How to Prepare/Train for a 2,000 Mile Thru-Hike?

How does Michael plan to prepare for his AT thru-hike?

He doesn’t.

I know a lot of people do a lot of things to prepare for a thru-hike.  As this is my first one, I did some research on the topic, mostly out of curiosity.  I know that some people carry a weighted backpack with them everywhere they go.  People wear ankle weights all the time, and start hitting the gym more frequently.  Some people go on hikes more often.  That’s cool… all of it… but I don’t think I need it.  I live a pretty active life.  I do landscaping for a living; pushing mowers, carrying weed eaters, and toting backpack blowers up and down hills alllllll over for eight hours a day.  I go hiking, I go kayaking, and I go on lovely walks to the farmers market with my girlfriend some Saturdays.  Speaking of my girlfriend, she bought a house last winter and so we also spend lots of time digging and hauling and hammering and things of that nature.

That being said…

I do, however, plan on planning some plans.  I’m planning on approaching the plans I plan to plan, with the plan that the plans I plan to plan will be planned loosely. “But Mike, why do you plan on planning the plans you plan to plan with the plan that your plans will be planned loosely?” you ask.  Because at 39 years old, I know that the universe has plans for planners who plan plans, and those plans don’t always go along with what the planner had planned when they planned the plans they planned.

Seriously, though?  I don’t know, man. Dang! I’m gonna plan for some supply drops and some grocery stops. Oh! And some visits from my girlfriend? But other than that I’m in good physical shape and I’m just gonna go with the flow.  After all, it’s just a walk in the woods, right?

As one of my idols, Jack Burton, says, “It’s all in the reflexes.”

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Comments 5

  • jim : Oct 5th

    Planning no plan is better than no plan at all! Ha! Enjoy your hike!

  • Richard Blevens : Oct 5th

    Plans are made to be broken… have fun.

  • Josep : Oct 5th

    See ya on the trail mate good luck

  • TicTac : Oct 5th

    There are certainly many examples of people who started an AT thru-hike with little or even no physical preparation. There are also many examples of people starting a prospective thru-hike with little or no physical preparation who bailed out early on.

    Most of the work you describe involves upper body strength. You will find over the 5-6 months of a thru-hike that much of your upper body musculature atrophies, even if you are using poles (most often because people incorrectly use the wrist straps on hiking poles, limiting the degree to which they can add to your forward motion and balance). The muscles that are most utilized on a thru-hike are in the gluteus minimus and maximus, and legs, not the upper body. A stair climber, tread climber, or treadmill with 10+% incline capability will develop the gluteus and legs best and provide the best physical preparation for a thru-hike.

    But as (and I hope you have it and will read and re-read it) Appalachian Trials makes very clear, the biggest impediment to completing an AT thru-hike is not physical, but mental. Many thru-hike aspirants who are magnificently prepared physically, bail on their hike because they simply cannot deal with the emotional and psychological travails of 5-6 months on the Trail.

    • Michael Beierle : Oct 26th

      I have that book and its great, and I have read it more than once! Lol. Thanks for the advice! I recently went on a weekend trip with a lot of steep inclines and realized maybe I do need a little more leg training hahaha


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