Physically Preparing for the Appalachian Trail

The AT is a physically and mentally taxing endeavor. I have four months left before I leave the Southern Terminus of the trail and begin my hike. This winter I want to make sure that my body is as ready as it can be to take on the AT.

The best way to train for hiking is to hike. I am sure we have all heard this advice before because it’s good advice. That is why my training this winter is going to be centered around hiking. I am aiming to hike about two days per week so my body is used to hiking a lot come springtime. I will still have had enough rest days to make sure I am fresh when I start the trail. I will also be doing most of this hiking in winter conditions in the Adirondacks. Snowshoeing up and down the 4,000-footers in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks will surely keep me in good enough shape to start the AT with a good base level of fitness.

Resting with my snowshoes off on top of Big Slide in the Adirondacks.

Hiking in the winter is a different beast than hiking during the other three seasons. Extra precautions must be taken and more gear is needed as a result of that. I want to ensure that my body is used to carrying a decent amount of weight before I set off on the trail. Even though I only day hike in the winter, my gear will be comparably heavy to my AT gear setup. Combining the weight of my pack with the added difficulty of hiking through snowy conditions makes winter hiking difficult. And what does it take to train for something as difficult as the AT? Difficult hiking!

Aside from hiking, I want to ensure that I do core and leg work this winter. Goblet squats, lunges, single leg deadlifts, and step-ups have worked well for me in the past. These exercises give me a chance to improve my strength, stabilization, and balance. I also am going to work yoga into my routine. Yoga will help my balance, flexibility, and core strength. Weekly hiking with the addition of weighted exercises and yoga will hopefully get my body in the best shape possible for the spring.

This is a big learning process for me. I am aware that my training will surely change as the winter comes and goes. I think there are benefits to having a robust plan, but I also need to be willing to listen to my body and adapt my training to find what works best.

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Comments 15

  • Avatar
    Joseph : Nov 13th

    Good fortune on your preparations and journeys.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Scott Benerofe : Nov 14th

      Thank you!

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Hugh : Nov 15th

      Granny Gatewood age 67 walked through AT alone in 1955. Guess people were tougher back then

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Jim : Nov 14th

    Wow! If you train at ADK for the AT you DEFINITELY will be in shape for hiking this summer. Great tips and advice for future hikers who ‘slide’ off their couches unto the AT and find it a ‘bit more’ challenging. 🙂 Much joy on your journey!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Scott Benerofe : Nov 14th

      Thank you!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Wyatt : Nov 14th

    Enjoy the trail . Its the journey that counts , not the destination .

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Scott Benerofe : Nov 14th

      Thank you!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Josh Sutton : Nov 14th

    I live close to the Appalachian trail in Virginia and me and my wife hike it regularly. Our son is two and a half and we’ve been training him to go with us on a thru-hike in the year 2021. we’re currently trying to beat buddy The backpacker for the youngest person to hike the entire thing. So it’s a lot of fun reading about other people’s preparation as well.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Scott Benerofe : Nov 15th

      Wow. Good luck with your preparations!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Jaco stetser : Nov 14th

    Good luck man, I broke my Lev recently in preparation for a winter thru-hike, but I am on track for the summer. Maybe we’ll see each other.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Scott Benerofe : Nov 15th

      Maybe! Keep your eye out for Aquaman. Best of luck!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Joseph : Nov 15th

    Great prep I’m planning on 2021 when I retire you have given me some great ideas thanks and good luck

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Scott Benerofe : Nov 15th

      Glad I shared! Good luck

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Ruth Morley : Nov 15th

    Sounds like you’re doing a lot of great prep. I just finished a 10 week section (the lower 600 miles), and did 10-30 minutes of stretching/yoga every single day, either on the floor of the shelter or hostel or on my tent’s groundsheet. Didn’t miss a day. I credit that for this 65 year old body continuing to perform well and not being broken down when I reached Springer.

    Keep it up!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Scott Benerofe : Nov 16th

      Thanks and congrats to you! Hopefully, I will have the same routine on the trail.

      Reply

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