Are you so excited to dust off your running shoes, bicycle, or hiking boots that you’ve forgotten your body is battling the effects of decreased physical activity in winter?

Story by Tim Price
It happens every spring. Like many of our furry friends, Flathead Valley residents emerge from their long winter “hibernation” with renewed motivation to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Seasonal outdoor recreation opportunities lead many of us to be seasonal exercisers as well. We’re so excited to dust off those running shoes, bicycles and hiking boots that we forget that our bodies are battling the effects of a winter of decreased physical activity. Jumping right back into outdoor exercise can lead to a variety of injuries that can derail your spring and summer enjoyment.

A simple way to limit the effects of “hibernation syndrome” is to commit just a few minutes to properly warm up before exercise and, just as importantly, stretch once you’ve finished. Stretching not only improves flexibility but helps with post-workout stiffness and soreness, too — ensuring that you’ll be “good to go” the next time you get outside to run, bike or hike.

There are a lot of great stretches that can help address and prevent injuries from outdoor exercise. Here are a few favorites that I share with clients.

Hamstring Stretch Lie on the floor in a doorway and extend one leg up and rest it against the doorjamb above you. Relax and let your hamstring stretch for a minute or so and repeat.

Quad Stretch Stand on one leg (use a wall for balance if needed). Grab your opposite foot and pull it up behind you. Keep your knees close together and your core (abs) tight as you stretch. A strap can be used if it’s hard to reach your foot. Hold 30 seconds and repeat.

Hip Flexor Stretch Important for back pain and stiffness. Get into a half-kneeling position. Push your hips forward as you keep your shoulders, back and abs tight. Hold 30 seconds and repeat.

Piriformis/Figure 4 Stretch Lie on your back and cross your right ankle in front of your left thigh. Reach through and grab the back of the left thigh and pull up toward you. Hold 30 seconds and repeat.

IT Band Stretch Stand with your right hip facing a wall. Cross your left leg over your right. Allow your right hip to sag toward the wall while you use your arm to push your shoulders away from the wall. Hold 30 seconds and repeat.

Calf Stretch Facing a wall, move your right leg back. Keep your right knee straight as you push your heel flat to the floor and lean forward. Hold 30 seconds and then repeat with your right knee slightly bent (move right foot closer to the wall). Switch legs and repeat.

Committing just a few minutes to stretch after an outdoor run or hike can save you weeks or even months of rehabbing an injury. Summers in Montana are too nice (and short) to be “sitting on the bench” with pain.

Tim Price is a physical therapist and master-level fitness pro. He and his wife Lynde own and operate Flathead Health & Fitness along with Milestone PT in downtown Kalispell. To request a consult, call (406) 752-2438 or email tim@flatheadhealth.com.