What to do When You Can’t Hike Every Day

My favorite way to train for my AT thru-hike is by hiking. Life does not always allow for long drives or long days on the trail so what do you do?

The Gym

I have spent many hours in the gym over the last few months. While it is not my favorite way to get exercise it is the easiest to fit into my schedule. I tried going in the afternoon but what would very often happen was I would have something else to do that gave me an excuse to not go. It is easier to do than I would like to admit. Having never been a morning person, the thought of getting up early enough to go before work was unpleasant. However, with encouragement from my husband I gave it a try. I was pleasantly surprised. Now I go almost every morning at 5 a.m. (people who know me won’t believe it) and don’t mind getting up that early at all. Best of all there is nothing else going on that early to distract me.

The Park


We live in a town with a nice greenway. There are miles and miles to this greenway through several parks that make for pleasant walks that we can do in the evenings and change out where we do it. There are lots of options on these trails that allow us to add more up hill or work in flights of stairs. The next best thing to being in the woods and often fits into our evenings. Next step will be starting to do these walks with a loaded pack!

The Trail

We are lucky to live close to lots of different places to hike. Including a national park with over 900 miles of trails as well as several state parks and other public lands. These give us a variety of terrain and lengths as well as scenery all within day trip distance of the house. Most weekends we will do day hikes of different length and difficulty. Even when we are doing a short easy day hike I carry a day pack with three liters of water in it just for the extra weight. Next step to add a pack with all my gear and overnight trips!

The Result

I have lost a few pounds but that was not my main goal, just a pleasant side effect. My main goal was to get my body more prepared to walk for miles every day carrying my life in a bag on my back. I can tell in lots of ways I am stronger. My pace is faster than before without even trying. Hiking in the past I have often skipped even short side trips my hiking buddies would take to save my strength for the hike. Now I am doing those side trails and still finishing the hike less tired and sore than before. Stairs are getting easier although they are still something I am working on; my 48-year-old knees are a bit stubborn. I am pleased at my progress so far and will continue as my start date approaches. The closer it gets the more I am motivated to start this adventure in the best shape I can.

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Comments 2

  • SMB (Rocketman) : Oct 29th

    Great to see you executing your plans! Trails are always going to be better than the gym (IMHO) because the unevenness helps to strengthen your feet/knees/hips/core gradually in ways that you’ll need on your thru-hike and that treadmills will not.

    Now is also the time to start working on a morning stretching routine that includes your feet. Look up exercises for plantar fasciitis and ITB syndrome; start those now to reduce the chances of having problems later.

    Also, decide soon whether you are a trekking pole person or not, and train accordingly.

    Happy Trails!

    • Turtle : Oct 30th

      Thank you for the advise about stretching I had not thought of stretching for ITB syndrome. I am already doing some with my feet as I have had planter faciatis in the past.

      I am defiantly a tracking pole person and am working on getting my technique right.


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