Train Insane or Fail the Trail: Appalachian Trail Preparation
Yep, that’s six zeros. That’s the estimated amount of steps taken on the Appalachian Trail. 2,200 miles or 3,500km (for those in Australia) will do that. And I’m aiming to complete every single last mile. This is no easy feat and will require a large amount of training. I once participated in a Melbourne 10km charity run with little to no training. Safe to say walking was a challenge for the following three days. So for an adventure like this, I wasn’t going to let that happen.
I’m a physiotherapist. My bread and butter is injury prevention and management. For cases like this it’s a simple rehab or “prehab” approach. Progressively work harder and harder, applying slightly more stimulus/stress on the body leading up to departure date. I’ve seen my fair share of stress fractures or stress-related injuries in my time, so I know what’s expected. I need to prepare my tissues; my muscles, tendons, joints, and bones for five to six months of walking up and down hills with a 15 kg pack. Fun, right!?
Only 25% of People Will Finish the AT Thru-Hike
I want to ensure I stay injury-free to join that statistic and get my 2,000-mile patch and make it to Springier Mountain.
So below is a guide I have thrown together to start preparing for the trail. I’m now four months out, which is ample time to get my training loads and volume up to the point where I can hit the trail slightly more comfortably. I plan to also go on a series of overnight hikes locally over a few weekends to get some “sports specific” training under my belt.
Gym resistance loading: 3x per week
– Leg Press 3 x 12-15 reps
– Barbell Squats 3 x 10 reps
– Calf Raises 3 x 15
– Barbell Elevated Glute Bridges 3 x 10
– Walking Lunges/ Mid bench step ups: 3 x 10
– Stiff Legged Deadlifts: 3 x 8
– Walking every 1-2 days ~ 4km 5/10 rate of perceived exertion (RPE).
– Running: 1-2x per week 2-3km run @ 5:50 min Kms.
Sports Specific Loading:
– Weekend hike or scramble locally. Aiming for 7-10km hike through the Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast Hinterland.
I will aim to hike with increasing pack weight to closely replicate my weight on the AT. I’ll start at 5kg base weight and progressively build to 15kg. Rest days are crucial for training. It’s important for laying down new osseous tissue in bone and help with collagen regeneration for tendons. Often training errors where you’ve done too much too soon will results in breakdown before you even make the first white blaze.
This plan will change with increasing weights so I can be pushing harder loads and increasing my intensity to better prepare for my trek. I’ll be tracking and monitoring all of my training loads in an Excel spreadsheet tracking variability, strain, and total volumes for you exercise science nerds out there (feel free to reach out if you would like the spreadsheet emailed to you).
If you have have any advice for training preparation, I’d love to hear from you.
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