When your hiking, especially if the terrain is hilly or mountainous, you’ll want to strengthen your legs, especially your quadriceps before you go. One thing to bring along is your Nordic hiking poles – they’re great for hiking hilly terrain. Here’s some quick exercises to prep you for your hike.
A great quad strengthener is to do a static hold like you’re sitting in a chair, but without the chair. You can do it with your back against the wall and slide your feet out 1 to 1 1/2 feet, depending on how long your legs are. Next slowly slide your back down the wall. Keep going until the top of your legs are at a 90 degree angle from the bottom of your legs – just like if you were sitting in wooden chair. You want your knees directly above your ankles. Hold for 15, 30, 45 or 60 seconds then slowly slide back up the wall to rest. Repeat 3 to 10 times. Now if this position is too difficult or you want to alternate with a less exerting one don’t slide your back down as far and stop when your upper leg is about 45 degrees from your starting position. Hold and repeat. You can do this without the wall by standing with your feet hip distance apart and squatting down until you can still see your toes. Hold and repeat. This way is a little easier than with your back against the wall, but either way you’re strengthening your quads!
It’s also great to strengthen your calves of your lower legs and this can be done easily. Balance on the balls of your feet and tiptoes while lifting up your heels up off of the ground- you’ll get the benefit of improving your balance too! Stand an arms length from a table or the wall and touch your heels together and spread your feet and toes outward about 45 degrees. Dancers will recognize this as 1st position. With your head held straight find an object and hold it in your gaze. Slowly lift your heels as high as you can, then hold for several seconds up to 30 seconds. Lower your heels down and take one foot out to 2nd position, stare at the object and lift your heels and hold. Then bring your feet directly below your hips with toes pointing forward and repeat lifting and holding. Do this several times then be sure to stretch when your finished balancing. A great stretch is the yoga position of downward facing dog. Gradually ease the heels down, relax, breathe and hold the position for as long as you like.
Be sure to stretch a little before you go hiking and lots after you’re finished. You’ll want to straighten your legs then take each leg back one at a time to stretch your hip flexors – they’ve worked hard as you hiked up the mountain. Give your quads a stretch by reaching back and grabbing your foot or ankle and pulling it towards your buttocks, then hold. With your knees slightly bent reach your hands down towards your feet until you feel your hamstrings – stop at your thighs, lower leg or toes and hold. Be sure to breath slow, big breaths the whole time your stretching and think about the wonderful hike you just finished!