Make Your Body Your Friend This Hiking Season
by Jeanine Baxter
From Rainbow Falls to Quetico, Ouimet Canyon to Sleeping Giant, Mount McKay to Centennial Park, Thunder Bay is abundant in places to hike and explore the beautiful landscapes of the region. With summer upon us, it is even more appealing to get out and explore what the area has to offer.
How many times a week do you average five or more kilometers of walking on uneven terrain both uphill and downhill? Most of us would answer ‘not many’. Yet, when a nice day rolls around we are often gung-ho to get out on the trails, not giving a second thought to how strenuous the adventure can be on our body. Like most physical activities, starting out slow and progressing over time, along with a little bit of pre- and post-hike stretching, is a vital component to avoid getting injured this season.
Marla Balzer, a physiotherapist at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC), has some advice for those heading out hiking this summer. “Warm up on a flat or less challenging surface to gradually increase the heart rate, and then start with some gentle general stretches. Hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds without bouncing, and at a range where you feel the stretch in the middle of the muscle but do not feel pain.” Balzer also advises that cooling down after the hike is just as important as warming up. “The heart rate needs to gradually return to its normal pace and since the muscles are already warm from all that work, stretching for 60-90 seconds will prevent stiffness and soreness the next day.” She suggests some great stretches to try – overhead triceps stretch, standing quad stretch and Achilles tendon and calf stretch.
Marla also recommends using the talk test throughout your activity to help gauge your level of exertion. During the warm up and cool down you should be at a pace that allows you to easily converse with your partner or group, and while on the hike pace yourself based on the length of time you are out for and effort required to hike the trail. You want to get a workout in, but you also want to enjoy yourself and not feel too winded.
So, get out and explore the many local trails this season. Remember to pack plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized along the way. And most importantly, don’t forget to stretch!