Want to tackle trails for years to come? Focus on mobility—and listen to your body.
You have one body. Just one. You have to make it last. It's time to get proactive about taking care of yourself.
"I know I should stretch, but I don't."
"My PT told me my hip mobility was a problem, but I haven't had time to work on it."
I get it, everyone is busy. Set that aside for a second and think. If your body and physical activities are priorities "BUT" isn't going to cut it. Period. I want to challenge you to decide just how important hiking—or just being pain-free while you are moving—is to you. If you get a nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach just thinking about not being able to hit the trails, then I'm talking to you.
Real talk: Your movement faults aren't going to go away by doing more.
Commit to taking the steps required to keep your body running optimally. You wouldn't forget about your car for five years and then be surprised when it doesn't run anymore. Why are you surprised that your knee is killing you when you haven't taken a close look at your movement quality, stretched, or mobilized in years? The current medical model we work within is very reactive in nature. If you're waiting until you can't take the pain anymore and then seeing someone to help you fix it, that sounds a little off to me. It's time to start thinking proactively about your body.
Act now! Start with stretching. Most hikers don't stretch enough, but it can make a world of difference in your performance and recovery. If you're looking for hiker-specific stretches, try leg swings and calf stretches before you head into the backcountry and table and hero poses when you get to camp. Focus on your quads, hips, and inner thighs to feel strong and work out kinks after an especially long day. It's also worth adding yoga into your regular routine to help make stretching a priority.
Next, it's time to analyze your current workout plan. So many athletes go to the gym and load up heavy weights or hike for hours and hours. I get it, we all want to be challenged. Real talk: Your movement faults aren't going to go away by doing more. Higher load, more reps, and longer distances on the trails are making your movement faults worse. Instead of simply increasing what you're already doing, analyze what's giving you trouble, and cater your workout and hiking plans accordingly. Stiff back, especially after a day of hiking? Four simple exercises can increase your mobilization dramatically. Foot or ankle pain? It may be time to invest in a new pair of hiking boots.
Own your movements and health.
By engraining healthier habits now, you are helping make hiking easier on your body down the road. Fundamentals are critical. In education, business, music, and everything we do, we master the fundamentals first. Hiking movement is no different. When you add load, frequency, and intensity on top of movement dysfunction, you are building a pyramid upside down. It's only a matter of time before it topples.
Instead, commit. Stretch and increase your mobility. Address current issues with your movement and gear. The sooner you change these imperfections, the healthier you'll be on the trails. Own your movements and health.
This article originally appeared on Revo PT & Sports Performance.