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~Thru-Hike Training~

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.