Sore quadriceps, tight hamstrings, burning calves, and tender glutes: These are the major muscles you use when hiking. And after a 9-mile trek lugging a heavy pack over 5,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, those muscles could use some TLC.
Foam rolling is a crucial part of many athletes’ post-workout routines, and it shouldn’t be overlooked after frolicking in the outdoors, either. Loosening your muscles via foam rolling has many benefits, including increasing blood flow to your muscles and eliminating trigger points in stiff tissue.
This form of self-myofasicial release, or self-massage, can be done anywhere, and the roller is fairly inexpensive (they start as cheap as $6 on Amazon.com). So, how do you use a foam roller on your hiking muscles? Read on.
Rolling out your quads is especially important after a hike with a long and/or steep descent. These large muscles are completely engaged, and because they extend (straighten) the knee when engaged, you’ll want to pamper the muscles to protect the knees.
Set up in a forearm plank position with both legs on the foam roller, which should be one to two inches above the knees. For more intensity, roll one leg at a time. Begin rolling slowly back and forth.
As the quads extend the knee, the hamstrings flex (bend) the knee. On long, ascending hikes, you’re likely to use your hamstrings slightly more than your quads, and tight hamstrings can lead to many problems, including lower back pain.
Sit on the floor with one leg on the roller, which should be just above the back of the knee. Keep your other leg bent on the floor, or for more intensity, cross your top leg over the leg on the roller. With your hands on the floor under your shoulders, lift your glutes and begin rolling back and forth.
Your calves endure constant use—and sometimes abuse!—on hikes, especially on the uphills, where the planter flexion increases drastically over walking on flat ground.
Sit on the ground and place one leg on the roller, which will sit a couple inches above your ankle. Keep the other leg bent on the ground, or cross your top leg over the other to increase pressure. Keeping your hands on the ground under your shoulders, lift your hips and start rolling back and forth.
Three backside muscles make up the glutes, which extend into the hips and support your core and body weight during activity. They work in conjunction with the hip flexors to keep you erect and upright.
Sit on the ground with one side of your glutes on top of the roller. Start at the base of the muscle, and plant your opposite leg on the ground with your knee bent. With your hands on the floor under your shoulders, roll back and forth.