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Stretch before your Forest Hike.

By J. Zimmerman, Ph.D.

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Do yourself a favor before your next forest hike or Nordic Walk and after it: Stretch!

A Good Way to Stretch.

Buy STRETCHING!

Stretching by Bob Anderson recommends a right way to stretch. These highlights summarize his sensible approach:

  1. Put your attention on the muscles being stretched. Never stretch to the point of pain. Don't bounce.
  2. Relax and stretch slowly to a point of mild tension. Stay there 20 seconds or so.
  3. Weaken the stretch if the tension does not decrease as you hold this mild stretch.
  4. After the mild stretch, you mucles should be less tight and ready for the second phase.
  5. If it is comfortable for you to do so, move into a slightly greater stretch. Stay there 30 seconds or so. Again, relax as you hold the stretch.
  6. Weaken the stretch if the tension does not decrease.
  7. Breathe slowly and regularly while you stretch. If necessary, back off from your stretch to smoothe your breathing.
  8. Always come out of your stretch and smoothly.

Seven standing-up stretches.

You can do these stretches standing up, more or less, both before and after a forest hike. They can increase your flexibility, and make your hike more enjoyable. When appropriate, perform the stretch for each side of the body, to stretch the left and the right legs or arms:

  1. Calf stretch, for the muscular back of your lower leg.

  2. Stretch for calf and Achilles tendon, for the tendon and muscle in the back of your lower leg.

  3. Relax the hamstrings (muscular back of your upper leg) with support from the quadriceps (muscular front of your upper leg).

  4. Groin, hamstrings (muscular back of your upper leg), and front of hip.

  5. Arm, side, hip. Upper-body stretches are also helpful.

  6. For shoulder and middle of upper back.

  7. Shoulder and chest.

More stretches.

For lots more stretches that you may enjoy, see Anderson's book. It includes stretches that you put your butt on the ground to do, and that are especially beneficial for your hamstrings and your hips.

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