Do you know how to start hiking season safely?

It is almost time for summer holidays! This kicks off the hiking season for many people. Whether you'll be walking in the forest in the Netherlands or doing alpinism in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, it is always good to prepare your body in advance. Do you want to know how to get started with preparing? Make sure to keep on reading!

I often hear people tell me that they undertook a large hike without any preparation. Afterwards they end up at either the fysiotherapists or my practice, because a small or sometimes large injury played up as a result. If I'm honest, I have done this many times. When you're young you can usually get away with this, but at some point the body doesn't solve it as easily.

What can you do before you start your hike?

It all starts by being prepared. Do you know what type of hike you're going to do? This will allow you to prepare your body the best. Below are several tips to help you get a plan together.

1. Start training on time.

Be realistic about what kind of training schedule fits in your life. Some will be able to train multiple days a week whilst other can only do once a week or less. If you are short on time, start at least 2-3 months in advance by taking hikes in your area. If you have more time to train you will build it quicker, but it also depends on how far you want to go on your hike. It is best to start training with shorter hikes. Start at about an hour and increase this slowly over time to the desired distance. Are you planning to take a heave backpack with you? You can also train this by starting out with an empty backpack and then slowly increasing the weight. This will allow you to train certain muscles in your back so you will ultimately be able to carry the backpack more easily on your hike.

The most important thing to remember is to build everything gradually. Injuries usually appear when going too far too fast, so remember to always check in with your own body and listen to it. If at any moment you notice a pain that persists it is a sign from your body that something isn't functioning optimally. That is a good moment to take a step back, or take a rest day. If it persists further, always ask a professional for advice (osteopath or physiotherapist).

2. Make sure to wear good shoes.

The most important thing about shoes is that they fit well, don't pinch and that your foot doesn't move inside of the shoe. There are different types of shoes for different types of hikes.

- Category A shoes: these are low shoes for easy terrain. Think about flat (forrest)walks, easy mountain paths or a day at the airport or in the city. These shoes give limited support because they don't stabilise the ankles.

- Category A/B shoes: these are semi-high shoes that give more support around the ankle than category A shoes do. These shoes are therefore more suitable for more sloping, large hill like terrain.

- Category B shoes: these shoes are even higher than category A/B. These are therefore more supportive and stiffer which makes them suitable for hiking with heavy backpacks or in higher mountain areas.

- Category C/D shoes: these are very stiff and supportive shoes specifically used for alpinism. These can be combined with crampons if necessary.

In a good outdoor store, i.e. de Bever or de Zwerfkei they can give you advice as to which shoe fits your hike best. In case you are planning to use new shoes for your hike, make sure you break them in properly during your training.

3. Are you going climbing as well?

In case you are planning to make great ascents and/or descents, make sure you also add cardio to your training. This helps the body prepare for greater impact on i.e. the heart as well. Running can be a good workout for this, but climbing stairs or walking up hills will also help with this. If you are planning to climb during your hike (I.e. via ferrata/klettersteigen or alpinism) also make sure to keep up with your climbing training.

4. Do you have physical complaints before you start training?

In case there are physical complaints prior to starting your training, always have them checked by an osteopath or physiotherapist. They can determine whether this will be an issue during your hike.

If you have any questions don't hesitate to contact your local osteopath or physiotherapist, or send me a message with your question.

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