Get Out There

Recover from Hikes Faster

While we’re always talking about getting outside, over the summer, we stop talking about hiking. Hiking is an exhausting form of exercise that isn’t suitable for hot weather. Now that things are starting to cool off, we are headed back into hiking season, and people are beginning to hit the trails again. It’s essential to relearn the skills we had and gain new ones.

When you hit the trails without proper gear, you can end up like the recent group of hikers who needed to be rescued by helicopter in the Alps. Four Italians tried to hike the Dolomites in sandals and then required a rescue mission that cost about $10,000. Hiking without proper gear can also lead to aches and pains.

You can avoid some common soreness after hikes by wearing the right footwear, socks and backpack. Prevention is the best treatment. Staying hydrated and eating as you hike helps muscles function so they don’t feel the burn later. Stretching beforehand also helps. Many people think that as hiking is walking, it counts as stretching in and of itself. But you should warm up your muscles before hiking to prevent yourself from pulling them.

Regardless of what steps you take, you will probably have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after a hike. It’s a sign that you have been working out. Muscle fibers get tiny rips as you work out that hurt as they heal. But they heal stronger than they were beforehand. It typically starts eight hours after a hike and eases after 24 or 48 hours. If you feel pain during or after training, the pain lasts for much longer, or you can’t do routine tasks, there could be a larger problem.  

Keeping moving when you have DOMS can help it pass faster. While it’s tempting to laze about and rest when you ache, you’ll recover faster if you get blood flowing to your muscles so they can heal rapidly. Activities like slow walking, light yoga or gentle swimming can help. Massaging sore areas also helps blood flow to where it’s needed most and helps muscles feel better!

While icing directly after exercising can help prevent inflammation, warmth is better when DOMS sets in. A hot bath or heat packs on aching areas can help pain levels. Staying hydrated and eating plenty of protein after hiking can also help. Even when you aren’t exercising, your body needs fuel to build, heal and maintain muscle. Foods rich in magnesium or a magnesium supplement can relieve sore muscles. Magnesium can lower stress, prevent cramping and lower stress to improve sleep. Sleeping also aids fast recovery.

You will recover faster by taking care of yourself before, during and after your hike. You will inevitably feel some soreness after any workout. But, by minimizing its impact on your day, you can bounce back faster and be back on the trail in no time.

Banner image: Kristjan Kotar via Unsplash

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