Bushwalking Fitness | Is stretching a waste of time?

Is static stretching a waste of time? Does static stretching before exercise prevent muscle soreness and injury? Can static stretching beforehand reduce power during a bushwalk?

With a couple of  almost 3000m Canadian mountains (Mt.Begbie near Revelstoke and Mt Tupper near Roger’s Pass) to climb in September, and with the festive season having played havoc with my fitness, I have again made my annual New Year’s resolution to improve my fitness.

Mt Begbie, Revelstoke (© goldenscrambles.ca)
Mt Tupper, Rogers Pass (© Selkirk Mountain Experience)

My usual weekly keep-fit regime involves 3 or 4,  45 – 60 minute walks on rugged and hilly tracks near my home, interspersed with a Pilates class or two, and as I approach a major bushwalk/climb, 1 or 2 bushwalk-specific weight resistance sessions at my local gym. In hot weather, I cool down after  my morning walk with a 1 km swim.

While annual gym fees are substantial, cutting back on my wine consumption by a glass a day, more than pays for the cost! This training schedule may seem excessive to some, but I’ve found that to enjoy a bush walk, and in some cases a 10-12 hour day with a heavy pack, that a high level of fitness is needed. As I get older, it takes more effort to reach and maintain the same level of fitness.

Training Route, Brownhill (3.83 km)

I find that, as I usually train on my own, I need some incentive to improve and for this I  use the highly regarded iPhone app Walkmeter which enables me to compare my times from walk to walk and from stage to stage within the walk. It even allows me to select background music with appropriate BPM (beats per minute) and gives me feedback throughout the walk as to how I rate compared with my best, median and worst times at key points ( see map above) along this route. All of these statistics, including calories burnt, can be viewed online , exported to Google Earth (kml or gpx files) or shared with your training partner.

As I have been noticing a little calf muscle soreness during these walks, I thought I would investigate if a stretching regime could help. To my surprise, I found that the benefits of stretching were rather controversial.

Researchers Robert Herbert, Ph.D., and Marcos de Noronha, Ph.D. of the University of Sydney conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 10 previously published studies of stretching either before or after athletic activity. They concluded that stretching before exercise doesn’t prevent post-exercise muscle soreness. They also found little support for the theory that stretching immediately before exercise can prevent either overuse or acute sports injuries.  (When to Stretch – Experts Recommend Static Stretching After Exercise ©2013 About.com. All rights reserved.)

Part 2 of this post outlines a bushwalk training session which has been designed for me by a professional trainer and includes a warm up with dynamic stretches, training walk, and a cool down including static stretches.

Other Bushwalk Fitness related posts (9)

Bushwalking Fitness
Bushwalking Fitness | Stretches for Bushwalkers
Bushwalking Fitness | Planning a Bushwalk Training Session

  Creative Commons LicenseThis article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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