How I’m Prepping for the Appalachian Trail

In T-minus one month (30 days) I will be embarking on my thru-hike! I get antsy whenever I see new blog posts and Instagrams from people already on the trail. Many of them are over halfway. But those are their journeys, and I have mine. The mantra goes, “hike your own hike,” which for me will physically start in a month. However, it’s been months in the making, and now that I’m in the home stretch, there’s a bunch I’ve been doing to physically and mentally prepare.

Physical Prep

Some friends and me on Wachusett, the closest “mountain.”

The best way to actually get in shape for hiking and backpacking is to hike and backpack. I think the only other activity that could maybe come close is mountain biking. Unfortunately, I am taking organic chemistry in the Boston area this month, so I haven’t really been able to get out on any legitimate mountains. Additionally, getting in amazing shape is not a necessity to start the AT; many people get in shape as they start on the trail. As a SOBO thru-hiker, this is not recommended. Instead of starting on the winding, smooth trails of the South, I will be starting on very technical, steep grade terrain. Therefore, I need to at least build up some strength and endurance before July 7.

My workout regimen includes…

–Hikes when possible.

–Mountain biking.

–The Harvard Stadium stairs.

–The StairMaster (not as good as Harvard’s stairs).

–Lifting, including squats, lunges, deadlifts, but always rounding out with core and upper body.

–Runs and walks.

–Interval training.

–Other cardio.

Just hiking the Harvard Stadium stairs.

 Mental Prep

No matter what physical preparations I do, they are all worthless if I do not mentally prepare. Only three out of every ten thru-hikers that set out to hike the AT complete the trail. Many people assume that this is due to sickness or injuries, but more often than not it is the mental battle that defeats them. Therefore, I decided to read a book called Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis, the founder of this website/blog forum. We’re Facebook friends, NBD. Besides the advice offered, Zach recommends making three lists. I won’t list all of my thoughts because some are a little personal, but here’s a taste of what I put down.

I am thru-hiking the AT because…

–I love to shit in the woods, as you may know from one of my previous blog posts.

–Lifelong dream and I want to accomplish it.

–I want to seek out type two fun.

–I want a trail name, a trail family, and to be a part of trail culture.

–Time to reflect and grow.

–Bonding with Lily.

–I love adventure.

When I successfully complete the AT, I will…

–Be a badass (spoiler alert, I already am one).

–Be forever proud.

–Have endured all the crap and made it out on top.

–Get a confidence boost (right before vet school interviews).

–Join the 2,000-milers club.

–Be more in tune with myself.

–Be closer with Lily.

If I give up on the AT, I will…

–Feel like a failure.

–Lose confidence.

–Feel embarrassed and ashamed.

This last list has some pretty brutal points because the whole idea is to have these lists on the trail to motivate me and deter me from stopping or giving up. Realistically, if I need to come off the trail for any reason, I need to be able to accept that and not hate myself.

Lastly, I have been lining up support systems. There’s my mom, who may be more inclined to coax me off the trail. Then there’s my sister, brother, sister-in-law, and extended family galore cheering me on. I have a great therapist who I will likely Skype with when I get the chance, and I have some fantastic friends whom I can count on. In particular, one of my friends from the post-bacc program I am doing has hiked the AT himself. It comforts me knowing that I can reach out to him with any questions, concerns, etc. He’s been through it, and honestly, I think it can often be difficult to get the much-needed support from people who don’t completely understand.

At the end of the day, all I can do is give it my best shot, and in order to do this, I am making an effort to prepare both physically and mentally. So, hey, if you have any other workout ideas, let me know.

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