Trailhead Warm-up

Primed for Adventure

A scenic drive coupled with your thermos of coffee or matcha might be all you need to awaken your senses and build excitement and energy for your planned hiking adventure. However, you mustn’t overlook the benefits and value of a quick trailhead warm-up.

Perhaps you’ve never considered a dedicated warm-up prior to a hike, but I invite you to incorporate a few minutes of intentional movement before you lace up your hiking shoes and strap on your backpack.  Your body will thank you— regardless of your experience as a hiker, your fitness level, or the difficulty/length of the hike.

A warm-up will not only undo the stiffness you acquire from sitting in a vehicle en route to the trailhead, it will also properly prepare your mind and body for the adventure ahead. Your body’s joints, muscles, and nerves interact, respond to, depend on, and influence one another during movement— so you’ll want to make sure they’re ready to work optimally and efficiently (especially with the added stress from the weight of your pack).

Benefits of a Trailhead Warm-up:

Warm-up Overview

A low-intensity activity, lasting 3-5 minutes (see below for my preferred routine), to gradually increase your heart rate and get your blood pumping. Include movements that mimic the motion you will be doing during your activity, and incorporate dynamic (not static) stretching. Perform all movements in a pain-free range of motion, and with proper form.

Trailhead Warm-up Routine (5-10 reps each):

SHOULDER CIRCLES- With arms down at your sides, make big circles with the shoulders in both directions.

TORSO TWISTS- Keep a soft bend in your knees, and engage your core.

SINGLE-ARM OVERHEAD REACH WITH SIDE BEND- Feel a gentle stretch along the side-body.

HIP HINGE- Hinge at the hip joints as you lower your torso forward (maintain a flat back); feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings.

LEG SWINGS- (front-to-back/side-to-side)- Standing on one leg adds a “balance challenge”, but you can use support if needed. Start small and build to a bigger range of motion.

MARCH IN PLACE WITH ARM SWINGS- Keep your torso upright and core engaged. Start small and build to a bigger range of motion.

REVERSE LUNGES- Only go as low as you can comfortably, and keep your front knee in line with your toes (don’t let you knee cave in— learn more here).

BASIC AND/OR LATERAL SQUATS- Focus on glute activation, keep your knee(s) in line with your toes (learn more here), and only go as low as you can comfortably.

JUMPING JACKS- Modify to calf raises for a low-impact option.

Post Hike Cool-down

The cool-down period is a great time to incorporate static (10-15 second hold) stretching of heavily used muscle groups (hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, etc). Most importantly, take a moment to bask in the sense of accomplishment and the good feelings that come with physical activity in the great outdoors!

Now that you know ALL the wonderful benefits, I hope you’ll add a quick pre- and post hike routine to your adventures. Be creative, have fun with it, and use the “equipment” available to you (trekking pole, car bumper, and/or your hiking buddy can all be of assistance). Show your body some appreciation for all the amazing things it can do and the spectacular places it takes you to!

Kristen, CPT and creator of the HIKE-ABILITY Training Program

Disclaimer: All information, content, and material (including associated text, videos, and links) on this website is provided in good faith and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. All exercise has inherent risks. Before beginning any type of exercise, please consult your health care provider.

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