Over the last six months or so, most of us have spent the majority of our time at home, trying new hobbies such as baking sourdough, yoga or gaming online. As the seasons and weather change, however, it is becoming the perfect time to head outdoors and enjoy walking, hiking or trail running in the sun.
If you are not an experienced hiker or walker, however, you may not know that an active, holistic recovery after exercise is very important to staying healthy and avoiding injury. Building a comprehensive recovery plan for hikes, trail runs and walks can help your body develop resilience, properly stretch out, and also gain back all of the lost nutrients. Below are a few helpful tips that you can incorporate into your recovery after your next day in the woods.
Prepare for the trip ahead of time
Before you even set out for your hike or long walk, it is important to consider where you are hiking, how long and strenuous the hike will be, and any potential issues that could arise while on the journey. Even if it is just a long walk, it is important to consider any issues that might arise. For example, if you sometimes experience knee pain, you can bring a knee brace, or if you know that your new shoes might rub, you can bring band aids or other blister care, or if you know that you are prone to painful sunburns, you can bring a hat and extra-strength sunscreen.
There is no need to overpack and bring a huge amount of gear for a day’s adventure in the woods. However, by thinking ahead and ensuring that you have all of the water, snacks and safety equipment (however small!) that you need, you will be preventing small injuries, accidents and pains, which could develop into major problems.
It is important to take care of your body before, during and after the walk or hike. This means that before you head out, you need to drink a lot of fluids, and also enjoy a well-balanced, hearty meal filled with energy-boosting proteins and carbohydrates. Once you start out on your adventure, you should continue to hydrate and also eat snacks such as dried fruits, trail mix, apples and peanut butter that will provide you with energy and stave off fatigue. After the hike, you need to continue to hydrate and also recover with a well-balanced meal.
Studies have shown that after working out, some of the proteins in the body’s muscles are damaged or broken down. By eating the right nutrients after exercise, you will be helping your body to rebuild its glycogen, which in turn assists the body with repairing and growing muscle proteins.
Do not forget the feet
Your feet will have really taken a beating after a long day on (or off) the trail, and it is important to take care of them after your adventure to ensure that they stay healthy and happy. Before you set out on your walk or hike, it is important to ensure that you have good-quality socks and supportive shoes or boots.
After a hike, make sure that your feet are clean, warm and dry to give them a break, and check for any blisters that might need to be taken care of. You may also want to consider rolling your feet out with a massage or lacrosse ball if you are prone to foot pain or tendonitis.
Stretch it all out
After a long walk or hike, it is important to fully stretch out to relax your muscles and prevent future strain, stiffness and injury. If you are so inclined, you can hit the yoga mat for a quick session to unwind, or you can just stretch out for five to 10 minutes after your adventure. You will want to focus on large muscle groups that have been impacted by the day’s exercise, including your shoulders, calves, hamstrings, hips and quadriceps. Just 10 minutes of yoga or stretching can make all the difference and help you to feel fresh and ready for the next day’s adventure.
These are just a few ways that you can unwind and cool down after a long hike or walk. You can try a few different cool-down methods, and once you find a cool-down routine that works best for you, you can fine-tune the process to fit your preferences.
Featured image: Toomas Tartes/Unsplash