To Train or Not To Train: Section-Hiking Edition

What kind of training plan does someone actually do to section hike? I’ve heard of people training (or not training) for thru-hikes. Honestly, I feel like each weekend will just feel like starting over. Are trail legs a thing on a section hike? Or do you just commit to suffering for a few days, knowing that your bed and a shower are on the other side?

Aside from skiing and the occasional run around Denver, I hadn’t thought much about how to actually train. Recently, I have been starting to include weekday hikes and trying to add an extra run to the week (not hard when you only run once a week to begin with). So far I think my sporadic plan has been helpful after doing my first section with my sister the other week I feel like my sporadic plan has been helpful so far. So here are some of the hikes I’ve used to get ready. 

Manitou Incline – Manitou Springs

My first challenging vertical climb this year was the Manitou Incline. I know – that’s a bit of a strong start. But I felt prepared! I knew the incline was a steep set of 2,768 steps. I knew that it was a short hike with a lot of vertical gain (about 2,000 ft in less than a mile). However, I did NOT know the size of some of these freaking steps. I felt like I was back hiking in New England with the amount I had to overstep. Then again the kid in the unicorn backpack seemed to be doing just fine… so maybe I need to adjust my perspective. If you’re going to go on the weekends, make sure to get there early to secure a spot at the trailhead parking lot – and there is a fee, but you can pay with a card or on your phone!

Mount Sanitas – Boulder

Sanitas is a great little hike right in Boulder. A super easy after-work option – though don’t expect this to be a hike to escape the crowds. I thought it’d be a good idea to start packing some weight in my bag to train. While it probably helped get the legs ready, I feel like a true shakedown hike would be best. Especially since I could feel the 15 lb kettlebell in my bag the whole time… not the most ideal.

Bolder Boulder

This may seem hilarious to some of you who have run the Bolder Boulder 10k to use this as training. For those of you who don’t know… this road race is unique. Like, one that includes slip’n’slides, BYO mimosa bar, live bands, cotton candy and mini-sliders every 1k. BUT pretending like I was taking the race more seriously definitely helped to get generally in better shape. Especially when the actual race day was more of a party than an exercise. Section hiking also involves heavy drinking, no?

So whatever you choose to do, tailor it to what you think you need the most practice in. I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job of that. But I guess we’ll have to wait and find out after my first overnight in the backcountry. Stay tuned for hopefully some solid advice, or at least a funny story or two.

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Comments 1

  • Dennis Cooley “Heavy D” : Jun 10th

    Courtney, I retired last year and have been enjoying hiking and backpacking on almost a weekly basis. I live in Lynchburg, VA, about 35 minutes from the James River Footbridge and the AT. I’m blessed!!

    I just finished a 55 mile section on the AT, hiking and camping with section and through hikers. I think the trekking I’ve been doing helped me, but my legs and feet were still sore and fatigued for a couple days. But I recovered pretty quickly, considering that I’m 63. 😎🥾🥾

    The old adage…. To get into hiking shape, go hiking!! I will agree that section hiking is tougher than thru hiking!!

    Thanks for a great article!!


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