Training for Success

The 2,200+ mile hike is not a straight walk. To be ready for everything the trail can throw at a hiker, training for success is important.

The 2,200 mile hike is not just a straight walk, there needs to be some physical training that has to take place in order to be ready for everything the trail can throw at a hiker. There are some schools of thought, believe it or not, that state you can use the start of your thru hike as preparation for the rest. Meaning, start slow with your pace and mileage, then gradually increase this over a matter of weeks. Another school of thought is to train ahead of time so you are physically ready when you start at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia. I feel a good balance is important, start slow but not too slow. I am going to be ready for the start to be significant miles like 10 miles a day for a week.

Hike Your Own Hike

At least, when you prepare well and at times over prepare, not only are you going to be physically ready for the trail but mentally as well.

Training is especially important if you want to maintain a pace and schedule. A hiker needs to maintain their own pace, not a pace set by someone else. Going too fast will cause fatigue and injury and too slow means your hike will take longer. Shakedown hikes before you start not only test gear, but also give you a baseline on your pace. If you are lucky enough you will have a hiking partner that can maintain the same pace and help push you when needed, but whether starting your hike with a partner or meeting one along the way it is inevitable that at some point you will be hiking solo. Knowing your gait, pace, and endurance is going to be key before starting your hike.

My Workouts

Being prepared not only mentally, but physically will aid a hiker in their success. My physical workouts have been very basic. Since this is a hike (essentially a long walk), my workouts have been just that, walking. I have not lifted any weights or gone to a gym. I have weighed down my Hyperlite pack with weight and I hit the trails. With a month left until I start, my workouts have been ramping up. With four weeks out, I am hiking about 8 miles everyday. As I approach closer I increase my milage per week. Three weeks out I will be hiking 10 miles a day, then 2 weeks out 12 a day. My goal is to get my average speed to be closer to 3 miles per hour.

I am also doing simple core exercises such as planks, sit ups, push ups, and more. I found using only my body weight works best for me with my schedule and time. Maybe you like hitting the gym and lifting so free weights. Great! Your core is very important to get strong as well. Having that backpack on all day will take a toll on your body. It will be exhausting! So it is also important knowing when my body needs a break. This can only be discovered when you push my body to the limits with training and practice.

Get out of the Gym and onto the Trails!

Being mentally prepared is a large part of this process, for me it is even more important than the physical. Be prepared to hike your own hike.

One important part for me is doing these workouts on actual trails. I want the same terrain changes that are going to happen on the AT to happen on my workout. Hiking in different weather conditions gets you feeling confident in your ability to be warm, comfortable, and to make sure gear is up to the task. It is much more than getting my legs strong, I am getting my feet ready for what is going on underneath them. Preparing my ankles and knees for some uneven and loose ground, and I am getting the feel for my pack with weight on my back and hips while navigating rocks and steps.

Hiking on trails also gives you so much valuable information on establishing a baseline and gives you realistic goals to set for yourself. Gait of a hiker cannot be changed, but through training you can improve your endurance, strength, and pace. If a hiker is not physically ready, those first few weeks are going to be tough. Sore and fatigued muscles as well as achy joints that are not used to the stress are going to cause that self doubt to creep in. Through physical training, you can build your self confidence to ensure that the thoughts of self doubt to not creep in so quick and harsh.

Train for You!

“Hike you own hike” is a phrase we use a lot when talking to hikers new to long distance and thru hiking. The same can be said for your training. Do what works for you! My way listed above may not be enough, but it works for me. Maybe you want to stick to the gym and do some lifting. Great! That is so important as well. You know your body, you know your short comings, and your strengths. Cater a workout regime to your needs and as your body changes with age, these workouts will change. It is very important that as hikers training needs to be a serious part of your pre-hike preparations.

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Comments 5

  • Brenda Watsica : Jan 22nd

    I wanted to express my gratitude for your insightful blog post. Your ability to break down complex topics into easily understandable content is commendable. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

  • KG : Jan 23rd

    Good points, until the ultra-processed very unhealthy food pic.

  • Donald J Storck : Jan 23rd

    Training is so important. I agree with 10 miles a day, working your way up to your carry weight.
    Mines 35lb. I see to many people worring about gummy bears. WTF. This will be 5th section hike
    Ammicola to Clingman. 200. Most people don’t look a the elavations which can hurt you. To many people are on the A T. In the illusions its just walking. I actualy seen a guy trying to go up mountian in flip flops. It breaks my heart. The true spiritual essence of the Trails seems lost.
    Research your water stops shelters and elavations.
    Or Rescue can send you a giant bill..
    Good Luck. Start March 21st. To ______.
    Happy Hiking..

  • temp yahoomail : Jan 24th

    Although I believe every thought you have for your post is excellent and will undoubtedly be successful, the postings are too brief for new readers. Maybe you could extend them a little bit the next time? I’m grateful for the post.

  • Jim : Feb 13th

    Hope to run into you someplace around Harpers Ferry. Do you have an estimate, give or take a week, when you will be in this area? Good luck!


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