I used to consider my hikes successful only if my legs were horribly sore the next day. Since that time, I have learned that a rough, challenging hike doesn't need to be felt for weeks afterwards.
It is a general rule of fitness to stretch before any physical activity, be it running, swimming, yoga, etc. Warming up your body with simple stretches increases your range of motion and improves muscular coordination. It can significantly decrease your risk of injury if you take ten minutes to ready your body for a workout.
Many people, however, do not remember how important it is to stretch after this activity. Research shows that flexible muscles recover more quickly from challenging activity. That means stretching after a long walk, run, bike ride, etc. Thank your muscles for their hard work with a well-earned stretch.
Hikers and Runners, here are some basic key stretches for post-hike/run cool downs:
1. Hamstring Stretch - Lie on your back with your legs extended and your back straight. Keep your hips level and your lower back down on the floor. Bend your right knee towards your chest, keeping your left leg extended on the floor.Slowly straighten your right knee, grabbing the back of your leg with both hands. Pull your leg towards your gently while keeping both hips on the floor. Breathe deeply and hold for 10-30 seconds.
2. Quad Stretch - Keep your feet hip-width apart, your back straight and your feet parallel. Reach back and grab your left foot in your left hand, keeping your thighs lined up next to each other and left leg in line with the hip (not pulled back behind you).Breathe deeply and hold for 10-30 seconds.
3. Calf Stretch - Stand facing a wall, about 12 inches away from it. Extend your arms in front of your shoulders to place your hands flat on the wall, keeping the elbows bent. Keeping both feet flat, step or slide your left foot back, lengthening your left leg and straightening your arms. You should feel the stretch in the calf of the back (straight) leg. The more your lower your heel to the floor, and the farther you slide your straight leg behind you, the deeper you will feel this stretch. Breathe deeply and hold for 10-30 seconds.