View Full Version : Training for a thru-hike
Hey, just though I would pass along my experience with my training schedule for this years hike. I know many people don't train because of a number of reasons, largely because it's difficult to mimick what you will be doing on the trail when you are working and living a normal life, but I do believe the following can help if you can find a short trail near your house/work.
I've found this great 3.6 mile loop trail that I'm hiking about 4 days per week. It has a couple good short climbs and some steep descents, also has 3 creek crossings that are unbridged (they don't bridge creeks in NZ) so you get the squeaky wet feet experience as well. A 5 tier 250 foot waterfall is also a nice touch...especially after a long day at work.
I've done the trail about 8 times since I've started, and each time my time has gotten quicker by about a minute, and now I'm down to 63 minutes. I've also noticed that my knees are getting a good pounding on one descent and this is good for me as I have knee problems and need to build them up so I don't have to experience my typical knee pain which always starts after about 50-80 miles of hiking. I'm carrying about 30lbs which is about 5lbs more than I generally carry when hiking.
Anyhow, wanted to post this because I have found this to helpful in my physical preparation and even though it's only 3.6 miles, its' enough to strain yourself and then recover...which is great for training. And now I'm starting to loop the trail and doing 7.2 miles when i have the time.
I would recommend trying something like this if you are keen to start building up your trail legs. I have already noticed improvements.
I come from near Port Clinton, PA and used to go climb the trail SOBO out of town. (up and down a few times)
Many might remember there is a short but very steep climb there. Or found another similar hill closer to home (Sch. Haven)
Or in winter when the weather was bad, a step machine is good training for the AT.
Walking level isn't something that will bother you (most likely) It is the climbs and descents that most have trouble with.
I doubt the majority does a lot of training. But it definitely helps.
I just try to stay fit all the time. Once you get there, it's not hard to stay there.
i work 10 hours a day as a waiter. always on my feet.
Stranger, I think more people would be successful with their thru hike attempts if they had some sort of a training regimine.
I think you'd do better off to cut your training pack weight, and to walk very gingerly on downhills, ideally using a hiking staff or trekking poles. Do add to your distance as you can, though. Do hard day/easy day at first, working up to HD/HD/ED.
My reasoning is that your knees will develop strength only slowly, and are dependent in part on other things, such as you losing weight.
I agree with smitty, save your knees for the trail. Take it easy, use poles, build up slowly and wear a knee strap thingy. They're going to hurt at some point no matter what...better they don't hurt on day one.
I've been training for hiking the Florida Trail next month by hiking on the AT. I've been told the north part of the Florida Trail can be quite tough. I think I'm ready.
Yes, take care of your knees. Go easy on the downhills.
I live in an area of the city known for being extremely steep. Actually, my street is called "The Wall" durring the annual international bike race and has developed an interesting reputation amongst serious biking enthusiasts and the drunken lunatics who nocturnaly bomb the hill in preparation for the event. I've been rotating between marching the hill (with a pack of old college texts), running, and hiking to get my a** in shape. It's been working. No knee pain. Recently went on a 4 days ski trip with no soreness or pain which was entirely unexpected...so, I guess it works.
I've also been drinking beers a lot and eating Burritos. Got to round out that mid-section, too.
Bicycle riding works for me. Very aerobic, non-impact. Good for knees and thighs, though not so much for upper body. I try to do at least 50-60 miles per week in the summer, or weather permitting (May thru September, around these parts.)
Down a few steaks too.......you'll be craving them in no time! Trust me on this one
In northern Michigan we have had lots of snow and temp's in the 25 to 32 range. I have been cross country skiing, classic style about 10K per session and snowshoeing with the pack loaded at about 18 to 20lbs for an 90 min in hilly terrain. After each snowshoe session I feel the overall tiredness of my legs and desire to allow a rest day for rebuilding. I really feel it works and when I compare it to walking on the packed trail without the snowshoes it is much harder. Never being on the AT and never having backpacked with a load I can't really compare it. But it is what I have to work with and seems to working. Another three wekks or so before my early april start.
I started climbing stairs here at night. Seems to help, unfortunately I did it the first time with about a 45-50lbs pack (had to put some of my friends stuff in it, which pushed me over the high 30's). That felt better than any of the lower body workouts that I have done. I can feel it mainly in my quads and my calves.
A trail is the best though, unfortunately I don't have hills where I live....
I work about 30 hrs a week at a job on my feet, that has to help some.
For a while I was doing 10 floors of stairs twice while wearing a 17 lbs pack. but the flu put me out of commission and I haven't started back up. :( I need to hop back on it!
Yeah I guess I don't see much point in doing anything other than what I will actually be doing in April, but if I didn't have a trail to work with stairs would be my second choice, or walking on roads which is hard on the feet and knees as well.
Anyhow, I highly recommend starting a training routine, regardless of how little you do, you won't have to do it again at Springer. But if we hit Springer out of shape, there is nothing you can do at that point other than suffer.
As for saving my knees for the trail...I don't know about that. Some of my long distance hikes have been 6 years apart, plenty of rest time, and my knees acted up after 50 miles. So it only makes sense to me to try a constant, but manageable training routine that will slowly build them up over the next month.
Time will tell...and thanks for the advice.
Currently I work as a carpenter 40-50 hours a week. then i come home and walk an hour on the old treadmill at 15% grade at 2.5-3.5 mph with my pack on with 30 lbs in it. Which is about 10 lbs more then my normal load. My base weight is 7.6 lbs. Plus I plan on doing training hikes on the weekends very soon in the whites. My departure date is the 24th of April.