Exploring the West Coast: Stretches for Backpacking and Trekking
Trekking, hiking and backpacking are very popular activities in our corner of the world. It is important to prepare thoroughly for these activities, ensuring that all gear is in working order and that backpacks are still fitted properly.
However, cataloging gear and making an itinerary are not the only preparations one should do leading up to one’s time in the woods. To minimize soreness, it is important to prepare physically with stretches and exercises before any backpack ever reaches your shoulders and also after you take your backpack off.
Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for keeping in top physical shape while backpacking.
For this you will need a small massage ball with nobs. You can find these at most sports stores or pharmacies.
Pectoralis Minor Release
Pectoralis Minor is a small muscle that causes your shoulder blade and subsequently your whole shoulder to tip forward. When backpacking an incline, this muscle helps the body to hold the load of the backpack closer to the mountain.
However, Pec Minor has a tendency to cause pain and discomfort in the shoulder and also may cause changes in shoulder mechanics if left too tight and inflexible.
Find where Clavicle (collar bone) and shoulder meet. Trace your clavicle back towards your midline about 1.5 inches. From this point, move your fingers about 1 inch downward. Place a ball in this spot with your opposite hand and roll in small circles or up and down for 2 minutes.
2) Upper Trapezius Stretch:
Find where the tip of your shoulder is. Trace your whole hand back towards midline about 2.5 inches. Clamp your opposite hand on to this spot. Lean head towards the opposite side of your shoulder that is being stretched. Hold 45 seconds, 4 reps.
NB: Stretch gently only. Too hard of a stretch can cause more pain later.
3) Kneeling Quadriceps and Deep Hip Flexor Stretch:
Our poor Quadriceps are relied on heavily to make an ascent or descent. As most of us don’t have jobs where we are climbing the stairs constantly, our Quadriceps will usually be under prepared for a long hike and protest heavily.
Kneel in a proposal stance with one hip and knee bent to 90 degrees and the other side straight at the hip but bent at the knee. Make sure that the hip that is straight has a slight glute squeeze or “bum tuck”. Contract core. Hold 45 seconds, 4 reps.
To make this more centered around the quadriceps muscle, try to prop the foot of the side that is being stretched on a pillow/sweater.
Remember not to overstretch and that every human is different, so it is always best to get medical clearance or see a Registered Physiotherapist before starting these exercises.
Written by Jeannette Lim