After a long walk on the West Highland Way, the last thing you may want to do is a post-walk stretch routine, but here’s why you shouldn’t skip stretching your muscles out.
When you’re venturing along miles upon miles of natural Scottish beauty, absorbing the sights and sounds of the highlands, it’s very easy to lose sight of what you’re putting your body through. Walking, hiking, scrambling up rocks uses energy in the body which we replace with healthy snacks and hydration. But, even with well-fed muscles, it’s important to stretch them out to keep them flexible and to reduce the risk of injury.
A stretching routine doesn’t have to take very long, nor is it too strenuous after a long walk. By using simple stretching techniques, and holding them for 20 – 30 seconds at a time, you’ll be giving your muscles a gentle warm-down while prolonging their flexibility. After a day on the West Highland Way trail, your muscles will already be warmed up and supple, which is the perfect time to stretch! Here are a few stretches to get you started…
Standing Quad Stretch
This stretch is great for your hip flexors and your quadriceps muscles. For this stretch, you can hold onto something for stability.
Standing tall and straight with your legs one shoulder-width apart, bend one of your legs at the knee and use your hand to reach back and hold your foot behind you, against your buttocks, or as close to as you can get without straining yourself. Tuck your tailbone in, and hold this position for around 30-seconds before swapping legs.
Calves, of course, play a big part in walking so it’s very important to keep them supple.
Simply stand tall and stretch one of your legs straight back with your foot still flat to the ground. Lean your body forward at the pelvis, ensuring not to bend your back knee. Once your front knee is directly over your front ankle, hold the position for around 30-seconds before swapping legs and repeating.
Hamstrings are notorious for tightening up, especially if you enjoy cycling, so it’s crucial to give these muscles a good stretch after a workout.
For this stretch, sit yourself down in a chair with your feet slightly apart and placed flat on the floor in front of you. Raise one of your legs, keeping your leg straight. While holding onto the chair for balance, reach forward towards your foot and, if possible, hold onto your foot to feel the stretch through the back of your leg, and hold for around 30-seconds before swapping legs.
Stretching our your hips improves mobility and flexibility. This stretch works on the muscle group located near the tip of your thigh, the hip flexors. This muscles group is responsible for allowing you to walk, kicks, bend and turn. So, if these groups of muscles become tight and restricted, the hip flexors run the risk of being damaged.
While sitting in a chair, raise your right leg and place your right ankle on top of your left knee. Using the chair for balance, gently lean forward to feel the stretch in the back of your thigh and buttock. Hold this position for 30-seconds before swapping legs and repeating.
Posterior Shoulder Stretch
This shoulder stretch works on your shoulder muscles and upper back muscles.
While standing tall with your feet one shoulder-width apart, bring one arm across your body and use the other arm to gently hold and push in. Hold this position for 30-seconds before swapping arms.
So you see, it doesn’t take very long or much effort to get a good cool-down stretch worked in after a day on the West Highland Way trail. By keeping your muscles supple and flexible, not only are you helping to reduce your chances of muscle aches, but you’re also reducing the risk of sustaining muscle injury too.