Getting to Work Out in the Field: Stretching On Trail with Kat Englishman
When it comes to stretching, repetition is a really, really, good thing. I don’t think that most people need to be convinced that just doing something once will bring change or noticeable results. I’m not posture-shaming here, but much like the forward carriage of our head, neck, and shoulders when we’re on a computer or phone, what we do often matters—in fact, our most frequent movements are the ones that shape our postural habits and influence our musculoskeletal systems. Stretching and strengthening those muscles off the trail with something like yoga (great idea, if I do say so myself) or another type of workout is great, but I encourage you not to stop there. Take it with you on the trail as well, where you can really feel the effects, and hopefully some relief when things start to get a little gripped.
Funnily enough, it just so happens there’s a lot of repetition in hiking too. You might be familiar with it: step, after step, after step, after step...after step. Uphill and then back down again. Maybe if you’re lucky, a little scramble will spice things up, but overall, it’s highly likely you will be doing a lot of the same thing. This is a great opportunity to break up the monotonous movement with something more dynamic, like a yoga pose! Didn’t see that one coming, eh?
You can pepper in some stretching before, during, and after your hike to encourage healthy circulation and open up your hard-working muscles and tissues. In the video below, I’ve recorded a sequence that will provide some relief to tired legs, hips, and lower back so you can enjoy that endlessly satisfying feeling of a good stretch. While injuries and pain are far more complicated than telling you to “just stretch!” and secondly, because I’m not a doctor (small detail), it’s not off base to say that stretching can help avoid further injury as long as you don’t stretch in a way that hurts.
Here are a few more tips to help you get the most out of stretching on the trail:
- Hold a stretch for anywhere from 15 to 30-60 seconds for a nice release. I like to time myself for three full rounds of breath to get 30 seconds and five full rounds of breath for about a minute. Try it out and see what works best for you!
- Notice, but don’t judge the differences from side to side. We aren’t perfectly symmetrical, so stretching each side will give us a different experience, and that’s ok. Observe and drop the critique; it’s all good.
- You don’t have to stretch before you hike. For some of us, stretching while cold doesn’t do the trick. For others, it does feel good. That might change depending on the day, so just let it happen. A few deep breaths and shoulder rolls can be a nice way to reenergize the system, too. One thing is certain that if you’re going for performance, there’s no evidence to suggest stretching beforehand is helpful, so take that into consideration depending on your objective.
Katherine Englishman is a writer and yoga teacher based in the beautiful state of Maine. You can find her outside skiing, hiking, biking, or teaching yoga and meditation for the modern yoga student at Waypoints Yoga