Training Hikes around town

“Practice is everything. This is often misquoted as Practice makes perfect.” Periander

So how much training is ENOUGH training?  It’s not the same for everyone…some people are more “physically prepared” than others (those who are a little less physically fit due to old age).  So, everyone needs to make an assessment of their level of fitness to build a plan for preparing for a Thru Hike of this magnitude.

If you are a runner or taken on a new running program to get physically fit, you can find any number of “plans” for the level of fitness you are at.  From beginner to intermediate to advanced.  If you want to run a 5 minute mile, there’s a plan for this.  If you are looking for a “how to go from couch potato to 5K runner”, there’s a plan for you.  If you are looking for a I can only walk to I want to run, there’s a plan for you.

However, if you are looking for a no kidding plan of “how to hike a thru hike”, you can’t find a real plan.  I mean…how to go from couch potato to AT Thru Hiker…you are on your own.

While some long distance hikers have given a few hints and tips about hiking, no one…not even the best long distance hikers have given back to the hiking community with a well designed plan for the beginner to be a Thru Hiker….HMMMM  maybe I need to developed a AT Hiker Fitness Book after I complete the hike??

As a soon to be AT Thru Hiker in early 2017, I have heard that training is a MUST for a successful hike.  I am a firm believer that Over Training is better than Under Training!  In the past when preparing for some running events, I have over trained…usually too much.  I ran faster to increase my stamina, but never really considered the time.

As I prepare for my Thru Hike, I have been hiking “around town”.  While I’m sure I look funny carrying a pack while walking the street around town, I think it has been helpful.  At times, I must look funny because I’ve had many (I mean MANY) looks from the cars passing by.


Yeah, it looks kinda funny.

In fact, I even had one guy stop and ask what I was doing.  It runs out he is a hiker too and just got back from Colorado and doing a few 14s.

One of the most rewarding pieces of advice I’ve heard is “You get better at (fill in the blank) by doing (fill in the blank)!  I’ve heard it when wanting to make my surfing better.  “Go surf to get better at surfing”.  I’ve heard it when I wanted to be a better runner.  “Go running to get better at running.”

It seems that the thought is that you create muscle memory and use the muscles you will need for the activity you want to get better at if you “Just Do It!”

So the same goes for hiking!  To get better at hiking,  you have to HIKE!  That means walking around with a full pack.

I remember my first marathon in Lincoln Nebraska.  As I was preparing for the event, I read several running websites from the experts about “how to prepare”.  After adopting a few (very few) of their ideas, I built my own running plan.  Yeah…I’m no expert but I knew my body thought I knew what was BEST!


In hindsight, I couldn’t have been more WRONG!  And I didn’t learn anything during the next two marathons that followed.

The one constant thing what kept coming up about running a marathon was to get “time” under your feet.  That’s TIME and not mileage.  However, I couldn’t get past the idea of running 26.2 miles, so my focus was on mileage every day.  Whether I was running high mileage days or not, I wanted to run miles!

However, after all of these miles I realized that it was truly TIME that made a difference.  To run for 4 or 5 hours, you need to be able to run for 4 or 5 hours.

The same is true with a Thru Hike.  To train for an AT Thru Hike,  you can’t hike 2,200 miles.  So what’s next…how about those 8-10 hour days on your feet carrying a heavy pack?  So…simulating the hiking environment is the BEST method for success on the trail.  The best part of this type of Around Town Hiking is that my wife sometimes joins me…

Wife hiking along with me in town.

Wife hiking along with me in town.

So what’s on your training plan as you prepare for your next hike?  How about a stroll around town.

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Comments 1

  • John : Aug 24th

    Sometimes it takes a lifetime to learn a lesson. When I was a runner I believed that over training was better than under training. That led to injuries. And this advice from a friend…”train hard enough to make it to the finish line, but not so hard that you can’t make it to the starting line”. Now I’ve been training for a long multi day backpacking trip. My fitness level and aerobic conditioning are great. But I may have to cancel because of a knee problem. I would have chosen to struggle with not being quite as fit and still be able to go rather than be fit and not able to go. I trained hard but I didn’t train smart. Live and learn!


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