New Year’s Resolution: Conquer the Trail, Mind and Body

It’s a brand-new year, and like many of you, I’m filled with the blend of excitement and trepidation that comes with a fresh set of resolutions. This year, my main focus is tackling the iconic Appalachian Trail, the 2,197.4-mile trek that promises breathtaking beauty, grueling challenges, and an unforgettable journey into the heart of nature.

But let’s be honest, conquering the AT isn’t just about physical prowess. It’s a monumental test of mental strength, resilience, and the unwavering strength of your “why.” So, while I’m hitting the gym and logging training miles on nearby trails, I’m also investing heavily in the mental prep work that will be my secret weapon when the going gets tough.

Tuning the Mind: Finding Your North Star

Passive activities like devouring blogs and gear lists are great, but they won’t keep you going when your legs scream and your doubts whisper in the wind. That’s where your “why” comes in. What ignites your passion for the AT? Is it the thrill of pushing your limits and rediscovering your inner strength? The yearning to connect with nature and find solace in its embrace? Whatever it is, hold onto it like a lifeline. Write it down, stick it to your mirror, and let it be your North Star when the trail throws curveballs your way.

Embrace the Mental Game: Train Your Brain Alongside Your Body

Visualization? Mindfulness? Positive self-talk? These aren’t just buzzwords – they’re powerful tools that can help you conquer the mental demons lurking on the trail. Picture yourself summiting Katahdin, bathed in the golden light of victory. Mentally rehearse tough sections, reminding yourself of your strength and resourcefulness. And when negativity tries to creep in, counter it with a wave of positivity. Trust me, this mental training will be just as invaluable as your physical conditioning.

Anticipate the Slow Grind: Find Serenity in the Rhythm

The AT isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon, an endless dance of steps, sweat, and scenery. Embrace the rhythm of the trail, find serenity in the simple act of moving forward. Start incorporating this mindset into your daily life. Journal your training, celebrate small victories, and savor the process of preparing for your epic adventure. Every step, every mile, is a testament to your commitment and builds momentum for the journey ahead.

Paw Patrol on a winter hike in PA

Paw Patrol on a winter hike in PA

Preparing the Body: Walking the Talk

Sure, gym workouts are essential, but there’s nothing quite like getting your trail shoes dirty and feeling the weight of your pack on your back. Hit the trails, get comfortable with your gear, and maybe shed a few pounds in the process.

Embrace the Cold and Figure Out Your Layers

If your start date looms closer, acclimatize to the elements. For me, this morning meant a 4-mile trek in Ridley Creek State Park with my loaded pack and a mix of layers to combat the sub-freezing temperatures. It was a lesson in learning: I needed my mid-layer for warmth, but the down hoodie and rain shell proved overkill. Maybe a different mid-layer or ditching the shell would be wiser for a March start in Georgia. Experiment, learn, and refine your layering system – it’s your personal armor against the elements.

Become BFFs with Your Pack

Every chance I get, I strap on my pack and hit a local trail. My goal is modest but achievable: 2-3 hikes a week, supplemented by gym sessions. These treks aren’t just about logging miles; they’re about building core strength, improving cardio, and mastering balance. I also practice interval training, pushing myself uphill to mimic the demands of the AT. And to top it off, I frequently unpack and repack my gear. It may seem obsessive, but the more comfortable I am with the loading and carrying process, the smoother my journey will be.

Wear the Clothes, Live the Trek

I usually don’t wear Injinji toe liners and Merino wool socks to work (or most other places), but on the trail, they’ll be my best friends. So, I’m incorporating my trail wardrobe into my daily life. From shoes and underwear to base layers and shells, I’m getting used to the feel and function of everything I’ll be living in for months.

Obsessing About Underwear (Yes, Really!)

Comfort is king (or queen) on the trail, and that starts with what you wear underneath it all. I’m currently in a fierce battle of the briefs, testing out Helly Hansen, Ex Officio, Patagonia, and Saxx. So far, Ex Officio and Patagonia are emerging victorious in the smackdown of the boxers (pun intended!). Remember, underwear is highly personal, so what works for me might not be your cup of tea (or, well, you get the idea). But taking the time to experiment now will pay off later. And hey, even practicing wearing your clothes is an active part of prepping for the trek!

Enjoy the Prep and Begin Your Adventure Before Setting Forth

My new year’s resolution is to begin my adventure now. There’s no reason to wait until your start date to embrace the journey.

The more active you are in your preparation, the more invested you’ll feel, and the more likely you are to hit that first stair at Amicalola Falls with a spring in your step and a fire in your heart. Remember, readiness can be the secret sauce to conquering not just the mountains, but the demons in your own head. So, lace up your footwear, tune your mind, and start your epic adventure, one step (or blog post) at a time.

Happy trails!

P.S. Don’t forget to share your own training tips and triumphs in the comments below. We’re all in this together, and the more we share, the more prepared we’ll be to conquer the AT (and ourselves) in the year ahead!

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