As we move towards summer, it’s time to take advantage of all of the beautiful hikes in our backyard. Before heading out to set a new PB on the Grouse Grind or conquer your fear of heights and climb “The Chief”; here are three tips and exercises to keep you injury-free:
1. Wear proper footwear.
Sandals and unsupportive shoes are not meant for hiking. You will be walking on uneven surfaces, over tree roots and on slippery surfaces. Wearing a supportive hiking shoe with good tread and arch support will help you to ward off getting plantar fasciitis or rolling your ankle this hiking season.
More minimal hiking shoes (those with no arch support and minimal cushioning) can be a good option for those who already have strong feet and ankles, but make sure you’ve done the strength preparation needed before transitioning to this option. For the average person, this shoe type may increase the risk of injury if the feet or ankles are not already strong.
Exercise #1 – Big Toe Extension – strengthens the arch of the foot.
Lift your big toe independently from your other toes, while standing or sitting. Hold for 5 counts then slowly lower. Repeat 10 X 2-3 sets.
2. Be Alert of your Surroundings.
Nothing will ruin your day quicker than tripping over a tree root or falling down. Working on your balance and proprioception (ability to know where your joints are in space) before hitting the mountains will increase the likelihood of you being able to “catch yourself” before falling.
Exercise #2. – Single-leg deadlift – Strengthens your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps.
Stand on one foot holding weights in both hands. Keep your core muscles engaged and your hips level as you slowly hinge forward into a T-shape. Hold for 3-5 counts, then slowly return to standing. Repeat 10 X 3 sets.
3. Be Physically Prepared.
Start off with shorter, flat trails before building up to hikes with greater elevation gains or more technical terrain. Don’t be afraid to take breaks when you are starting to fatigue, as when the muscles are getting tired, you are more prone to tripping or losing your balance on the hike. If the Grouse Grind is in your summer plans or another hike that involves steep sections, it’s time to start working on your calf muscle endurance!
Exercise #3 – Eccentric Calf Raises – strengthens the calf muscles.
Standing on the edge of a step, raise your heels up as high as possible. Drop your heels down quickly and catch them before they hit the bottom of the drop, slowly raise back up. Repeat 10 X 3 sets.