Hikers Hate Him for this Fool-Proof Preparation Routine

Now that I’ve successfully lured you in with the tastiest of clickbait titles, I’m not going to BS you with a bunch of inspirational quotes about preparation. Surely there are some doozies out there, Vince Lombardi, Colin Powell, Confucius, and many more. All tremendously motivating and bound to rouse every fiber of your being into an immense wave of frenzied enthusiasm, sure to conquer all obstacles in your path.  Instead, I’ll just give you one quote about inspiration. It comes from the infamous Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother. It is very direct and to the point:

Step one to running a marathon: You run. There is no step two.

The irony in this article is that Barney runs a marathon with zero preparation whatsoever. But does he complete it…?  You’re damn right he does!

Now do I have the balls to attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) with zero prep? As much as I would love to embrace my inner Barney Stinson (the non-preparer, not the womanizer), no, I lack those particular balls. Alas, I have been preparing in the following ways.

Physical Preparation

*This article is intended for general information and entertainment purposes and is not written as medical advice, to diagnose, or treat any condition. While I am a medical doctor, I’m not your doctor and you should consult your health care professional with any questions*

The abrupt ramp-up from walking 0 miles per week to walking 100+ miles per week, for months on end is a recipe for overuse injuries of all kinds (take it away, Barney). Presently, I’m dealing with a pre-existing overuse injury of achilles tendonitis (thanks summer softball). This means I need to go about my training slowly and methodically. Here’s what my step count over the last 6 months has looked like.

Since December, I’ve been ramping up my hiking and dog walks from an average of 1 mile/day to my current 3.5 miles/day, with a goal of 5 miles/day by the time I start the AT in mid-April. A gradual increase in volume allows your joints, tendons, and connective tissues time to adapt to the progressive demands. For the last 2 months, this activity has also included a 20lb weighted Camelbak to simulate the load I’ll be carrying.

I’ve also been continuing a 3-4 day per week strength training regimen focused on total body strength in addition to corrective exercises for achilles tendonitis and patellofemoral syndrome, and vitamin C, and collagen supplementation. In a future post, I’ll dig more into the specifics of those rehab protocols (stay tuned).

Reverse Dieting (AKA Getting Fat)

I’m expecting hiking 2200 miles to be extremely catabolic and I’ll inevitably be losing both body fat (yay) and muscle (boo). I’m planning on ending the AT below my base body weight of 190 lbs but no less than 170 lbs. Currently, I’m running a calorie surplus to bulk up to 210 lbs by the time I start, which will be the most I’ve ever weighed by a large amount. This surplus is fueled primarily by 150+ grams of protein per day and shamrock shakes from Mcdonald’s (kidding, sort of). Below is an inbody scan (not the most accurate, I know) from January. I plan to repeat this scan before I start and do another when I finish (big nerd data).

Mental preparation

The short answer to my list of mental preparation for the trail is: I haven’t been doing any. Plain and simple. After medical school, post-grad training, and 8 years in the Army, mentally speaking this hike should be a walk in the woods (click the link. You know you want to). Additionally, I approach life with the curiosity and maturity of a 5-year-old which results in being easily amused and should prevent me from going crazy while alone in the woods. However, in the event of temporary boredom, I have music, podcasts, and an ever-growing list of Audible books lined up. (Lord of the flies, Finite and infinite games, Catch 22, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 4000 Weeks, Crime and Punishment, Brave New World, and The Brothers Karamazov to name far too many). Feel free to add suggestions in the comments section below.

Financial Preparation

I’m a big financial nerd and game-ifying things stimulate my ADHD brain. I’m tracking expenses and trying to keep all my trail-related costs below $5,000. At present, I’ve spent roughly $600 on necessary items and am utilizing what I already have as much as possible. As I won’t be working, I’m planning on using an investing strategy of selling covered calls to generate weekly income.

Shake Downs

I’ve had 2 recent shake-downs; one in my backyard and one camping at Canyon Lake, TX. Yes, backyard camping doesn’t sound particularly challenging. However, opportunities to test gear in 30-degree weather don’t happen too often in Texas (gear passed with flying colors). In Canyon Lake, I was able to put my medical skills to the test. I was able to bandage up a friend after he drunkenly fell into our campfire and suffered a 2nd degree burn to his hand, saving him a trip to the ER (although saving a limb sounds dramatically more exciting). That event has me presently brainstorming items to include in a lightweight first-aid kit. (something Barney Stinson would also take issue with). But first-aid items and other gear are certainly a post for another day. Stay tuned and stow away with me in my pack; my journey of the Appalachian Trail starts in 2 weeks!

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Comments 4

  • Clifford Ward (Sparks) : Apr 4th

    Good to see a fellow Texan in this blog, and hope to see more.
    At 72 (73 in June) I wont be the youngest and undoubtably not the
    eldest either. I hike the subdivision, once around the main street
    and such is an exact 4 miles, do 3 of these a day (75 minutes each).
    I hope to start Aril of 73.

    • Derek Witteman : Apr 4th

      Thats awesome Sparks! Keeps up the good work. What part of Texas? Happy to have you as a follower, I’ll definitely be posting more once I hit the trail.

  • Sherry Woolacott : Apr 5th

    Hey Derek, proud of your commitment to your journey! You’ve talked and planned this AT for awhile! Good luck and safe travels! Love you Mom

  • Catherine : May 3rd

    Just stumbled on this blogging / hiking thing and am really enjoying the stories and pictures. Goid luck and safe travels from Philadelphia, PA.


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