heel on the ground. Do three to five repetitions of 30 seconds each.

On the trail
Fincher warms up by hiking at an easy pace for 10 minutes, then pauses to stretch his hamstrings and hips.

Stretch Place one foot on a two-foot-high boulder or log. Push down with the raised heel and point your toes toward the sky. Lean forward gently from the hips until you feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three to five times for each leg. To stretch hips, use the same position but turn your trunk and opposite hip slightly toward your raised leg.

At camp
Immediately after stopping for the day, Fincher drops his pack and concentrates on his glutes.

Stretch Lie on your back, on top of your sleeping pad. Bend your knee and pull one leg to your chest, holding for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

Tip: Loosen Up
Re-stretch your leg muscles every time you take a break.

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