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Most of us are desk jockeys by day, which increases our risk of injury on weekend hikes. Sitting in a chair with knees bent shortens the hip flexors; tight hip flexors rotate the pelvis forward, causing back and hip problems and knee pain. Follow this training plan from James Fisher, a certified personal trainer who designs programs for adventure athletes, for an early-season tune-up. Start at least four weeks before your next big trip.
1) Release tension: Lie face down with a foam roller (or water bottle) a couple inches above your knee; roll slowly to the top of the quad, looking for tender spots. Hold for 30 seconds. Do this up to twice daily.
2) Stretch: Kneel in a lunge position, with your front knee bent at 90 degrees and rear knee on the ground. With your hips squared and upper body straight, tighten your belly and the glute of the back leg to keep the pelvis neutral. Slowly ease your front knee forward. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Do this and the next two exercises three times a week.
3)Strengthen: Practice bridge pose to work hamstrings, glutes, and lower back: Lie on your back with knees bent, arms by your sides, and feet flat on the ground pointing straight ahead, shoulder width apart. Raise your hips off the floor until the knees, hips, and shoulders are in line, hold for two seconds, and lower. Start with three sets of 12.
4) Balance: Single-leg balance exercises work joint stabilizer muscles. Stand with feet together, hands on your hips. Raise one foot and reach up to 18 inches forward, knee slightly bent. Hold one to two seconds and bring the leg back. Do two sets of six reps on each side.