Utah’s known for its gorgeous outdoors. However, pain can keep you from being able to hit the trails. Hiking may seem straightforward enough: you’re just walking, but in the mountains or somewhere else in nature. Not properly preparing for hiking is an easy way to end up with aches, pains, and injury. In order to get the most out of your time in the great outdoors, take these physical therapy tips into account.
#1. Think Of Hiking Like Any Other Sport
You wouldn’t try to run a marathon without proper training or jump into a soccer match without any idea of how the game works. The same goes for hiking. You need to ensure that you’re prepared for the hike, that you know what to do throughout the hike, and that you pick a hike that’s suitable for your level.
Hikes are rated by difficulty. When looking for trails to do, make sure that you look at the difficulty rating and don’t overestimate your abilities. While it’s true that you can always turn around whenever you want, it’s so much more satisfying to be able to see the trail through to completion.
- Easiest. This is a trail that’s suitable for pretty much anyone. Some trails rated easiest are even paved. These trails are typically shorter than 3 miles and mostly level.
- Moderate. These trails are about 3-5 miles with some steeper sections, but are still typically good for beginners.
- Moderately Strenuous. These trails are typically about 5-8 miles long, with steady, steep inclines. You need to be conditioned to hiking in order to take these on.
- Strenuous. These hikes are about 7-10 miles long with elevation gain. Even experienced hikers can find strenuous trails challenging.
- Very Strenuous. These trails are typically 8 miles or longer. Only very well-conditioned, very experienced hikers should take these on. These hikes are not only long and steep, but can include challenging terrain, like scrambling over rocks.
So, if you’ve never hiked before, you could probably do an Easy trail with no problems. However, attempting a more difficult hike could result in injury.
#2. Warm-Up Beforehand
Now that you have a better understanding of how hiking trails are rated, you can select one that works for your fitness and experience level. Before embarking on your adventure, make sure that you warm up beforehand. If you’re just walking around an easy trail, you don’t need to worry about this as much, but it’s still a good idea to stretch and loosen up your muscles anyway.
If you’re going to be going on a hike that involves inclines or tricky terrain, you definitely want to ensure that you warm up beforehand. Some trails start pretty level before they get crazy but others involve a steep incline from the get-go. In order to give yourself a better chance of reducing your risk of injury, make sure that you warm up first.
#3. Be Aware Of Common Hiking Injuries
Knowing what injuries are most common among hikers can help you know what you should be looking out for and what preventative measures you need to take in order to avoid getting injured yourself. Some of the most common hiking injuries are as follows:
Many hiking injuries occur not when people are going up the trail, but when they’re coming down from them. This is because people are already tired and they’re fighting against gravity. It’s a lot easier to end up twisting an ankle or straining your knee when you’re stumbling down a trail after miles of elevation gain and you’re desperate to get back to civilization.
However, you must be just as careful when going down a trail, if not even moreso. An injury could leave you stranded or cause you to have to fight through the pain to get back, making it even worse. You deserve to hike pain-free.
Wearing properly fitted hiking shoes, warming up before you go, staying hydrated throughout the hike, and stretching when you get back are all ways to help prevent injury. You’ll also want to take plenty of breaks and go at a pace that feels good for you and that you can maintain for a long period of time. And of course: watch where you step! This is not only to prevent injury from twisted ankles or falls, but also to avoid accidentally stepping on a creature.
#4. See A Physical Therapist As Needed
If you have a past or current injury, a physical therapist can help you regain your strength and mobility. They do this with custom programs personalized to your specific needs and goals.
Wasatch Peak Physical Therapy is here to help you recover from any current injuries you may be suffering from, as well as give you a better shot at preventing future injuries. Contact us today to learn more about our physical therapy services.