The Hardest Thing I’ve Done to Train for My Upcoming Thru-hike
Of course I hike. Short hikes, long hikes, with my pack and without. Trying out every piece of gear I could possibly get my hands on. What’s the weather? I don’t care, I planned a hike, so that’s what I’m doing. Aside from hiking, I firmly believe yoga is the next best thing you can do. Flexible joints are protected joints. The better your lunge, the easier it is to scramble up over boulders. Increased body awareness helps when roots grab at your feet or the rocks turn slippery, too.
For extra cardio, Shaun T is my boo. The Insanity workouts are extremely popular among thru hikers, like attracts like, I suppose. I prefer his dance workouts, because, well, give a girl some room and she will shake her groove thing! They instill a valuable reminder that you can smile and laugh while your heart is thumping and sweat is pouring off you from the effort.
So what could be harder than all of that?
The other day, I drove my youngest to the airport. Winter break is over, it’s time for him to go back to college. As I hugged him, the realization came to me that I didn’t know when I was going to see him again. WHAM!! My heart dropped. It took every ounce of strength to keep the waterworks in check (somewhat, there are always tears) until he went inside.
I’ve always been the organizer and coordinator of our family’s activities. Everything is recorded in triplet – on the wall calendar, in my planner, and I’m slowly learning to use my phone apps, Flintstone that I am. Doctor appointments, travels, semester start and end dates, etc. It is essential to my sanity. When we lived overseas, I would start planning out our summer home leave in January. Seriously.
But this. This was something I could not plan.
I haven’t even stepped through the Amicalola arch, and already the mental game has begun.
I will not be there to pick him up at the end of the semester. Or welcome him home and spoil him rotten for a few days with all his favorite meals. I’ll probably miss his birthday, too. And, depending on how long it takes me to reach Katahdin, I may not be home before he leaves for school again. It’s enough to leave this mama bear in despair.
HOWEVER, there is a bright side.
My heart hurts because I am choosing to separate myself from him, his sibling, and my husband. But I am teaching them so much more than I could if we were together. I’m teaching them perseverance. To not be afraid of hard things. To start things and then see them through, no matter what the obstacles. To dream BIG, and then to chase that dream with everything you have. That temporary discomfort is just that, temporary, and the end result will truly be worth it.
When I step through that arch, I have extra motivation to keep going. I remember my family is *just* up the trail in Massachusetts. Our home is not too far from the trail, and when I arrive, I will have the MOTHER of all zero days!
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The “hardest thing you need to do” to prepare is bridges (better done with your feet on a surface 20-24″ high) and hours on a stair stepper. Aside from a positive outlook and great mental toughness, strong glutes and thighs are what will get you to the Big K. That and really good hiking poles (I recommend Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork).