There is nothing like the feeling of completing a long hike, but those long hikes put your body through a lot. Recovery for some people takes no time at all, but for others, a little bit extra TLC is on the cards.
When you have been on a ‘short’ day hike, you can take a bit of time to be active in recovery while going about daily life – while you’ll have some aches, they might not be as intense as for those who have been on days or weeks-long hikes.
So, how can you prepare for some good hiking recovery?
It is so important to warm your muscles up before you start your hike. Going from cold, tense muscles to warm, supple muscles and back is a recipe for some pain. Not only that but without a good warm, you are more at risk of pulling a muscle or other injuries.
Even a 30-minute yoga session before you head out is a smart idea. And, if you’re on longer hikes, this is even more important. Try to fit in a good stretch at the start and end of every day of hiking.
While this is part and parcel of hiking well, many people who are new to hiking underestimate how much water they need to drink. Often, you don’t feel the effects of dehydration for a short while – but if you notice you’re thirsty, it is a smart idea to double down on what you think you need. A hydration backpack is a great idea, even for those who don’t hike long distances or for very long periods of time.
Staying hydrated while on the hike is one thing, but when you return, make sure for the following few days, you still drink more water than you think you need. After the exertion, your cells are going to need it.
Many hikers prefer to increase their hydration by adding electrolytes to their drinks during and after a hike. This can prevent cramps and muscle aches and aids with a faster recovery, too. The best electrolyte options will have no added sugars, no extra fillers, and no additives either – although some might come with flavoring.
During the recovery time, a good mix of protein, carbs, and fats will feed your muscles and help them make any repairs that they need to. The ratio that works for you might be different than that of your hiking buddy, so take some time to research it. Those who have been out just for the day hiking should take some trail mix high protein bars and other snacks.
Good carbohydrates during recovery can make a big difference; while the temptation might be there to reach for quick sources like chips, try to stick to potatoes and rice. Protein is also vital for recovery; chicken, fish, and legumes will work wonders, and you’ll feel the difference in your energy stores after your hike.
Although there is a lot to be said for active recovery, as it will prevent your muscles from seizing up, you do need some level of relaxation, too. Try to have nothing too strenuous planned in the days following a long hiking trip so that you can get some TLC.
After a hike, there will likely be some inflammation; a combination of applying ice packs and warm bathing will help to reduce it. Use some Epsom salts in the bath to help replenish salts and magnesium, and while you’re there, you may as well throw on a facemask to help moisturize your skin after days in the sun and some leave in curly hair conditioner or coconut oil to help your hair recover too.
All of your joints will be working double time on your hike, and when you get back, the inflammation and general aches can make that feel a lot worse. Wearing some joint supports in the days after can help relieve some of the pressure and support your joints in recovery, too.
It can be worth getting some topical joint relief creams that can be applied to the skin, too. Although taking painkillers and other anti-inflammatories can be tempting, sometimes they can mask the fact that some of your muscles still need rest. And, when that pain is masked, you are more likely to push your body when it isn’t ready.
Hiking is a lot of fun, but in the days after, it is a good idea to give your body some extra TLC.