Physical Preparations for a Thru-Hike

I consider myself to be a fit person.  In no way am I saying I am going to win any races or competitions, but I have what I would consider better than average endurance.  I enjoy long, steady-paced workouts.  I prefer Crossfit style workouts, a combination of cardio, weightlifting, and gymnastic movements.

Even being in decent shape, I’m not in walk 2,000+ miles shape.  Can you get into that kind of shape without walking hours a day, every day?!  I’m doubtful of that, but my attempt is to get my feet and legs used to carry this body for days on end.

Your feet are pretty damn important.  My short, blocky feet have taken me more places than I can remember.  I often wonder why I don’t treat the poor things better, as thanks for carrying me around nearly all of my life.  After 5 hours in hiking boots, it was evident that I needed to change my footwear.  I went to a local running store, where they helped me find the perfect pair of trail runners for my foot, the Brooks Calderas, which have a nice wide toe-box.

I now walk around in my new trail running shoes with my pack strapped to my back as often as possible.  I did a modified version of Murph (THE Crossfit Memorial Day WOD) wearing my pack.  I started my training carrying 20-25 pounds on my walk/hikes, after a month I have upped my pack weight to 35 pounds (using hand weights) to simulate a full supply of water and food.  I will be doing a post on my gear and base weight next week.

Workouts these days consist of a lot of weighted lunges, squats, and box step-ups, but I mix in heavy arm work with those movements because I’m afraid my arms will shrink.  Also, I include a lot of cardio- running, biking, and jump-roping. Here are a few recent workouts:

Workout 1:

6 Rounds for Time:
– 6 push-ups
– 12 kettlebell swings (36 lbs)
– 18 weighted box step-ups (25 lbs)
– 24 double unders

Workout 2:

Here’s a long weightlifting workout that works the legs and the arms, allows time for rest, but gets you breathing heavy.

Every 2 Minutes for 30 minutes (15 rounds)- heavy, but manageable, weight
– 12 Deadlifts
– 6 Squat Cleans
– 3 Push Jerks

Workout 3:

This workout *looks* easy enough, but is a real bitch:
400m weighted lunge, 5 burpees every time the weight is dropped. (I use 25 pounds)

Nothing is going to truly prepare me for a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, but I hope to go into my attempt with plenty of miles and practice under my belt!

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Comments 13

  • Sandra : Jun 15th

    Megan: Are you up for hiking on the PNT in 2018? Probably not the entire 1200 miles for us. Definitely starting in WA.

    Myself & possibly a fellow gal kayaker are reading & working towards this one.

    Wanted to do the AT 2 years ago, but 2 days b4 leaving, my husband said “NO”. I have a bad heart & he was concerned for my health & for me being alone on the AT & all of the possible “what ifs” that I never consider. My guy AT fellow hiking partner backed out on me at last minute and Hubby was off for a ski week in UT and would never do a long hike.

    For me, my life is for living & if I should die while being on the Outdoor World…that’s a Great Thing.

    Give it some thought & maybe I’ll get an email from you or a call one day.

    Happy Hiking!!

    • Johnny walker dan : Jun 15th

      Hey your right don’t stay on the porch and rock your life away get a friend and go I ask more than 20 all said yes and in the end only one has gone with me this weekend my daughter and I will get back on theAT and go 30 miles on a weekend hike so just go and do a piece of the wild that’s all around you it’s just fabulous

    • Megan Landstine : Jun 19th


      I had originally planned on doing a NOBO thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2018. My best friend is planning her wedding for that summer, so I pushed up my hike to a SOBO this year. I probably don’t have time for any additional long-distance hikes in the next two years. I would love to hike the PNT some day, hopefully with my husband!

      I hope you continue with your plans and are able to make your dream of a thru-hike. Know your “why” and be able to tell anyone who doubts you.

      Best wishes,


  • Dave Stickle : Jun 15th

    Hiking wearing a pack with what your heaviest resupply weight will be is the best workout you can do. Anything else won’t hurt but your gonna use muscles you didn’t even know you had on the track. Just saying..good luck., 2016 AT thruhike. Raffiki.

    • Megan Landstine : Jun 19th

      Hi there! I named one of my cats Raffiki when we got him, but after a few months we changed his name to better fit his personality- Monster.

      Thanks for the advice, I guess I just continue with the current regimen 🙂

  • Gary Stell : Jun 15th

    I agree with Dave, the hiking you can do with a close to trail weight pack along with step ups with that pack on will help a lot.

    • Megan Landstine : Jun 19th

      Great, as I have been hiking with even a little more weight than what I hope to have when I start!

  • Ben Tarpley : Jun 15th

    To each his own but all this preparation by weeks of exercise and wearing a backpack is overkill in my book for hiking the AT. At age 62 and overweight I did not join a gym or spend weeks trying to get in shape. Of course my legs were sore for a couple of weeks at the beginning, but it did not hinder me from hiking everyday. As far as wearing a 30 lb. pack, you won’t notice it. Being exceptionally fit may gain you an extra couple of miles each day, but 3 weeks on the trail and you will start to peak. If I am going to hurt and sweat, I want be looking back at my steps on the trail and not the stair master.

    • Megan Landstine : Jun 19th

      Thanks Ben!

      I actually hope to finish the hike in under 5 months, so my goal is to be able to start out at a pretty good pace and increase from there. I know I will have several off-trail days, so high mileage, without injuring or exhausting myself is important. There is definitely no stair master in my regimen: I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and travel for a living, so I am able to hit up some great trails.

  • Studmuffin : Jun 16th

    Megan: you’re good. Enough said. There are plenty of people who start this trail way overweight, do absolutely no physical preparation, and finish the trail.

    • Megan Landstine : Jun 19th

      I understand that, and I know much of finishing the trail is mental, rather than physical. I want to be in the best form when I hit the trail, that’s just one way I prepare.


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