How To Be The Chuck Norris Of The Trail…For Beginners
How To Be Chuck Norris Of The Trail…For Beginners
Now For The Truth Of The Matter
The truth is NONE of us will ever be Chuck Norris of the trail, well maybe except for Scott Jurek or any of those other crazy awesome world class endurance athletes. Most of us will head to the trail underequipped, undertrained, and under the gun for the first part of our journey. I’m what I like to call “fit fat”, 35 years old and 6 feet tall weighing in at around 250 (err…ok maybe 265 but who’s counting?)!!! I have a lifetime of fitness under my belt between playing 2 sports in college and having a career in firefighting, but I’m left at this point with a body that likes to break down. After having back surgery last year I am determined to get fit AHEAD of my departure. Combining my athletic experiences in addition to years of training in the Fire Service I’m left with a head full of ideas, but a lack of motivation to implement them. Maybe, just maybe, we can help each other!
The How And Why Of It
The why is simple. I want to ENJOY my first month on the trail. I know soreness, aches, and pains will be part of my journey no matter what I do before I depart. My main question now is what can I do to try to be the best I can be when I leave? What can I do to increase my chances of setting foot at Kathadin AND Springer (I’m flip flop hiking)? One of my strategies and reasons for flip-flopping (other than trail conservation and crowds) is to begin the trail at a point where I can have some nice, progressively difficult hiking from the start. Employing a flip-flop strategy allows me the freedom to get used to the weight on my back and increase my fitness over an “easier” (haha) portion of the AT.
Now, I struggle from another challenge. I live in Florida, the great land of sun (99 degree weather), and FLAT terrain! I have to be creative when it comes to making my own mountains. Now, I’m lucky in some ways because I live in Gainesville…GO GATORS! I have at my disposal a ginormous stadium where I can grab my pack and go walking, stadium stepping, running, etc. In the fire service here in town we call one trip up and down the stadium a “Gator Mountain”…how fitting. Where can you go to hit some elevation? Can you find a parking garage, a local trail, a stadium (high school, college, or otherwise) where you can get some hill time in? You will be amazed at how easy it is to get a good all around strength and cardio workout in at a location near you!
I also enjoy strength training. I lift 3 days a week, and hit all body parts. Arms, back, shoulders, quads, hamstrings. Now, I am lucky, I do have a gym membership. You don’t HAVE to have this to incorporate strength training into your routine though! There are plenty of body weight exercises that will suffice! Burpees, push-ups, squats…oh my! A combination of these will hit every major muscle group, and will make you cry for more (or for it to end!)!
Here’s a sample itinerary for a quality week of workouts. I follow this some weeks, and some weeks I change it up. I have learned that we can all hit plateaus in our fitness journey. This means we can trade new activities for old, switch it up, confuse our muscles. Active stretching refers to a great way to warm up…take some time to do some easy half squats, some walking lunges, skipping, high knees, heel kicks. Get your muscles moving slowly, get your heart rate up. 10 minutes of an active warm up will save your creaky old joints and prevent injury!
-45 minute walk with pack (progressively increasing weight each week)
-Core exercises (crunches, sit-ups, v-ups – these will help you gain core strength, the FOUNDATION of Chuck Norris)
-Stretching (end with nice static stretches – hamstrings, quads, arms, shoulders, back – hit all the sore spots!)
-3 Gator Mountains (the stadium is huge here…I find starting off 3 trips will make me super sore. Increase each week)
-Push-ups (I incorporate sets of 20 push-ups in between my Gator Mountains)
-Walking cool down (I need this after a hard work-out)
-45 minute walk with pack
-Lifting at the gym/body weight exercises
-Tabata training on the rowing machine (this requires gym equipment, but you can also substitute sprinting). You can read more about tabata training (AMAZING WAY TO GET FIT) here: https://www.active.com/fitness/Articles/What-is-Tabata-Training You can also find some great workout ideas on YouTube for tabata training.
-Walking cool down
-Lifting at the gym/body weight exercises
-Off Day — Frequently on days off I will look to do something active with no impact, maybe a swim!
-2 hour walk with pack – this is my longer mileage day. I will take a nice long walk along one of our, albeit flat, longer trails in town or close to town. I may even mix in some walking lunges, squats, or push-ups along the way.
So, there you have it! SIMPLE! lol…Each day I am doing cardio I could substitute some other form of cross training. If you like to bike, or swim, or kayak feel free to incorporate that instead of walking or tabata. Typically, I will lift 3 days a week or incorporate those exercises talked about before into my long walk on Sundays.
Before long you will be the Chuck Norris of the trail…or at least on your way to being a more fit, happy, healthy, and prepared you!
Now It’s Your Turn!
What do you do to prepare for the trail!? Or more importantly, what DID you do to prepare? Did it work, what would you do differently? Please share, all of us home need and want to know!
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Core strength is probably the most overlooked exercise for hikers. Be careful with crunches though, especially if you have had back issues. Try a plank or a variation of the plank with a bosu ball.