Wait a minute...What's this about training for hiking...
Well, when it comes to distance hiking, the subject of pre-hike training usually falls
within two camps: those that see it as foolish and comment that the only way to get in shape for hiking
is to get out there the first day of the hike and HIKE and those that
train religiously believing that, like an sport or recreation, a little
pain beforehand means a lot of gain during the activity. I would like to consider
myself to lean more towards the latter.
Distance hiking presents a whole host of challenges that usually
can be classified as either mental or physical. Ask any athlete or
alumni thru-hiker, and they will, for the majority, tell you the same
as my cross-country coach: any distance is 90% mental and 10%
physical. While this may be a bit of an overstatement, it is true
that the mental challenges posed by my summer's hike will be far
greater than the physical ones because I will be in shape. Hiking
introduces new stresses to the feet, legs, and body that, in some
cases, can lead to a hiker's quitting the trail due to serious
fatigue, nagging pain, or worse. By training, we reduce the
chances of stress injuries to our bones and bodies, making our
treks far more enjoyable. As Ray Jardine states, "Pre-hike training
shortens every mile and flattens every hill." If nothing else,
training is an excuse to get out into the fresh air and enjoy the
winter and springs from somewhere else besides our desk chairs.
As for my method, I believe that Ray Jardine (alumni AT, CDT, and PCT
(3x's) thru-hiker) has a great method and outlines it in Beyond Backpacking.
Essentially he says that the more we walk, the easier our journey becomes.
Starting off by walking just a little bit in the hilly country near my house,
I will work up to walking 5 miles without fatigue and then gradually start
increasing the weight on my back while doing 5 miles. When up to 35 pounds (my target weight),
I will begin walking further distances. Because his training method
is more oriented towards those planning 2,000+ miles in a single journey,
my training is not as rigorous nor as frequent. However, he does stress the
need for a training hiker to take a day off in between each walking day to
enable the body to recover (something that is almost never done when
people train "on the hike"). In addition, I am doing all kind of weight lifting
to build up my legs especially my quads (I had post XC season knee problems).
It is said that a total mileage for a 2000+ mile hiker should be around
500 training miles. I will probably do that distance even though my hike is
much shorter just because I have started to enjoy walking. For me, it relieves
stress and is a pleasant way to forget about the troubles of a day of school while
building endurance and strength.
"In 1909, Edward Weston walked 4,500
miles across the U.S. in 105 days. The following year, at age 72, he
repeated the journey in the opposite direction in 76 days, for a
remarkable average of 59 miles a day. One of the most accomplished
walkers of his time, Weston believed that walking was as healhful
and natural as sleeping. Throughout most of his life he walked 12 to 15
miles every day of the week except Sunday. He disdained the notion of 'training'
and considered his daily walking merely a part of his lifestyle."- Beyond Backpacking
Now that's some good walkin'!
Oh, I almost forgot. As I near the start of my journey, I want to
begin sleeping outside and on my pad as much as possible just to get
my body used to the difference in comfort.