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.
Before: 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.
Before: 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.
After: Table Pose
Release tension from your hamstrings, shoulders, and upper back.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart about one step from a large tree. Face the trunk and lock your knees.
Bend forward 90 degrees at the waist, grabbing the trunk. Push against it with your hands. Hold 5 breaths.
After: Hero Pose
Lean back to target tight quads and sore lats.
Kneel, knees a foot apart, toes pointed behind you.
Drop your butt to the ground between your heels. Hold 5 breaths.
Advanced With your hands behind you for support, lower your back to the ground.