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Injury prevention for the weekend hiker

Tackle hip, knee and back pain with these moves.

Those of us who work a 9-5 and aren’t accustomed to moving and then hit the hills on the weekends tend to be more prone to injury. Sitting down for long periods of time leads to lengthened glute muscles (reducing your drive forward) and shortened hip flexors (needed for all sorts of walking movements). In addition, if you are particularly desk-bound or work at a computer, it’s highly likely you round your shoulders as you sit and type.

Add a backpack with a few kilos of gear and water to throw your centre of gravity off and this can lead to some funny loading of the hips, knees and ankles as you naturally lean slightly forward. In addition, repetitive movements could exacerbate any existing weaknesses and maybe even leave you feeling stiff or sore potentially for a few days after a serious hike.

We’ve personally been doing these for the last couple of years and have definitely noticed a reduction in niggles, especially in the lower back.

So without further ado, here are our recommended moves to improve your hill walking, expertly modelled by our in house sports therapist, PT and stroll team member Siobhan Docksey.


1) The kettlebell crossover

One of our absolute favourites ever since we were given them last year, these can be done absolutely anywhere. Increase the intensity by closing your eyes or upping the weight if you find them too easy.

The idea is to stand as still as possible. Wobbles are good, as you know you’re being challenged, but don’t fall over!

During, you want to feel your big toe pressed through the floor, with the whole leg working hard (especially the side of your glute) to avoid falling over as you move the weight around. Bracing your core helps as well.

This exercise simulates the unstable loading and uneven ground we often come across outdoors, and helps ensure the right muscles kick in at the right times.

Do three sets of 8-10 reps (one rep is across and back again).

Things to watch out for:

Hips dropping - keep them level and even throughout (use a mirror)

Ankles rolling out - keep pressure down through your big toe

Arms carrying the weight - keep them straight and don’t raise your shoulders. Just swing it slowly around you

Rounding shoulders - keep a straight back and neutral spine. Stare at something directly in front of you, if it helps


2) Band pull-aparts

Grab a long band and pull it apart across your chest to improve your upright posture when sitting or walking. Sometimes our upper back can round, the chest gets tight and the back gets weak from sitting at a desk typing for long periods so this helps to restore some strength where we need it.

We filmed this one from the back so you can clearly see the shoulder movement we are looking for. The pinch at the end is key!

Do three sets of 8-10 reps.

Things to watch out for:

One arm higher than the other - do this in front of a mirror and make an effort to keep your arms in that t-pose

Not engaging your shoulder blades - I was always told ‘imagine a can of coke between your shoulder blades, now crush it’. Seems to work. Remember to pinch!

Arching your back/hips - keep your spine and hips nice and neutral. Your lower back shouldn’t feel tight. Keep your chest out and hips forward.


3) Hip flexor drill

A quick and easy move you can use to test and improve the strength of your hip flexors. Make sure you hold at the top for a few seconds to keep your flexors working. Short doesn’t always equal strong, so make sure you keep these in your routine.

Do three sets of 4-6 to begin with with a pause at the top. Increase reps over time as you get stronger.

Things to watch out for:

Arching or rounding your back - put your hands on a wall or rail in front of you to stop you compensating

Note: Whilst these are great for hill walking they will also benefit you runners out there, so give them a go and see how much better you feel after a month of consistent use.

Let us know how you get on!

Serious bit: As with any exercise, make sure you seek professional medical advice if you are ever unsure or want to know more. We aren’t doctors, we can’t diagnose you and we’re assuming you’re a fairly healthy human who gets some regular time walking outdoors without too many issues. If in doubt, speak to an expert.


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