Over the past year with traveling coming to a halt, an increasing number of people are hitting the trails to get a hike in. While the views and getting that Instagram worthy picture make it worth the climb, it’s important to be sufficiently prepared to stay safe and injury free.
1. Improve ankle strength and balance
Trails can often be unpredictable due to uneven and slippery surfaces, making ankle sprains hard to avoid at times. Therefore, it is important to wear appropriate shoes with good traction and support. There are different levels of ankle injuries; with mild rolling of the ankle it is possible to “walk it off”. However, rehabilitating a more serious sprain is an absolute must to prevent chronic instability or stiffness that can come with ignoring it. Strengthening the ankle with calf raises and improving balance with single leg stands are some exercises that can prepare the ankle for a hike.
2. Use hiking poles
Knee pain is common in hiking simply because of the loading the joint has to endure. This pain is typically increased when going downhill due to a greater amount of stress (nearly 8 times your body weight) placed on the knees. Hiking poles are beneficial to better distribute the weight of every step, but don’t underestimate strengthening the muscles that stabilize the knee joint such as your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles. Improving neuromuscular control is also key in stabilizing your knee in different movement planes.
3. Wear proper footwear
During a hike, your feet absorb the impact of each step, making good foot care essential to maximize performance. Your risk of injury can be increased if you have flat feet, high arches, stiffness or reduced movement over your big toe and ankle, and use worn out footwear. Wearing proper shoes that fit well and investing in insoles with sufficient cushion will help your foot arch stay supported when you go for longer distances. Stretching your calves and including exercises that work your toes are great ways to promote foot and ankle mobility.
4. Hydrate adequately
One of the worst things that could happen is to experience leg cramps midway through a hike with no exit in sight. Muscle cramps occur due to a few main factors: fatigued muscles, dehydration, or electrolyte imbalance. Research has also shown that exercise performance is impaired when you are dehydrated by as little as 2% of your body weight.
With that being said, improving endurance in leg muscles, staying hydrated throughout the journey, having salt tablets on hand and doing some light stretching before a big hike are ways to prevent your legs from cramping.
5. Have temperature awareness
With summer around the corner, be mindful when exploring trails that have barely any covering. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include excessive sweating and pale clammy skin, fatigue, nausea and dizziness. Individuals experiencing this should rest in a shaded area and re-hydrate immediately. It is thus important to plan your hiking route and prepare sufficient water for the journey.
If you are experiencing any issues whilst hiking, or are unsure of whether you can get back to it after an injury, our experienced physiotherapists at PhysioCentral would love to help you feel great again and get you back to doing what you love. You can book an appointment online or call us on +852 2522 6972.
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