Hiking. Great for strength, fitness and overall feeling-good-ness. I love nothing more than a good stomp around a wood, up a mountain, or along a Cornish coastal path. Newquay has some lush walks, FYI.
Studies by Dutch researchers in 2009 found a lower incidence of depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and migraines in people who lived within about a half mile of green space.
Just ten minutes outside in the nature can be beneficial to our mental health, not to mention the benefits to our cardiovascular system. Even Time Magazine loves a spot of hiking!
However, anyone who’s been at the end of a day-long trek can empathise with stiff calves, shoulders, hips and lower back, and the last thing you want to do is a time-consuming set of stretches (first stop for me is usually a pub for a pint and a carb-fuelled dinner.)
But just a few movements can make a massive difference, and getting into a simple routine to do before you have taken off your walking boots can be the difference between being stiff as a board, and having a happy, supple body that does not creak when you bend down to pick up your backpack.
This little sequence is for after hiking, to stretch and cool the body down. If you want a nice warm up for your walk/hike/run (or anything, really!) then a few rounds of dynamic sun salutations are a great cardio and full body warm up.
The Hiking Sequence In GIF! (Scroll Down For Breakdown Of Postures)
- Place hands on lower back with fingers pointing up or down (depending on your wrists!) to support you.
- With soft knees, slowly start to lift chest up and back, squeezing shoulder blades together – if it feels nice, feel free to draw your head back too.
- If you have anything going on with your neck, keep chin tucked to chest, looking straight ahead.
- When you bend backwards, keep the front of the core engaged to support the lumbar spine – so squeeze the pelvic floor muscles and draw bellybutton in and up.
- Either stay with the hands on the back, or draw arms up towards your ears, ensuring not to compress lower back.
- Take right foot forward, and left knee down for a long lunge – the further apart they are, the stronger the stretch.
- Lift chest up and back, squeezing shoulder blades together, lift arms above head.
- If you would like to backbend, draw arms backwards, then draw ears back to meet arms (optional.)
- Feet are hip-width apart, with toes spread and facing front. Hands shoulder width, fingers spread, middle finger facing the front.
- Keep knees soft, or even completely bent if hamstrings and calves feel tight (especially after all that hiking!)
- Lift hips high, and press chest towards thighs. Feel that lovely stretch across back and shoulders!
- Chin tucks to chest, shoulders draw away from ears.
- Take feet hip-width apart and bend knees enough to bring chest onto thighs.
- Interlock fingers behind back, and see if you can bring heels of hands together to increase the stretch.
- Slowly lift hands up and away from lower back, and allow head to draw down further as you fold forward.
- If you would like more of a hamstring stretch, slowly straighten legs without locking knees. Place the weight a little forward into the toes.
- Keep drawing hands away from lower back to strengthen the stretch across the shoulders. Aahhhhhhhhh
- Place soles of feet together and make a diamond shape with your legs. The closer the feet are to the body, the stronger the stretch on groin and hips.
- Take arms to the sides at shoulder height.
- Take legs straight out in front, feet either together of hip-width.
- Fold over legs, releasing the spine forwards and rounding the back.
- Tuck chin to chest, rest hands either on shins or the floor.
- If hamstrings are tight, bend knees
- For full Pigeon, start in Downward Dog, bend right leg and move knee behind right wrist, taking right foot towards left wrist (don’t worry if it’s nowhere near!)
- Place left knee and foot on the floor, walk them backwards until hips face the front.
- Fold forward, stretch arms to the front.
- If full Pigeon feels a little strong, lie on back with knees bent and draw right ankle onto left knee.
- Grab hold of left thigh or shin and apply pressure.
And if you need a little pick me up before, during or after your lovely hike, try making these simple energy balls!
Where are your favourite places to go hiking? Mine is here ⇓ (The Scottish Highlands!)