My Active Lifestyle Training Plan for the PCT
“You’re hiking how many miles? How the heck do you even train for that?”
Since I began sharing my plans to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail with family and friends this has been, by far, the most common reaction. And for some reason, this question always stumps me. I think people have a preconceived notion about who can attempt a thru-hike. They want to hear how I am so much more intense and dedicated than they are.
I’m guessing they want to hear something like this: I start each morning with a 45-minute meditation and journaling practice to reflect on my motivations for hiking. Then I run six miles at a pace of seven minutes per mile. After running, I spend 90 minutes stretching and doing core exercises. On the weekends, I go for long hikes—15 miles or more—carrying all my gear. When I take a lunch break, I practice setting up and taking down my tent. At the end of each hike, I do a few strength-based exercises—think burpees with my pack on and pull-ups with ankle weights.
Truthfully, my training plan is more like this: I don’t have one.
I haven’t changed anything about my weekly workout schedule in preparation for the trail. I run when I can’t calm my thoughts. I go climbing when I’m feeling strong. I go to yoga when I need to stretch my body. I hit the trail when I need to escape the busy-ness of Seattle. I’m a fairly active, healthy human and I don’t feel the need to change my lifestyle all that much to prepare for my thru-hike.
In a way, the most romantically cliche answer is the most honest: I’ve been preparing my whole life for this.
Sure, that’s cheesy, but it is the honest truth. Photos of happy, chubby-cheeked baby Paige comfortably asleep in a baby carrier on my father’s back as he hikes fill my baby books. I started backpacking in elementary school, a natural progression from the weekend car camping trips my dad and I frequently went on when I was younger. As I grew more comfortable on the trail and fell deeper in love with backpacking, I began to adventure on my own. I summited Mount Whitney with a ragtag group of my best friends in high school. In college, I worked as a backpacking instructor and led groups of my peers into the woods for multiday adventures. I’ve driven across the country alone twice. I moved to a new state, for a new job, alone. I traveled to a foreign country and slept in my tent for three weeks, often in the rain. More often than not, I hike and camp alone. My attempt at the Pacific Crest Trail will draw on skills I have been developing for years, but it will also push me harder than any other challenge I have set for myself.
Sometimes, I wonder if I’ll wish I had prepared in a more committed manner.
Will I regret not going on more training overnighters or not pushing myself harder on the trail in preparation? Will I wish I had set out a schedule of hiking and running and core? When I think about the trail, I feel ready. I’m excited when I imagine the extended solitude and the darkness of the night sky. When I think of the blisters and the days of 20+ miles of endless hiking, of weeklong stretches without showers and electricity, of bug bites and sore legs and tears of frustration, I’m stoked. I’m ready.
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