Updated: Feb 14, 2022
You've probably heard it's good for you to stretch after a hike. You probably know it'll feel good too. BUT you either don't have the time or you don't know what to do... or both!
Well, lucky for you, you don't need a lot of time to do take care of your body post hike. It takes 4 stretches to get through the major muscle groups and soothe sore legs. That means, if you have 10 minutes, you've got the time. 🙌🏽
Stretching the main muscles used in hiking
Every time we walk, we use the muscles in our legs. The main power muscles are the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. The calves are also used to propel us forward, especially when going uphill.
Calf Stretch. Place the ball of your foot on a vertical object like a tree, wall, or tire. Walk towards your foot. Hold and breathe for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat on the other side.
Hamstring Stretch. Place your heel on a fence or bench. Alternatively, you can plant your foot on a vertical object. Make sure your leg is straight with a micro-bend in your knee. Align your hips so that they are at even heights away from the ground and the same distance away from the object in front of you. Hold and breathe for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat on the other side.
Quad Stretch. Catch hold of your right foot behind you. Align your knees with each other. Press from the right hip down towards your right knee. Hold and breathe for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat on the other side.
Figure 4 Stretch. Balance on your left leg. Bring your right ankle across your left knee, making a figure 4 with your legs. Bend your left leg and send your hips back. You can use a wall or other object aid with balance and allow you to bring more focus to your breath and the sensation through the outside of your right hip and glute. Hold and breathe for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat on the other side.
Things to keep in mind during your stretches
Take long, slow breaths. This helps to engage your parasympathetic nervous system, the part of your brain that tells you everything is ok. That way, your muscles aren't tensing up in response to a perceived threat.
Hold the pose. When paired with the nervous system relaxing with the breath technique above, holding the stretch for longer than 30 seconds helps to change the way our brain thinks and increases flexibility.
Cultivate a sense of relaxation and gratitude. As with the previous practices, bringing yourself into a relaxed space helps to change the way our body thinks and reacts toward being in a certain shape.
The gratitude is just icing on the cake. If you want to continue hiking, one of the ways to do that is to enjoy it. Going over all the things you enjoyed during the hike helps you remember how blessed you are and much you like moving outside.
Some things to help you in your yoga poses
Having props, objects that help enhance and support your yoga practice, are not required. However, they are helpful.
Since all the poses I suggested were for standing, having something that provides support is a great option. This is especially true if you've been hiking for a while and your legs are tired. Using something like a chair, wall, or tree; can allow you to balance without fear and rest into the shape of the stretch.
Practice the post hike yoga stretches
In this video, you'll
find out how to do the stretches and use the props mentioned above
know where in the body to feel the stretch and how to bring the sensation there if it's not there already
learn how to intensify the sensation (if you want to)
Post hike recovery
Stretching after a hike is just one of the pieces to post hike recovery. Depending on how long you've been out and how vigorously you've hiked, you also want to replenish your body with nutrients.
Also take into account how long your hike was. If I've been out backpacking, especially overnight, I love giving my body a little extra care by taking an Epsom salt bath or doing some myofascial release the next day. The Epsom salt helps to relax muscles and release lactic acid. The myofascial work helps to release trigger points and enhance circulation.
All this leads to quicker recovery and less time in between your next adventure.
Enhance your post hike experience: get the free guide
Want to have an easy handout to help remember how to care for yourself after the hike?
Get my free After Hiking Guide. In it you'll find:
How to do the stretches mentioned, along with all the modifications. (You can print out just this page and take it with you on the trail.)
Recipes to relax and nourish your body
Prompts to guide reflection