3 Musts Before Hiking: Hydration, Nutrition and Dynamic Stretching

I love to hike. It’s not just something I do to challenge my body. More importantly, it’s a way for me to reconnect within. When I’m alone on a mountain, I can hear and feel the flow of my breath that usually gets drowned out by city distractions. When I’m hiking, I become acutely aware of the intricate sounds and sights of my surroundings that I wouldn’t normally pay attention to when looking down at my cellphone. But when hiking, with every footstep, I feel more in touch with my body and my connection to nature.

While the majority of my hiking excursions have been positive, there were a few times when I didn’t adequately prepare my body and consequently suffered through the experience. To name a few side effects: my back and feet hurt, I felt weak and I was parched. It was not only grueling for my body but there was no joy in it whatsoever. I painstakingly counted the minutes until it was over.

As the saying goes, small actions create big change. And this saying holds very much true if you plan to reach new heights.

pre-hike tips

Photo by Manuel Lozano.

So here are 3 tips to help you get to the top of that mountain and increase your likelihood for hiking success:

1. Hydrate 1 to 2 Days Before the Hike

Study after study has proven the negative effects of dehydration on the body. If you start your hike dehydrated, you’re going to drop in energy very quickly. Starting a day or two before your hike, drink at least 8 glasses of water throughout the day and avoid alcohol since it is dehydrating. The morning of your hike, drink a couple large glasses of water before you leave home.

Learn more about hydration basics.

2. Eat Protein-and-Carb Combinations

In the morning before going on your hike, you need to eat foods that will give you energy and power. Eating simple sugars will give you immediate energy but make you crash just as fast. A recipe for success would be complex carbohydrates found in veggies, fruit and whole grains paired with proteins.

Some examples are:

  • Fruit paired with full-fat Greek-style (strained) yogurt
  • Carrots or apples with peanut butter
  • Eggs on whole grain toast

3. Dynamic Stretching

A dynamic stretch is an active stretch that moves muscles through their entire range of motion and is never held at its end position. Dynamic stretching is very important before you go hiking because it improves your range of motion, warms up and lubricates the joints and muscles to prevent potential injury or pain, and prepares your body for all the types of movement it will perform.

Try these 5 dynamic stretches before you go hiking:

Hamstring kicks

hamstring kicks

Standing tall, step your right leg back and then kick it up and forward in front of you. Keep the leg straight. Repeat the kicks for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Switch legs.

This movement stretches the hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

Hip circles

hip circles

Standing tall, lift your right leg, keep the knee bent, and circle the knee in and around as though it’s drawing a large circle. Make sure your knee crosses the body and and really opens up wide. After about 15–30 seconds, switch directions. Switch legs.

This movement opens up the hips and glutes.

Back lunges with psoas reach

back lunge

Standing tall, step your right leg back lowering the knee towards the floor coming into a lunge position. As you do that, reach your arms up and back towards the sky. Drive through the front left heel to return to starting position. Alternate legs for one minute.

This movement opens up the psoas, hip flexors and quads.

Downward dog running

downward dog running

Keeping your legs straight, bend down to the floor and place your hands onto the floor a little wider than shoulder width apart. Your body should look like an upside-down V. Elongate the spine and try to drop your heels as close to the floor as possible, still keeping the legs straight. Now begin to bend your right knee, dropping your left heel even closer to the floor, and then bend your left knee, dropping your right heel to the floor. Continue this for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

This movement stretches the hamstrings, lower back, calves and Achilles.

Heel kicks

heel kicks

Standing tall, place your hands on your hips. With a flexed right heel, kick backward trying to get your heel as close as you can to your glutes. Remember to keep the foot flexed. Alternate for 30 seconds to 1 minute. This movement stretches the quads and hip flexors.

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