Body Tune Ups #2

PROTECT YOUR BACK

Abdominal strengthening exercises will help take burden off your back and torso, minimizing lower back trouble. Begin these at least a couple of month before hiking season or a major trip.

  1. Partial sit ups: Lie on your back. Keeping your knees slightly bent, slowly raise your head and shoulders off the ground and feel your stomach muscles tighten. Hold the position for about 5 seconds, if possible. Repeat 10 times.

  2. Wall slide: Stand with your back flush against a firm, solid surface. Slide slowly down into a sitting position, with your thigh paralleled to the floor or ground. Hold for 1 minute. Repeat 10 times, increasing the holding period, if possible.

  3. Knee to chest raise: Lie on your back. Grasp knees with hands, and slowly pull them to your chest, keeping your neck and back as relaxed as possible. Repeat 10 times.

  4. Press ups: Lie on your stomach with palms on the ground next to your chest. Pressing with your hands, raise your upper body off the ground, keeping your knees on the ground, elbows slightly bent, and back straight. Hold 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

  5. Back stretch: Position yourself about 2 feet from a tree or other slid object. In a standing position, raise your arms out in front of you, so they are parallel to the ground. Lean forward so your palms are flat against the object. Hold for 30 seconds while applying steady pressure to the object with your palms. Slowly push your chest forward, stretching your back. Repeat three times.

  6. Lower back stretch: While standing, assume a slightly bent knee position, with your feet about shoulder width apart. Keeping your knees bent and your head rolled forward, reach down to your toes. Move slowly, without bouncing. Hold for 30 seconds, feeling your muscles stretch. Repeat three times.

Additional Tips for a Strong Back

Brisk walking, swimming, and biking will also help maintain a strong back. Short hikes with packs of graduated weights. Keep an eye on your weight as well, since overweight people are more prone to back problems than those of optimal body weight.

Make sure you have a comfortable, perfectly fitted pack with a well padded, close fitting hipbelt. Townsend, who has back problems, says he carries more than 90 percent of his pack’s weight on his hips.

If you experience a sore back out on the trail, or have chronic back problems, make sure heavy items are backed close to your spine. Don’t tie heavy items on the outside of your pack, since they tend to twist your body off balance.

During rest breaks, stretch your neck and shoulders. If you do tweak your back muscles during the trip, don’t despair. Doctors now recommend light exercise for a pulled or sprained back, rather than bed rest. Let your partner carry the bulk of the load, take frequent rest breaks, ask him or her for a light massage, and take anti inflammatory medication.

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