Physical and Mental Prep on All-Natural Stairs


I have been in the gym regularly for the past few months preparing for my AT thru-hike. I think I am making improvements but there is no better way to put it to the test  than with all-natural stairs. Chimney Tops in the Great Smoky Mountains is a 1.75 mile one-way in and out trail with ( yes, I counted them) 638 stairs. Over 400 of these being in the last 0.5 mile to the top. This hike has always been challenging and still is but I can tell the work is paying off.


Physically is not the only way I am preparing for my thru-hike. It is also important to be mentally prepared. I have in the past let a climb like this “get in my head.” Today before we started out I made a conscious decision to take this hike one step at a time and not think about how much I had completed or how much was left. Instead just enjoy each piece of the trail.

My second piece of mental workout was to stop working about where everyone else was. When hiking with friends I often hike harder and faster than my ability in order to try to keep up. It was a bit awkward at first but I felt more relaxed and enjoyed this trail more because I did.


I finished the hike (faster than I have before) tired and a little stiff but much less so than on previous trips. I credit this not only to being in better shape but also to going at it with the right frame off mind. I know if I am going to complete an AT thru-hike I will have to know how to push myself to my limits but also what works for me and what my limits are.


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