It’s no secret that running results intoned, strong legs. Unfortunately, it can result in stiff, sore legs as well. Every time you step down, you engage your hamstrings, quads, calves and hips. With every kilometre or even metre that passes, these muscles may slowly develop tension, scar tissue and even imbalances. In the long term, this may slow you down and even result in injury.
Research has found that trail running can increase your overall balance and sense of proprioception as you run over uneven and unbalanced surfaces. Frequent turns and levels of elevation found in trail run also enable the activation of numerous muscle groups which can include your core, leg muscles as well as the muscles responsible for maintaining stability. This variation can reduce the risk of repetitive injuries and provides an ever-changing training route.
However, to prevent injury and reduce recovery time after runs, it’s important to properly train your body and stretch the muscles involved for improved flexibility. Stretching before a run can also assist in making the muscles more pliable for your run and improve your performance.
Stretches to get you trail-ready
Pistol Squats: These are essentially one-legged squats. Lift your left leg upwards and slowly lower yourself down as far as you can go. Repeat five times before switching sides.
Step-ups: Standing before a bench or step, step up with your left leg and lift yourself on to the box. Repeat five times before switching sides.
Barefoot Drills: Find an open area – at least 100 metres long. Perform two sets of high knees, high kicks and B skips.
Alternating Knee Lifts: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Lift your left knee to your chest and grab below the knee with both hands. Hold for 30 seconds and then release. Repeat on the opposite side.
Squat to Hip Flexor: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Lower yourself down into a seated position. Take your left leg back into a lunge position. Hold for several seconds and then release. Repeat on the other side.
Alternating High Kicks: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Lift your left leg forward and swing the opposite arm over your head to touch the top of your foot. It’s okay if you can’t reach. Gradually release and then repeat on the other side.
Torso Twist: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend forward and twist your shoulder to touch your left foot with your right hand. Come back to a standing position and then repeat on the other side.
Alternating Quad Stretch: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend your left leg back so that your foot touches your butt. Grab the top of your foot and pull it upwards. Hold for a few seconds and then release. Repeat on the other side.
These stretches will prepare your body for the hiking trail. They can also be performed after your hike to prevent muscles stiffness and soreness. Listen to your body while on the trail. Your fitness level will determine the type of trail you should try and it’s important to use this rule throughout your training.
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