Oh boy, am I out of shape.
When I’m not writing, I am actively stalking everyone else’s Appalachian Trials posts, and it’s a bit alarming to see all of these shakedown hikes and fitness reports coming in. I spent this summer training for a burly trail race: lots of running, hiking, and backpacking (spoiler alert: I still did terribly). But since the race back in mid-September, I have not exercised at all, minus some climbing gym sessions and throwing the Chukit for the dog.
Last night, Rocky came home after a 13-hour day working construction, and I was in the same La-Z-Boy I’d been in when he left, still squinting at the article I had yet to complete. The only thing that had changed was the addition of nacho cheese on my sweatshirt.
This is tragically normal for me as I settle into hibernation mode. My winter routine is a cycle of eating nachos, feeling bad about myself, going to the 24/7 strip mall gym (next to Family Dollar! So convenient!), climbing at the rock gym, and cross-country skiing when my dog needs exercise and I’m feeling motivated.
After some gentle prodding from Rocky to “maybe get outside sometime this week,” I took Sako and Rocky’s mom’s demented Pomeranian named Cujo (look it up) on a “hike” up Drinking Horse Mountain. (Round trip distance: 2 miles. Elevation gain: 1,000 feet.) This is a great mountain for the elderly and infirm, as it has benches at every lookout, and the accomplishment of hiking what is technically referred to as a mountain.
After heaving up the one-mile incline, I didn’t know who was going to collapse first: myself or the obese pompom. I figured I was out of shape, but thus far, when people/everyone asks if I’m training for the AT, I shrug and say “I maintain a pretty solid foundation, so I’ll be fine.” I don’t know what I was judging this foundation on. The fact that I’m too picky of an eater to gain weight? That I climb hard at the gym all winter? Unless I want to attempt the first ever NOBO hike consisting entirely of swinging through the trees, my shoulders and biceps are not going to get me to Katahdin.
Drinking Horse can’t really be counted as a shakedown hike. Instead of packing a few solid days out on the trail or perfecting my cooking setup, I learned that a pomeranian can kick my ass and I will totally take my headband on the AT. Before now, I’ve been banking on my elevation advantage (Bozeman sits at 5,500 feet) and the “I’m just going to get in shape on the trail” line. But it looks like I’m going to have to put forth some effort to avoid being airlifted off the trail before the first shelter.
So now we’ve reached a holding pattern. Montana winters are frigid, the trails will soon be snowed in, and I can’t get my workout in on a construction site or hunting like Rocky does. Is there any point in sweating on the Stairmaster for 30 miserable minutes? Unless I wear a stair-step to nowhere whilst wearing full pack and watching Bachelorette marathons for 10 hours a day, I’m not going to adequately prepare in a gym.
My goal at this point is to be as active as possible for the next five months, hit the cross-country ski trails a few times a week, and grudgingly purchase a yoga membership to keep my muscles from shriveling up into muscle raisins that will tear on the first misstep.
How about the rest of you motivated people? What are your winter plans? As for accomplished thru-hikers, what was your pre-trail prep?
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