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October 2007

Stretches for Hikers

Recover from high-mileage days with these before-and-after stretches.
Backpacker_Magazine_stretchesPhoto by Woods Wheatcroft

If your prehike routine consists of halfhearted side bends and toe touches, you’re inviting fatigue—and possibly injury. “Static stretching [before you start] may actually impair performance by reducing the elastic energy a muscle can store,” warns Dain LaRoche, an exercise physiologist at Vermon’t Johnson State College. He recommends dynamic stretches to lengthen your muscles prior to a hike, and static exercises to help recover at the end of the day. Try these four to keep key hiking muscles loose.


1. Leg swings

Prepare your hamstrings and quads to propel you forward.


Stand with hips level, gripping a tree at your side for support. Balance on the leg nearest the tree, and lock your other leg.


Swing your locked leg as far forward as is comfortable, then swing it back behind your body. Swing 10 times per leg.

2. Calf stretch

Climb steep trails faster by increasing the flexibility of your calves.


Crouch down so that your knees are in ready-to-sprint position with your fingers and palms resting on the ground.


Lower one heel, locking and extending the leg. Hold the stretch for 1 second. Switch legs. Do 30 reps.

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