By Tom Fontana, MSPT
Clinical Staff Manager
October is one of the best months to enjoy New Hampshire. The foliage is bursting with color and many of the annoying insects have died off, so it is a great time to get outdoors and do some hiking/leaf-peeping.
However, before you think about hitting the mountains to take in the scenes, consider the strenuousness of the trail and your physical preparedness. The uneven surfaces and unsteady terrain are a recipe for ankles sprains and grades (especially walking downhill) are particularly tough on the tendons underneath your kneecaps. This is particularly true if you are unaccustomed to dealing with these challenges.
To best survive your leaf-peeping experience, follow this advice. Most hikes have some kind of description online. Check out the description and pay attention to length, difficulty, and terrain. If it sounds just like activities you are accustomed to, then go for it! If not, either choose a different trail or take these steps to limit your risk of injury:
- Wear appropriate footwear—ones that have support for the ankles on either side (hiking boots are best)
- Before going hiking, prepare your body for it by going for shorter walks near your home that involve progressively longer distances, difficult grades and/or uneven terrain.
- Practice balancing on one leg for ankle strength (and, if this is easy, practice with your eyes closed or while moving your head from side to side or up and down).
- Perform high repetitions (x 30) of deep squats (or better yet lunges if you can do them!) to work your thighs and patella tendons.
Let’s make sure the only color we see this fall is the oranges, reds, and yellows of the trees and not black and blues in your ankles.