There is something about taking a walk in the morning. Fresh, invigorating cold air. And getting the day started right; . . . with healthy exercise.
But taking a walk after a night's rest can be like starting a car on a cold morning. Rough, slow and hard.
It all starts with stretches. Relaxed muscles need preparation for contraction. You don't need to be an athlete, to need proper stretches. Stretches reduce stiffness, and increase range-of-motion. This helps make a walk in the morning more effective, and simply easier to do. In fact, "Older adults may need longer stretch times than the recommended 15 to 30 seconds" 1.
Static stretches are typically positions from standing or lying, that hold a stretch in the same position for about 30 seconds or more. Then you let go and relax. These are different than dynamic stretching which use constant motion, like rolling your shoulder.
A study published by the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found:
"the effectiveness of type of stretching seems to be related to age and sex . . . women and older adults over 65 benefit more from static stretching." 1. Additional results showed that older adults will gain flexibility, and better range of motion, from simple, static stretches, like calfs, full legs, and arms.
What does this all mean?
No need for complicated "race preparation" stretches! Just simple stretches in one position, for 30-45 seconds. Whether it is a full morning hike, or a short walk, simple stretches do the trick.
And the time it is highly effective is, guess what? The morning; when muscles are warming up from numbness.
Some helpful encouragement for stretches, kudos to Backroads magazine 2:
Calf stretch: Find a tree (or wall), and step back with your right foot. Point your toes toward the tree, and place your hands on the trunk. Bend your left leg forward, and hold for about 30 seconds. Switch legs, and continue holding the position for another 30 seconds.
Standing quad stretch: Keep your feet hip width apart, and stand up straight. Raise your right leg back, bring your heel up, and grab your right foot in your right hand. Your thighs should be lined up next to each other in this position, and your left leg should still be straight. After holding for about 30 seconds, stop and repeat with your left leg.
Shoulder rolls: Standing up straight but relaxed, place your feet shoulder width apart. Begin rotating your shoulders forward in big circles. Do this for about 15 seconds, and then repeat the movement backward for another 15 seconds.
Hamstring stretch: While standing, bend your left leg slightly, and extend your right leg out in front of you. (Make sure it’s straight.) Tilt your hips forward until you feel the stretch in your extended leg. Hold for about 20 seconds, and then repeat with the other leg. You can keep your hands on top of your extended leg or on your hips during this pose.
Also, consider rolling and stretching your wrists, especially if you are using trekking poles. The same goes for necks. Simple gentle head rolls go a long way in preparing for a morning walk. Especially after the head has been stationary in a pillow for hours.
With the proper stretches, you will prepare your body for the ideal morning walk, that is flexible, and responsive. Combining this with a healthy, daily walking routine early in the day, along with variety and enjoyment of walks, will make the most this highly beneficial physical rhythm.
Mike Cutler is an avid hiker in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. Product tester for Earth Trek Gear, and active blogger, he enjoys the outdoors with his family in Reno, Nevada.
CURRENT CONCEPTS IN MUSCLE STRETCHING
FOR EXERCISE AND REHABILITATION
Phil Page, PT, PhD, ATC, CSCS, FACSM
International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273886/pdf/ijspt-07-109.pdf
2. TOP HIKING STRETCHES: STRETCHING EXERCISES BEFORE AND AFTER A HIKE