The brisk air of October just begs us to spend more time mountain hiking or trail running. Taking care to protect your knees as you climb, and as you descend, will ensure a much more pleasant experience this season.
Up and then down
The uphill part of the trek requires a sustained effort from the leg muscles. On the downhill portion, you will feel like your leg muscles are working differently. That’s because they are.
The constant braking force on the downhill portion puts more strain on the quadricep muscles and puts more stress on the joints and tendons.
To maintain pain-free hiking throughout the autumn, it’s important that your knees track properly. Maintaining good alignment between your toes, knee and hip when trekking or running downhill is important.
Here’s an easy test to self-assess if your knees track properly. Stand on one leg in front of a mirror. Perform a series of small to medium one-legged squats. Determine if you are able to keep your hip and knee cap aligned with your toes. Repeat on the other leg.
It is interesting to note that this little test becomes the prescription to improve the problem or just to train your muscles for the demand of the downhill portion.
Proactive knee health
To strengthen the knees, perform a series of three sets of one-legged squats, with six to ten repetitions each time.
You can adapt the exercise if needed. If you have problems keeping your hip, knee and toes aligned, put your non-squatting foot lightly on the ground or slightly elevated behind you. As you improve, take your non-squatting foot off the ground.
Once you get good at this, you can push yourself off the ground during the ascent, and better control the descent. Both are important to preserving your knee health.