Suggested Trail Stretches

With a trail name like mine, I am often approached with questions or asked for advice on the best stretches to do on the trail. I did earn my trail name for being a notorious stretcher. For those that don’t know, my trail name is Stretch! Not only am I very passionate about health and fitness, but I also love educating and explaining it to others. I have my BS in Kinesiology, with an emphasis in Exercise Science.

Flexibility is one of the five components of fitness, so stretching is very important, especially when you are putting your body and muscles through the daily grind of carrying a pack, trekking a variety of terrain, and covering distance. The following stretches are for all fitness levels!

A few key things to keep in mind while stretching:

  • Be aware of specific trouble areas (knees, hips, back, etc.) that may need more focus and extra stretch time
  • Don’t stretch cold muscles – stretch after you’ve been hiking or after a dymanic warmup (lunges, squats, leg swings, jumping jacks, hamstring curls, knee ups, etc.)
  • Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds
  • Stretch 2-4 times a day – I like to stretch every time I stop for a snack break and as soon as I get to camp at the end of the day
  • While holding a stretching pose, you should feel slight discomfort, but not pain – if it feels painful, then ease up
  • Don’t hold your breath while stretching – deep breaths in and long exhales out
  • Have fun – if you aren’t enjoying stretching, then you’ll be less likely to stick to it – try mixing up your stretches, stretch with a partner, or, for the more competitive, start measuring your flexibility progress
  • Find a stretch routine/flow that works best for you – these stretches can be done in any order
  • If you have any contraindications (past injury, history in physical therapy, etc.), then please listen to the advice of your doctor and/or physical therapist over mine

      Okay! Stretches with Stretch…here we go!

      Hamstrings/Back of  Upper Legs

      • Keep legs straight, but try not to lock out your knee joint
      • Reach center as far as you can
      • Focus on releasing and relaxing low back tension as a bonus stretch 

      • Keep legs straight
      • Reach to one side as far as you can
      • Do both sides

      Inner Thighs

      • Reach to one side, while straighting out the leg of the same side
      • Bend opposite knee – the more the bend, the deeper the stretch
      • Use your arm/elbow to help support your weight and to keep pressure off of the knee of the bent leg
      • Do both sides

      • Line feet up and pull them in toward your pelvis as far as you can 
      • Use arms/ elbows to push down on your legs for a further stretch 

      Hip Flexors/Front of Hips

      • Step one leg forward, the other backward – almost as if going into a lunge, except the back leg is slightly further back
      • Drop back knee toward the ground while simultaneously pulling hips forward 
      • Try to keep front leg at a 90° angle
      • Trekking poles aren’t necessary for this stretch, they simply make a good balancing prop – I have also used the front of a shelter, end of a picnic table, a wide tree, etc. as my balancing props
      • Fun Fitness Fact: If you are feeling low back pain, it could be due to tight hip flexors, which can pull the pelvis forward and create pressure on lower back 
      • Do both sides 

      • Same as above, just with an added overhand reach for a deeper stretch
      • Reach the same side arm as the leg that is back
      • Do both sides

      Calves/Back of Lower Legs

      • Prop front of foot up on log, tree, picnic table leg, etc. and push heel of same foot towards the ground 
      • Trekking poles aren’t necessary, simply a balancing prop if needed
      • Do both sides

      • Line hands up underneath shoulders
      • Push heel of foot toward the ground 
      • Do both sides
      • Plank form doesn’t have to be perfect here – this pose is for stretching your calves, not planking as an exercise to stabilize the core

      Quadriceps/Front of Upper Leg

      • Pull foot toward your backside
      • Keep knee pointing straight toward the ground 
      • Keep back straight and chest open 
      • Trekking poles aren’t necessary, but can be helpful for balancing – I also like to find something on the ground to stare at while holding this stretch for an extra balance focus 
      • Do both sides

       Lower Back

      • Hug your knees and upper legs toward your core
      • Focus on relaxing lower back muscles
      • Add a side to side roll for an added stretch – I like to stick my arms/elbows out to the side, so when I roll, I don’t roll too far 😆

      • Square upper back/shoulders flat on the ground 
      • Keep chest open
      • Twist hips and pull leg across
      • Use hand to push hip further for an added stretch 
      • Do both sides 

      IT (Iliotibial) Band

      This ligament starts at the hips and connects at the outside of the knee – ITBS (iliotibial band syndrome) is a very common overuse injury, and can cause pain on the lateral side of the hip and/or lateral side of the knee.

      • Cross leg at a 90° angle over other leg
      • Lace fingers together behind thigh of other leg and use arms to pull leg up
      • Use same side arm/elbow as the leg that is crossed over to push inner thigh out to the side for a deeper stretch
      • This one isn’t as complicated as it sounds, just mimic the picture 😊
      • The bent and crossed leg is the one being stretched 
      • Do both sides

        • Place elbows directly under shoulders
        • Bring leg up and pull knee across front of body
        • Keep back leg moderately straight
        • The pulled up and crossed leg is the leg being stretched 
        • Do both sides

        • Cross leg over the top of opposite thigh
        • “Sit”/lower your hips for a deeper stretch 
        • Use trekking poles, tree truck, etc. for balance 
        • Do both sides 

        • Cross one leg over the other
        • Reach toward the opposite side of the crossed leg
        • Push the leg that is behind the other out to the side with hand for an added stretch
        • Push hip out to the side 
        • Do both sides

          Upper Body – Shoulders, Triceps, & Upper Back

          • Pull arm across front of body
          • Hold in place with other arm
          • Do both sides

          • Bring arm up behind your head
          • Hold in place with other hand
          • Push elbow down slightly for an added stretch 
          • Do both sides

          • Find a tree and give it a big hug 🌳💚
          • Wrap arms around tree and pull back with the rest of your body
          • Allow your shoulder blades to slide outward and focus on releasing upper back tension 

          Photo credits go to my awesome adventure partner and husband, Justin. I hope that you find some or all of these trail stretches helpful! Please comment with any questions, feedback, etc. Enjoy! And as always, Happy trails!

          -Stretch

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