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  1. #1
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    Default How to start training for thru hike?

    I am planning of thru hiking the trail 2021, but am wondering what types of training should I do. I obviously know to do lots of hiking and backpacking, but what exercises would be helpful as well? I try to go running as much as possible, which I know will help me too.

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    I think there's already a thread on this but here's what has kept me in tip top shape. And I'm not a thru hiker. It's called hyperfittness a fitness program I've been using for years. A book by Sean Burch , a hiker, mountain climber etc. It's built on a 12 week schedule with 3 levels. There's the trekkers , climber and sherpa levels. Every 2 weeks the work outs completely change, Monday, Wednesday, Friday the same workout, Tuesday, Thursday different workouts. So what I've been doing is the trekkers workout for 2 weeks than I'll move on to the climber for 2 weeks than the sherpa routine for 2 weeks. Essentially peeking every 6 weeks. You work your way through the whole book takes about 9 months. By doing these kinds of constantly changing routines your muscles and mind never get bored or used to 1 routine. It will whip you into shape slowly and strengthen the ligaments, tendons and heart . I've had people in the gym ask me what kind of workouts am I doing after relating to them they went and purchased hyperfittness from Amazon for 5 bucks. I will guarantee you, you follow this program for 1 year, yeah you'll be ready to thru hike.
    Last edited by JNI64; 01-03-2020 at 10:42.

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    I would discourage running unless that's what you have been doing. Running can easily cause injury to those starting and is generally harder on the body. If you have good fitness and endurance then just keep hiking.

    What I did getting ready for my thru was to sign up for every backpack I could find in meetup groups and hiking clubs. Not only for the hiking/backpacking experience, but to also find out what equipment people are using and see how it is working for them and how it might work for me. This way I was not only training but educating myself about what people use out there. I would also hike, mostly the AT, talk to passing backpackers and made numerous day hikes from Salisbury CT to the next town south falls village for lunch and back, no pack and with one know good water spring on the way that I would pass by there and back.

  4. #4

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    Hike up and down steep hills. Set goals for both distance and total elevation gain. As a thru hiker you will find a very common day to be 15 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain. It varies a lot, but if you can do that 3 days in a row with a full pack (food and water) then you are in great shape to start your thru. This isnít required, but itís a good way to measure your progress. you canít substitute a treadmill for this. The trail rarely gives you flat places to step with a consistent stride. But on days you can not hike an inclined treadmill is certainly the next best thing. Put in an hour minimum.

    This takes a lot of time and dedication. Thru hiking is very hard. The work you do before you start will make it much easier, especially in the beginning when you are likely the most stressed.

  5. #5

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    I would encourage trail running. You should not get injured, the surface is soft and speeds are slow, and you can walk the uphills. I did my best hiking at a time when I was running a lot of trail ultramarathons (It works! Thru hikers in GA/NC were calling us "uber hikers" as they struggled on little or no training to go 10 miles/day). Part of the advantage is that you get skillful at footwork on roots and rocks; yes it actually is a skill that you have to develop.

    "Running can easily cause injury" == No, that's just false if you are a healthy person. It's the most natural and healthy thing you could ever do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Izzy.Karnis View Post
    I am planning of thru hiking the trail 2021, but am wondering what types of training should I do. I obviously know to do lots of hiking and backpacking, but what exercises would be helpful as well? I try to go running as much as possible, which I know will help me too.
    Regarding your sportive background and running experience (guessing between your lines here), as well as your age, physical fitness should be the least problem for you.

    What typically young people like you might lack is stamina and patience. Call it mental fitness.
    How to stand mentally all the up and down in mood, Keep on going when miserable, not overdoing it when feeling great.
    Things that are a bit hard to train, except by just doing it.

    This is at least what I experienced over my past ~50yrs of hiking.

  7. #7
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    Read a lot. Get your kit dialed in. Have a plan to start slow and follow your body's cues. The mental part mentioned above will keep you from hurting yourself early on, and once your "trail legs" kick in you'll be crunking it out. (Not a thruhiker but I have a few miles under a pack and a subscriber to the "it's just walking" hiking theory lol)
    nous dťfions

    It's gonna be ok.

    Ditch Medicine: wash your hands and keep your booger-pickers off your face!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Izzy.Karnis View Post
    I am planning of thru hiking the trail 2021, but am wondering what types of training should I do. I obviously know to do lots of hiking and backpacking, but what exercises would be helpful as well? I try to go running as much as possible, which I know will help me too.
    dude. you're young. you could do nothing, be sore for the first three days, and then kick to katahdin or springer or anywhere in between.

    i agree that mentally you should get ready. as someone who doesn't own a cell phone, i can only recommend a digital detox and being cool with that. not saying not to carry what you want to carry, but just get in the headspace to cope with less digitality. which could be a good thing. get some kerouac on paper to make up for it and perhaps you'll never look back.

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    a general observation Increase your workload slowly. When I was training for marathons we did no more than a 10% increase per week. So if you were running 20 miles per week, you could run 22 the next. Also don't ramp up distance and intensity. So for backpacking that could be increase distance one week and weight in backpack the next. Slow progression will allow all your joints to strengthen and also allow your feet to toughen so you can avoid some blisters.

    Also have step back weeks every 3-4 weeks where you drop effort before another set of increases.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Izzy.Karnis View Post
    I am planning of thru hiking the trail 2021, but am wondering what types of training should I do. I obviously know to do lots of hiking and backpacking, but what exercises would be helpful as well? I try to go running as much as possible, which I know will help me too.
    Practice steep hikes to dial your gear in and make sure your shoes are optimal for that type of terrain (eg: no blisters...).

    I agree that if you're relatively fit, you should be fine, but being more fit improves your chances of starting a hike strong and not getting mentally down
    If you don't have a lot of elevation near you, some classic leg muscle weight training will help. It can be a typical gym, or could just be something like a trx band (pistol squats, lunges, etc).
    Can supplement with incline treadmill, stair climber, etc, if needed; it's surprising how much walking on a treadmill at 10-18% incline will help you out, because that's exactly what you'll be doing for long stretches on trail. Exercises such as pistol squats can also be done without equipment, or you could add in other basic equipment exercises such as goblet squats (kettle bells)

  11. #11
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    I will definitely look into that book!

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    I live very close to part of the trail in Pennsylvania. I will be planning on hiking and camping that part of the trail to prepare myself sometime soon!

  13. #13

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    Agreed with most of what has been said here. You shouldn't need a lot of pre-hike conditioning outside of hiking steep slopes that treadmills or stair master gym equipment cannot duplicate. Though I used to run trails a lot, injuries from that activity over the years added up, so while flat surfaces are likely fine, I won't recommend trail running due to the injury potential preventing your hike by rolling an ankle in a small hole or imperfection in the tread way you don't see and tear some ligaments or worse. The best preparatory conditioning you can get is to hike with a full pack, after that, "it's just walking".

    In my view the larger issues will probably be mental and emotional stamina. Mental stamina would include being patient with others (some people will really test this), resisting the "need for speed" by convincing yourself you will be late at Katahdin, being patient with yourself allowing your body to tell you what's physically possible that day is a lesson everyone learns differently, just the act of putting one foot in front of the other somedays will be very, very difficult especially from a warm sleeping bag or room into bad weather. You have to really want it to reach the end. Managing mental stamina is a developed skill, but perishable quickly given difficult circumstances unless you remain positive.

    There is not much one can do to develop emotional stamina beyond being prepared for the eventual impact of it starting with being far from home for long periods of time on ones own without the ability to talk to family or friends over extended periods of time. This can be a big hurdle for a lot of younger people (which is not limited to thru hiking), running neck in neck with relationship issues that are magnified by distance, lack of communication, and how one's mind can exacerbate the issue until it blows up and becomes overwhelming. A lot of people boost their emotional stamina with relationships they develop on the trail, which eventually become a trail family of sorts that can help overcome some of the emotional issues that will pop up.

    Good luck on this adventure!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Izzy.Karnis View Post
    I will definitely look into that book!
    You didn't quote anybody but I assume you're talking to me as I think I'm the only one suggested a book to go by , hyperfittness? I just got back from the gym on weeks 3,4 of the sherpa routines and in the sauna at 170' for 1/2 hr. Whew endorphins and neurons firing like pistons in a racecar. And again I had a fellow a couple years older than me approached me asking hey if you see me in here copying some of your workouts you won't get mad will ya? Lol of course not, and these are folks that have been in the gym their whole lives . I'm not interested in how much I can bench press, squat, etc. I'm more interested in strengthening the the more important stuff the heart, ligament and tendon. These workouts incorporate whole body strengthening. And requires stamina and endurance as you do one exercise after another no rest. And requires tons of mental toughness to get through some of these workouts. Please feel free to PM if any questions.

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    Since you're asking this question, Im assuming you dont know much about backpacking. Make sure you like to camp and hike ... in the cold, in the rain. I see so many that start totally fit, but realize in a few days they are scared to be "alone" in the woods. Or miss their dog too much, etc. Try a week long trip. If you're even more stoked, then great. Many many people that finish never train. Start slow, you'll get legs soon enough.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scrabbler View Post
    Since you're asking this question, Im assuming you dont know much about backpacking. Make sure you like to camp and hike ... in the cold, in the rain. I see so many that start totally fit, but realize in a few days they are scared to be "alone" in the woods. Or miss their dog too much, etc. Try a week long trip. If you're even more stoked, then great. Many many people that finish never train. Start slow, you'll get legs soon enough.
    I think the above is the best advice I've read so far on this thread. Needs to backpack in the cold and in rain.

    On the subject of training indoors, a friend of mine swears that the best exercise for backpacking is to set the treadmill on maximum incline, and walk on it with a loaded backpack.
    Time is but the stream I go afishin' in.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Izzy.Karnis View Post
    I am planning of thru hiking the trail 2021, but am wondering what types of training should I do. I obviously know to do lots of hiking and backpacking, but what exercises would be helpful as well? I try to go running as much as possible, which I know will help me too.
    at 17 you won't need to do much. i ran 5 miles a day for 8 months before my 1st thru-hike. i was 27, in great shape and had no problems. didn't find georgia or any part of the trail tough at all

  18. #18
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    For the physical aspect of the hike - Keep hiking, keep running, do anything cardio, work on strengthening core muscles...just keep moving. If you have any prior sports injuries do your best to strengthen those areas.

    As others have said, get out there and dial-in your gear. You have a bit of time between now and your proposed thru hike. Get out there and use your gear in all types of weather. That is one of the best things you can do. Figure out what gear works for you, what you need to change-out (for rain/snow/heat). The more comfortable you are with your gear, the better you will do on the days where weather is not working in your favor.

    For the mental aspect of your hike, it might help to check out "Appalachian Trials: The Psychological and Emotional Guide to Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail" by Zach Davis. You might also check out "Trail Journals" (online journals for the major trails) for the stories of others who have hiked the Appalachian Trail.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Traveler View Post
    A lot of people boost their emotional stamina with relationships they develop on the trail, which eventually become a trail family of sorts that can help overcome some of the emotional issues that will pop up.
    Great description of the value of a trail family!


    Traillium
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  20. #20

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    No matter what workout regimen you choose; stretch everyday, get flexible. Wouldn't hurt to do Yoga or Pilates!!

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