by Diane Spicer
Recovery after hiking is an important topic for new hikers as well as veteran backpackers.
As a dayhiker, you have the luxury of being able to limp around for a few days at home/work/school after a vigorous hike, until your muscles stop screaming.
No such luxury when you're on a multiday backpacking trip. You've got to cover the miles, regardless of how you feel.
Of course, you could plan a trip with multiple "bail out" points. That means you call someone to get you, and you get off the trail.
But what's the fun in that? You want to complete your trip, right?
So recovery tips for soreness and fatigue apply to all types of hiking.
Let's make a list!
To use this stash of 11 tips to shorten recovery after hiking to its fullest, experiment with each item during/after your upcoming day hikes this season.
Take note of how you feel the next day, and the day after that (which may be when you feel most sore, due to delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS).
Some things will work better than others for you. Stick with them!
Pay attention to the suggestions on the list that are an immediate turn off.
Revisit those with an open mind.
I don't make suggestions that don't work, so it's on this Recovery After Hiking list for good reasons.
Now let's get started down the road to suggestions for shorter post hike recovery times.
That means devoting at least 15 minutes to each, and getting really serious about lengthening those muscles.
Warm up, cool down, and feel the difference the next day. It's 30 minutes well invested in your hiking health.
And here's where you can test your internal fortitude:
Again, just do it, and take note of how you feel 15 minutes later. You're welcome ;)
Not sure where to begin?
Get started with these stretching tips for hikers.
Water keeps your cells going, including your hard working muscles that will be very stiff and sore tomorrow if they are deprived of water.
That means carrying more water on a hike, or carrying the technology to clean up the surface water you encounter.
So this is not an easy step to implement. But it's worth it!
You can geek out on hydration here.
Stash a reusable gel ice pack in your backpack, like this one.
Carry these "instant" cold packs you can use on demand.
Make use of your bandana plus snow fields or icy cold streams to craft a cold pack to cool down your hot spots in a flash: feet, ankles, knees, neck.
Use overnight cool/cold temperatures by leaving your full water bottle outside your sleeping area, and roll it over your achy muscles in the morning.
Or leave a wet towel or shirt out overnight, and wrap your sore legs in it.
Check out foam rollers if you want to dig into those sore spots. This is a great "day after a hike" approach when you have the luxury of time and space at home.
Here are some foam roller exercises for hikers that are easy and fun when accompanied by your favorite music. Blast it as loud as you can to drown out your groans (JK).
Bring one on your hike, or anything small, hard, lightweight and round.
Use it to put pressure on your sore spots.
You can also use the tennis ball to roll out tension and soreness in your feet, especially the arches and ankles.
As in ibuprofen, or other pain relief methods that are okay for you to use based on your unique medical history and personal preferences.
You're only masking the pain, so pair this with other tips on this list.
Also, be careful when you've taken pain relief.
More tips for you:
There are CBD, arnica, and other formulations that work for some people to minimize soreness after a hike.
Rub them on during and after your hike, but be aware that odors in bear country are to be avoided.
Here's an odorless arnica formulation that I've had good luck with.
You want to eat a good ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fats so your muscles can recover every day.
But the trick is getting your ratios right for your activity level, gender and age.
A few general ideas:
Sometimes your joints need some support.
Wear an athletic bandage or a brace on a joint that is prone to post hiking soreness, and see if you can minimize the impact.
Research how an ergonomic support can help you with your recovery time.
They take a load off your knees going downhill, give you more leverage going uphill, and improve your balance which in turn minimizes the strain on your neck, back and limbs.
And that's just for starters. Read more here.
If you're hiking with folks who think poles are (and I quote) "useless, expensive, a waste of money, or a marketing ploy", give yourself a chance to try them anyway! Your knees are your own business, right?
Add powdered electrolytes to your water bottle.
These deliver the nutrients your muscles need to keep going and avoid cramping.
They also give your water bottle an added incentive to keep you drinking: delicious flavors with no additives, fillers or sugars.
This hiking infographic will put you in a position of strength for your hiking season!
You've found a lot of tips to try out by reading this far.
But think about hiking fundamentals as a core component in your recovery time as a hiker.
That's what this website is all about, sharing hiking fundamentals with you.
Dial in your hiking routine so your trail time is not only safer and more enjoyable, but most likely to leave you in decent shape to hike another day.
It's one thing to hobble around, groaning and moaning about how sore and stiff you feel after a hike, and never learn how to avoid the pain.
It's another thing entirely when you decide to take the situation firmly in hand with proactive and smart strategies to minimize the soreness after hiking.
You've just read a lot of ideas for how to do that.
Now the question is:
"How much do you value your hiking body?"
Hopefully, your answer leads to faster recovery after hiking! I'm betting on you, because you spent all this time reading these recovery tips :)
Need even more?
Here are healthy hiking tips that will get you in top shape to hit the trail, and enjoy your hikes even more.
May all your trails be happy and limp-less!
Faster Recovery After Hiking