Stretch before your Forest Hike.
By J. Zimmerman, Ph.D.
Forest and Tree Home,
the current hottest books on trees and forests.
Do yourself a favor before your next forest hike
and after it:
Bob Anderson recommends a right way to stretch. These highlights
summarize his sensible approach:
- Put your attention on the muscles being stretched. Never stretch to the
point of pain. Don't bounce.
- Relax and stretch slowly to a point of mild tension. Stay there 20 seconds
- Weaken the stretch if the tension does not decrease as you hold this mild
- After the mild stretch, you mucles should be less tight and ready for the
- 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.
- Weaken the stretch if the tension does not decrease.
- Breathe slowly and regularly while you stretch. If necessary, back off
from your stretch to smoothe your breathing.
- 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:
- Calf stretch, for the muscular back of your lower leg.
- Lean on a solid tree trunk with your forearms, resting your head on
them. [Pick a tree that is not leaking pine pitch on your body and clothes.]
- Put your left toes forward, close to the tree, allowing the left knee to
- Keep your right leg straight out behind you.
- Move your hips forward slowly. Keep your lower back flat.
- Stretch for calf and Achilles tendon, for the tendon and muscle in the
back of your lower leg.
- Get in the position for the above calf stretch, this time with the left
leg straight out behind you.
- Bend your rear (left) leg, keeping your heel down and your toes forward
or slightly inward.
- Only the slightest of stretches is appropriate for the delicate
- Relax the hamstrings (muscular back of your upper leg) with support from
the quadriceps (muscular front of your upper leg).
- Feet flat on ground, shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward.
- Bend your knees, allowing your weight to drop down a little.
- This relaxation of the hamstrings helps prepare them for the next
- Groin, hamstrings (muscular back of your upper leg), and front of hip.
- Put the ball of your right foot on a solid support, like a tree stump or
a convenient part of your car.
- Keep your left foot flat on the ground, toes and leg pointing forward.
- Move your hips forward, bending the right knee.
- Arm, side, hip. Upper-body stretches are also helpful.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward.
- Bend your knees slightly.
- Put your right hand on your right hip.
- Raise your left hand over your head.
- Slowly bend at the waist to your right side.
- Be aware of your breathing -- back off if the stretch interfers with
your smooth breathing.
- For shoulder and middle of upper back.
- Supporting your left elbow with your right hand, gently pull your left
elbow across your chest toward yout right shoulder.
- Shoulder and chest.
- Interlace your fingers behind your back.
- Slowly straighten your arms.
- Keeping your chest out and chin in, gently lift your arms up behind you.
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.
Forest and Tree Home,