Whether hiking or skiing, high-altitude adventure is the kind of travel that lifts your spirit, invigorates your mind and challenges your body all at the same time. While peak adventure offers a multitude of benefits, there are certain precautions that should be taken to ensure your health and safety throughout a journey.
Peak adventures come with higher risks, including injuries that could completely derail a trip. No one wants to ruin a well-earned vacation just because they rolled an ankle or threw out their back. A great high-altitude trip should be challenging, fun and injury-free, from beginning to end.
So, how do you achieve this? Being fit for high-altitude travel starts and ends with stretching. As with any physical exercise, adventure travel requires supple and well-lubricated muscles to protect the joints from over-exertion and injury.
Any good trainer will tell you that a solid stretching routine is just as important as a solid fitness routine. It’s also a relaxing and revitalizing way to start your journey and end your day.
When trying to develop a good stretching regime there are some key concepts that you should keep in mind.
A rolled or sprained ankle is a common injury incurred during hiking and trekking. Wearing proper boots is a good preventive measure, but warming up and stretching your ankles is also very important.
An easy stretch requires you to sit so that your legs have a 90-degree bend. Cross your left leg over your right, flex your ankle and then start tracing the letters of the alphabet. Repeat on the opposite side. You can make the stretch more challenging by looping a resistance band around your toes. This stretch will strengthen your ankle and keep it limber, which will reduce the risk of injury as you trek through uneven terrain.
Your knees carry a lot of weight when ascending and descending on a high-altitude journey. Protecting the knees requires you to work the large muscle groups around them. As with all stretching, it’s good to remember to work front and corresponding back muscles.
Warm up your quads with a simple quad stretch, and then stretch out the back of your legs with the standard standing hamstring stretch. Add to this a calf stretch and you will have addressed the key muscle groups that protect your knees.
In addition to quads and hamstrings, the muscles connected to your hips are also connected to your knees. Warming up your hip joints helps with back as well as knee stability.
A simple way to warm up this area while also supporting the knee joint is the lunging hip flexor stretch, and the three-legged dog yoga pose. These exercises will help stabilize your lower body, while also keeping your body loose and limber for climbs and descents.
The glutes are the largest and possibly the most important muscle group in your body. They stabilize your spine, establishing good posture while also helping to support the muscle groups in your legs, which protect the knees and ankles.
Exercising and stretching your glutes will make everything else a little bit easier. A seated spine twist, the pigeon pose and a leg cradle will address both large and small posterior muscles that help to stabilize the body. Although these stretches are great for warming up before a hike, they also provide relief whenever you’re experiencing discomfort in your back and knees.
In addition to weight training and cardio, stretching is a vital component of any effective fitness routine, but it’s especially important when you're embarking on a high-altitude trek. With the right food, the right supplements and the right exercise routine, you’ll be ready to tackle the next great adventure safely and with ease.