Five tips for an injury-free and fun summer hiking season

hiker, backpacker, backpacking
Picture of Adrian Presnilla, CAT(C), ATC

Adrian Presnilla, CAT(C), ATC

Adrian is an Athletic Therapist and Certified Athletic Trainer based in Calgary, AB. He is also an avid hiker that loves to explore the Kananaskis Country and the Rockies. He has worked with professional, university, college, youth, and recreational athletes. He has a keen interest in high performance hockey and football, youth sports, and collision sports injuries. Currently, he works directly with Sport Medicine Physicians at Surge Sport Medicine assessing and managing patients with acute and chronic musculoskeletal, concussion, WCB, and MVA injuries. For more information, you can check out www.surgesportmed.com.

So, you want to start hiking this summer? Since the pandemic started, many of us have been staying close to home and cannot wait to get outside. Hiking is a great physical activity to improve your cardiorespiratory fitness, and improve bone heart and mental health. We are incredibly lucky to have easy access to spectacular and breathtaking provincial and national parks in Alberta that offer a variety of hiking trails that vary in difficulty. Planning your first hike can be daunting but we have you covered. Check out these five steps you can take to safely get started:

1. Know before you go

  • Research the trail before you head out to the park and choose routes that are appropriate for your skill, health and fitness levels. There are several hiking phone apps (i.e. AllTrails, Gaia) available that provide terrain information, distance, elevation, etc. to help plan your route. Read other hikers reviews as many provide good insight on how to tackle a trail.
  • Before you leave, check weather reports from Alberta Parks Trail Reports and Alberta Parks Advisory & Safety Reports for the latest updates on trail conditions. Adjust your plans and equipment to account for potential changing conditions that could become safety hazards.

2. Pack the right equipment

  • Clothing – Mountain weather can change drastically in minutes. It is critical to pack extra layers that you can quickly put on or take off. You do not want to get trapped in colder weather while wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
  • Equipment – A good backpack is beneficial for low back health. Not only does it give you enough space to pack hiking equipment in but will also properly load the weight of all your equipment. This can help prevent low back pain and injuries. Durable hiking footwear and hiking poles can be handy to offload extra strain on your legs and back. A basic emergency medical or first-aid kit, GPS, portable battery, and headlamp are critical to have in your pack – you will want these in case of an emergency.

3. Train to reign

  • Physical preparation is essential for a successful and enjoyable hike. Much like a marathon athlete, you need to prepare your body for the hiking distance and difficulty you have chosen. Hiking a 5-kilometer trail that is mostly flat? You can prepare by walking 1-2 kilometers around your neighbourhood to start and increase that distance by 500 metres every few days gearing up to the goal of 5-kilometers. Hiking a 7-kilometer trail with a moderate incline or slope? Prepare the same way but choose a walking route that includes more hills and slopes. Perform your training at a moderate intensity pace to mimic the physical demand your body will encounter the day of the hike.

4. Fuel your body

  • Start your hike with a “full tank”. Make sure your body is properly fueled before your hike. Eat well-balanced meals a day or two before; choose a high carb, low fat, and low fibre meal to provide you with enough energy. Do not skip breakfast the morning of your hike.
  • You will burn through a lot of energy. Pack carbohydrates that you can easily eat to ensure you have enough energy to complete your hike. Simple carbohydrates that can be easily digestible will provide you with quick energy; some examples could be trail mix, energy gels and sports drinks.

5. Stretch it out

  • You’ve arrived at the trail head so what should you do first? Stretch! More often than not, getting to the trail head means starting with a long drive. Dynamic stretching is a great way to wake up your body, muscles, and joints after sitting in your car. It also decreases the chance of injuries! Performing static stretches after your hike can also be helpful to decrease muscle soreness and reduce muscle stiffness you may feel after strenuous physical activity.

Hiking is a great summer activity to unwind, to get fresh air, and to spend time with family or friends. Your health and safety should always be your top priority when incorporating physical activity into your life. Here are some additional hiking safety tips you can review before you head out. It is important to recognize that we are visitors whenever we head to the great outdoors. Ensure you are always practicing good situational awareness as help may not be close at hand in the event of an injury. This includes being respectful and aware of the wildlife that live in our national and provincial parks. Be “Bear Aware”. If you are in an emergency, always remember to call “911”.

I encourage you to explore the outdoors and the beauty of Alberta this summer. And if you need help with physical preparation for a hike or need rehab for an old nagging injury so you can go hiking, find an Athletic Therapist to help you reach your goals.

Always remember to “Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, & Stay Active.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top