How to Train for a Thru-Hike while Working that Cubicle Life

You can’t.

Let’s be honest. There is no way you can physically train your body to endure the amount of strain you will put yourself through in a few short months. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! No amount of training will avoid the major adjustment your body will go through after hiking marathons week after week. Most receive their trail legs by the third week on trail. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take action before your journey. Conditioning your body will help strengthen your ankles, muscles, and tendons to avoid injury which is the biggest reason why thru-hikers are forced off trail. I full-heartedly believe the more you prepare your body, the less likely an injury will occur. You can prepare as much as you can in the amount of time you can. Some more than others. As for myself, barely at all. 

Workin 9-5

You see, I work a full-time job livin that cubicle life as an event director at a university here in Nashville. I’m absolutely in love with my job but it drains every bit of mental energy I have. By the time I come home, motivation is at an all-time low. The temptation to come home and veg on the couch is almost too much to bear. Waking up before the sunrise to get a workout in is also completely out of the question, so I had to get creative. How on earth do I fit in a workout routine while working a 9-5? 

60 Minutes

Here’s the trick. The clock strikes 12 p.m. and you have exactly one hour to do whatever you want. Here is how I personally spend my 60-minute lunch break. It takes me five minutes to get dressed, and about ten minutes to grab my keys and drive to Radnor Lake State Park located about five miles down the road. It takes me approximately 33 minutes to hike 2.89 miles on one of the various “strenuous” trails located at the park. I do this almost every day. In the past year, I have hiked this stretch of trail well over 100 times. I have gotten so familiar with this trail that my deer friends have become quite dear friends of mine. They are not threatened by me in the least, and it almost feels like saying hello to a friendly neighbor when I greet them during my daily routine.

When I am really restrained for time at work, I force myself to go to the gym on campus for about 30 minutes. Fifteen minutes on the treadmill at a steep incline and another 15 minutes on either the elliptical or the Stairmaster. I began to question if my workout routine was enough, but when you crank out a strenuous three-mile hike almost every day, it has worked wonders. I feel strong, I feel capable, and so much more confident. In fact, these daily hikes have become quite easy for me. With me being three months away from my start date, I need to buckle down and really challenge myself. So I plan on adding a weighted pack and, unfortunately, it might be time for me wake up before the sunrise to get a second workout in. 

The Benefits

I have a lot more physical energy and mental motivation after I get into the groove of things at work. A few hours into the day and I’m already looking forward for my break. I have realized how much I truly value my time at Radnor Lake State Park. It rejuvenates my mind and relieves so much anxiety, especially in a fast-paced, high-stress position like mine. I come back from my workout feeling empowered to take on the rest of the day. And when I get home, I don’t have to worry about fitting a workout into my evening routine since I already got it done during work hours! 

There are many people who are willing to pay bookoos money on a personal trainer, Pilates, CrossFit, etc. Then there are those like myself who save every dime to put toward the hike. Even if you don’t have access to a state park or workout facility, grab your running shoes and get outside! See if there is a track nearby or a community park with a bike path. Most likely, there are multiple options within a ten-minute drive that you can access. If you live close enough, running, walking, or biking to work would be a great option as well, and it won’t break the bank! 

Are you in the same situation? Comment below with your workout routines!

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Comments 4

  • Kevin Neft : Jan 8th

    Looks like you are doing pretty good after all on this training thing!

    • Emily and Parkes : Jan 9th

      We are making progress! Gotta keep going after it and make it more of a priority.

  • Shannon Ryker : Jan 11th

    Radnor Lake is awesome! I’ve been there a couple times this year and every time I see more wildlife than I did on most of my WA hikes. It takes me about 40 minutes to get there so I don’t go as frequently as I’d like. Lol, I don’t consider it strenuous either.

    • Emily and Parkes : Jan 12th

      No way, didn’t realize you lived so close! Well if you ever feel like going to Radnor during the weekday, you might bump into me on the South Cove Trail! I’ll be the only one with trekking poles and a pack haha


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