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    Default Training for ankle/knee stability?

    Hey all, just looking for suggestions for getting in shape for my April NOBO thru attempt. Of course, the best training is just to be hiking every day, but short of that, what are some exercises/activities that you do to specifically encourage ankle and knee stability?

    Whenever I go backpacking, if I'm already in shape I don't struggle with cardio or soreness in the major muscle groups, but I get really sore in all those little muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles that don't get used too much until you're out on uneven, rocky ground. At PT for an old knee injury, I learned some exercises for improving knee stability and dealing with IT band pain, so I'm doing a lot of those to hopefully ward off recurring knee pain, but we didn't do much for ankles. When I was living in Morocco until recently, I was surfing and slacklining a lot and that seemed to target and strengthen those areas. But now I'm 4 hours from a coast and there's actually winter here, so what kind of stuff can I do as a substitute?

    Thanks for any ideas!
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    Registered User Koozy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KnightErrant View Post
    Hey all, just looking for suggestions for getting in shape for my April NOBO thru attempt. Of course, the best training is just to be hiking every day, but short of that, what are some exercises/activities that you do to specifically encourage ankle and knee stability?

    Whenever I go backpacking, if I'm already in shape I don't struggle with cardio or soreness in the major muscle groups, but I get really sore in all those little muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles that don't get used too much until you're out on uneven, rocky ground. At PT for an old knee injury, I learned some exercises for improving knee stability and dealing with IT band pain, so I'm doing a lot of those to hopefully ward off recurring knee pain, but we didn't do much for ankles. When I was living in Morocco until recently, I was surfing and slacklining a lot and that seemed to target and strengthen those areas. But now I'm 4 hours from a coast and there's actually winter here, so what kind of stuff can I do as a substitute?

    Thanks for any ideas!
    Making the muscles stronger around the knee (i.e., quads, hamstrings) will tighten up the knee. Join a gym and do hamstring curls, leg presses, squats and calf raises. At home you can do one-legged squats and calf raises. Buy a stability pad and do one-legged exercises. I had 3 ACL reconstructions and 3 arthroscopic knee surgeries (6 surgeries total) of the same knee between the ages of 15 and 21, and have had PLENTY of PT. I completed a AT thru hike at age 28 and never had knee issues other than swelling after some of the larger descents (i.e., White Mountains). Footing is everything. Don't go too fast. And paraphrasing what Earl Shaffer said in his book Walking With Spring..." don't look around while you're hiking; that's how you take a misstep and get injured. If you want to look around, stop, then look around." With the potential for another knee injury on my mind, I always think of that that every time I go backpacking.
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    Find great ankle and knee stability and strengthening no further than the nearest sandy beach, sand dunes, swimming pool and outside your front door. At the sandy beach, which is not only found at the ocean but also along lakes, reservoirs, and rivers, walk and hike the beach and dunes. Combine that with hiking in waist deep water. Peddling a bicycle in a pool. High knee raise marching in a pool. This is resistance low impact training great as one is healing from an injury and strengthening for a hike. As strength builds incorporate walking curbs, standing toe raises, balancing on a Bosu ball, etc. Do all these combined with light static stretching followed up by post work out stretches.


    Do not ignore an anti inflammatory diet and lifestyle. Research anti inflammatory foods incorporating into your diet while simultaneously eliminating the pro inflammatory dietary and lifestyle factors.


    I agree you were on the right track achieving your knee and ankle stability and strength goals by surfing and slacklining.

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    Registered User dudeijuststarted's Avatar
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    Yoga: mountain pose, warrior 1 through 3 with correct alignment, and just standing on one leg at a time. When you stand on one leg, notice all the small muscles in your ankle going crazy. Thats what you want to work and is a good morning warmup. Some people dont need anything, but my body needs alot of tlc before and during hikes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dudeijuststarted View Post
    Yoga: mountain pose, warrior 1 through 3 with correct alignment, and just standing on one leg at a time. When you stand on one leg, notice all the small muscles in your ankle going crazy. Thats what you want to work and is a good morning warmup. Some people dont need anything, but my body needs alot of tlc before and during hikes.
    This is very similar to high knee marching holding the knee up for a few seconds between the next step. If done in a pool or preferably in just below the waist deep low surf or where there is a current around shallow water on a river with a sandyish bottom it is even lower impact and offering perhaps greater development of balance.

    Yoga is great for learning balance in several aspects.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rocketsocks View Post
    This is very similar to training on an overturned Bosu Ball. Simply using a 3 ft or so long strong 2x12 seesaw balanced on a dowel rod, 6" diam straight tree branch can offer the same thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    This is very similar to training on an overturned Bosu Ball. Simply using a 3 ft or so long strong 2x12 seesaw balanced on a dowel rod, 6" diam straight tree branch can offer the same thing.

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    yup! Good for balance hell on the knees.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rocketsocks View Post
    yup! Good for balance hell on the knees.
    Then use with trekking poles. He he he.

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    I'm doing PT right now for a knee injury. One of my exercises involves standing on a plank that is about as wide as my shoulders. On the bottom is a 2"x2" board running from front to rear in the the center of the plank. The object is to balance on the plank without either side touching the ground.

    A second exercises involves standing on a Bosu balance ball. It really works both the knees and ankles, because it is not rigid.
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    Alphabet ankles, draw alphabet with feet (builds proprioceptive awareness), wobble board (or lacking a wobble board can stand on a pillow for 30 seconds) on one foot.
    Also what they said re: legs, hips. I went to a PT re: ankles and 80% of stuff we did built strength in legs/hips.

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    Bosu ball is better, but they are pricey. BTW, I think BOSU means "both sides up".

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    Once ankles and knees reach some acceptable strength level try jumping lightly on a trampoline for 20 mins. It's great for balance and cardio too. It's effective for strengthening a weak side as well. Use a mini trampoline if you don't have room. I bought two gently used 14' wide trampolines for under $100 both for hiking work outs. Nieces and nephews loved them. I demoed my sleep systems sleeping under the stars on top several times. They came unassembled easy enough to place in the trunk of a med size sedan. Set up is about 45 mins. I sold each at a profit. I'm currently trampolinless.

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    Registered User JJ505's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Once ankles and knees reach some acceptable strength level try jumping lightly on a trampoline for 20 mins. It's great for balance and cardio too. It's effective for strengthening a weak side as well. Use a mini trampoline if you don't have room. I bought two gently used 14' wide trampolines for under $100 both for hiking work outs. Nieces and nephews loved them. I demoed my sleep systems sleeping under the stars on top several times. They came unassembled easy enough to place in the trunk of a med size sedan. Set up is about 45 mins. I sold each at a profit. I'm currently trampolinless.
    No doubt, they'd be great for that. Also lots of injuries from trampolines.

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    I don't do back flips, Triffus w/ a Randolph, or attempt to jump off the roof of a two story house.


    Point I'm making is that we don't all need to go to a fancy gym or pay a membership to train for a hike or attain a level of fitness. Nor do we all need to hike a single track trail to backpack train. Heck, backpack across town as Snorkel has done.

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    Yeah, hide your car keys and walk and cycle everywhere. I'm equally as avid a cyclist as a hiker, and I think they support each other in readiness (notice I didn't say "training," because that sounds like work when it really is fun). And I get to leave the car at home most of the time.

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    One-leg balance exercises and yoga poses. I started doing DDP Yoga (not traditional yoga but more cardio based and powerful created by an ex professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page) and it's the best thing that I have done for hiking readiness. Knees, ankles and back are much stronger and way more flexible. It has helped with balance and losing about 30 pounds over the last six months doing it hasn't hurt either. Most every ache and pain I used to get in my joints from hiking or day-to-day stuff is completely gone.

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    Thanks for all the responses! I did recently join a gym and I'm doing yoga a couple times a week. I agree that anything involving balance, particularly on one foot, really helps out these areas. That's why I miss surfing and slacklining so much... might have to set up my own slackline at home. But my gym has one of those bosu balls, so I'll give that a try.

    As for walking and cycling, I'm out in such a rural area that it's not very realistic. Back in Casablanca I walked everywhere, often 90 minutes to 2 hours a day. But it's easy when the weather is always nice and everything is within a couple of miles. Biking six miles one way over a mountain to get to the grocery store in 40 degrees? Not sure I have that much commitment just yet. I mean, I know I'll be hiking at least twelve miles over mountains every day in a couple of months, but... little by little. XD
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    The old adage applies, "Start slowly, then slow down." Even if you feel fine, make camp, cook and eat before the sun sets and give your legs and feet time to rest every day especially during the first few weeks. No matter how much you train, it will still take time for your feet and knees to get trail hardened. Might be 12 mpd, might only be 10, or even 8. Don't get injured right out of the gate. And as koozy noted, foot placement is important. Rocks, roots, slippery slabs, mud, etc. can injure a foot or ankle in an instant, and bounding down the downhills can tear up your knees and toenails as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KnightErrant View Post
    As for walking and cycling, I'm out in such a rural area that it's not very realistic. Back in Casablanca I walked everywhere, often 90 minutes to 2 hours a day. But it's easy when the weather is always nice and everything is within a couple of miles. Biking six miles one way over a mountain to get to the grocery store in 40 degrees? Not sure I have that much commitment just yet. I mean, I know I'll be hiking at least twelve miles over mountains every day in a couple of months, but... little by little. XD

    Better get used to walking in a rural setting if you're planning an AT NOBO. Being outdoors exerting yourself for hrs and hrs under inclement weather is something you also need to get comfortable with. This is backpacking training as well.

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