How I train for our PCT-Thru-Hike

There are many written stories of successful thru-hikers who tell us about their unathletic past. Like many of these hikers, I never was a sporty guy. I spent most of my teen years in front of screens, playing games. On the weekends I went out partying until my late twenties. I was and still am a big sucker at every ball game. I don’t have to tell you that I was one of the last to be elected to the soccer team. In the following text, I want to talk to you about how we train for our PCT-thru-hike.

That all changed when I was thirty. My metabolism is quite good, so I never had weight problems. I celebrated my 30th birthday together with Annika in New York (our first and only trip to the US so far). I smoked my last cigarette there and swore to myself, that I will start counting calories and do more sports to not get fat.

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Six years later, I still keep this promise. We started running and climbing, both sports I love. Together with hiking trips, it was the perfect mix for me and I never had weight issues. In late August 2021, I joined a hiking trip as a guide to Sarek National Park in northern Sweden. Sarek is one of the last real wildernesses in Europe. We were carrying 25 kg backpacks, (hated it) and oh my gosh, did my knees hurt after this 10-day trip. My knees kept hurting for six months.

Training with ice spikes on Mt. Glittertinden in Norway (July 2022)

It was then that I realized that I should train my legs more, and it seemed that jogging wasn’t enough. Back then I already knew that I was attempting the PCT in 2023, so I started doing Youtube workouts during the Covid-lockdown in the winter of 2021.

The first video I used was a 3-minute six-pack-workout from Pamela Reif. I slowly started upgrading the workouts and adding more training days. My perfect week until today would look like this: 3 days of workouts (mixing bodyweight and weight workouts), plus a 10 km run during the weekends. I will leave a big family, so there is not much time for training hikes at the moment. But we hiked a lot last summer, to check our strength and heat resistance, as we did multiple hiking trips to Norway, Spain, and finally the mighty GR 20 on Corsica.

Yes, this is the Trail! Crossing a ridge on the GR 20 on Corsica

During our hike across Corsica, which is an extremely steep and high alpine hike, I noticed that my knees had become very strong. Every step up and down was easy to take, and the heat was not too much of a problem as we were used to it from our trips to Australia. Since then, we are not so afraid of the desert anymore, as we know that we can trust in our bodies.

A Person standing in an alpine landscape

These amazing views! Trained legs are the most important on Corsica.

Nonetheless, there are still plenty of fears I have when thinking about the PCT. One of the biggest is weight loss. In Sarek, I lost 2 kg just because of the cold and the 25 kg backpack in 10 days. On the Camino de Santiago (800 km/500 mi) I lost 5 kg. And trust me, I was eating huge amounts of food and snacks. On Corsica, I lost 3 kg in 13 days. With a midweight of 75 kg, I am afraid of losing too much muscle and fat too fast.

That’s why I decided to somehow gain 5 kg of fat and muscle before our start in March. For that, I needed to join a gym. Luckily a new one had just opened down the street. So we just went there and told them that I needed to gain 5 kg for the PCT. They were so hyped by this idea, that they instantly offered a special contract that could be canceled after 3 months. I also stopped counting calories and ate whatever I wanted. Well, except junk food, I will have enough of that on trail. With that, it took me just 1.5 months to reach 80 kg. Oof. That takes a lot of pressure off me.

Until March, my workout will look like this:

Every day: 10 minutes of morning stretching/yoga after waking up. Driving 5 km to work on the bike, while Annika walks with a 14 kg backpack to work.

Two times a week: Workout with weights/gymnastics

Two times a week: Bodyweight workouts

Once a week: Running 10-12 km

I have no clue if all this will help me reach Canada, but I feel good with this amount of movement (yes it does become addictive) and I believe, that a good working body is the best tool to become happy. Plus, Annika is nearly doing the same amount of sports and is also very happy with it. We do most of our workouts together. Having the same fitness levels helps us to assess the strengths of the other on trail.

The only thing we would like to do more often are training hikes. I’ve used my gear setup for 5 years now, so I am quite confident, but it annoys me that there could be even more possible.

What do you think? Am I missing something? Is it too ambitious, is it too much, or not even enough? Let me know in the comments!

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