Five tips for injury-free trekking

Injury-free trekking with Alpenwild

Trekking in the mountains is one of the best forms of exercise, not to mention great fun! But if you don’t ramp up the intensity of your treks gradually, then you could sustain an injury. Follow these five tips to experience an injury-free trekking adventure this summer:

1) Get a biomechanical assessment

Prevention is better than cure, so if you want to step up your exercise, it’s a good idea to work out where your weaknesses lie. Often the part of your body that hurts isn’t the underlying problem. (For example, your painful knees could be the result of weak glutes). A good physio will be able to give you a full body assessment and some exercises to address any weakness.

2) Warm up before you go trekking

Sitting down at a desk all day is bad news for your body, especially your hamstrings and hip flexors. It’s important to warm up your muscles before placing demand on them, to counteract the tightness from sitting all day. Rather than static stretching (which is best after exercise), try warming up with dynamic movements and joint mobility exercises. Squats and lunges are a fantastic way to open your hip flexors and wake up your glutes, and heel raises can prevent achilles strain. Joint mobility exercises are simple movements, like ankle and hip circles, that get the synovial fluid moving around your joints.

3) Be consistent

Little and often is the key to improving most things in life, and particularly fitness. Being consistent with your training programme before a trekking holiday is important — if your muscles are weak, then your joints will take the pressure on descents. Consistent training is the best way to increase cardio fitness too, which will make your trek much more enjoyable.

4) Hit the mountain trails to fully enjoy injury-free trekking

Get off the roads and hit the trails! Trekking on trails is great because the soft, uneven surface decreases the impact on your joints and improves your proprioception. Proprioception is your body’s sixth sense that helps you catch yourself instinctively when you fall or stand on one leg with your eyes closed. Simply put, proprioceptors are the sensors in your muscles that help you balance. When you’re walking on uneven terrain, your proprioceptors inform your muscles how to react so you won’t an ankle. These small stabilising muscles, especially in your ankle, get stronger through mountain trekking.

5) Stretch (and do it properly!)

It’s important to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds – one minute to allow your muscle time to relax. When a muscle undergoes tension, receptors in the muscle belly (muscle spindles) send a message to the spinal cord, which tells your muscle to contract and resist. This sounds counterintuitive, but the ‘stretch reflex’ is your body’s way of preventing damage that could occur when a muscle overstretches. By holding a stretch, your muscle spindles get used to the new length and stop sending signals to contract. Easing gently into a stretch is also important, as the stretch reflex is strongest when the muscle is stretched rapidly.

Bonus tip – go trekking, and don’t avoid the hills!

Your best chance at injury-free trekking will come by trekking often! If you are walking the tour du mont blanc or the haute route this summer, then you will be tackling considerable ascent and descent every day. Flat ground and weight training will not prepare your body for hills, so remember to practice hiking distances and ascents similar to the trek you’re training for.

Most importantly, enjoy it!

Happy trekking!

Jennifer Stretton

About Jennifer Stretton

Jen grew up about as far from the mountains and nature as you can get—in Birmingham, UK. When she first visited the Alps on a university climbing trip, she immediately fell in love with the place. After graduating with a degree in Geography, Jennifer spent the next few years travelling the world, volunteering with conservation charities and freelance marketing to fund her adventures. In 2015 she settled full time in the Chamonix Valley and began training to become an international mountain leader. An avid climber and environmentalist, Jen’s passion for the mountains and the natural world is contagious. When she’s not guiding, Jennifer spends her free time climbing, skiing, travelling and trying to keep up with her dog on trail runs. Sociable, caring and always smiling, Jen is the perfect guide to keep you laughing and motivated on your journey. She looks forward to meeting you next summer!

5 Replies to “Five tips for injury-free trekking”

  1. AvatarLisa Kasse says:

    I am planning to do the TMB this summer. I live in south Florida where the highest elevation is bridge. How would you recommend I train for ascent and decent. I have done quite a bit of trekking in the Rockies.

    • Jennifer StrettonJen says:

      Hi Lisa

      Great to hear you are heading out to do the TMB this summer!

      A really good way to train for the ascent is to use the stair master in a gym. It isn’t very fun but I have a guide friend who lives in the centre of the UK who trains for expeditions like that. For the descent you will want strong quads and core to protect your knees so I recommend squats, lunges and core excercises. If you aren’t on the trails much before the trip then doing some balance excercises for your ankles is also a good idea and so a wobble board is a good investment.

      Any small hiking trips you manage to take before the TMB will be a great help but if you have a good overall level of fitness then you will do great!

      Running is a great way of strenthening up all the muscles you will be usin on the trip too

      I hope that helps!

      Jen

      • AvatarLisa Kasse says:

        Thanks for the advice. I have started to work on cardio more than anything right now. I walk 5-6 miles workdays and up to 12 on the weekend. My gym does not have a stairmaster, however I work in a 5 story building with steps. I have started doing some intervel training on the steps. It works! After doing 48 flights of steps the other day my gluts were on fire and felt like I had done many squats.
        I can take hiking trips here, but unfortunately there is not much ascent or decent. I am fortunate, I have phyicial therapists at my disposal and they can help me with balance.
        As far as boots, I am having a hard time. I have a size 11 foot and have lost big toe nails my last two hikes. I figure I will have to go to a boot fitter. I have ordered and sent back about 8 pairs of boots so far. Know of any that run big? Many only go to size 11 for women and I have a narrow foot, not a good candidate for a men’s boot

        • Jennifer StrettonJennifer Stretton says:

          Hey Lisa,

          It sounds like you are going to be fighting fit for the TMB with all of that training! I’m based in France so I’m not sure of US brands that would be good for you but I’ve sent a message to the office to see if anyone there has any suggestions. I’ll get back to you if they do.

          Have you looked into trail running shoes? In the middle of summer on the TMB there shouldn’t be any snow so you will be ok without heavy boots.

          I wear trail runners all year on the trails out here and find them much more comfortable, lighter and less sweaty than boots. The only advantage of heavy boots is that your feet will stay dryer if it’s raining and that there is more stability for your ankles. If you are used to hiking on trails without ankle support though then it could be a good alternative.

          I hope that helps! Keep up the good work on the stairs!

          Jen

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