Thru-hiking has been gaining popularity in the last two decades, as stories like Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild: From Lost to Found” shed light on long-distance hikes. Support and facilities for trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail can test your endurance and survival abilities. Those who complete all three of the aforementioned thru-hikes achieve what backpackers call “The Triple Crown.” If you’re thinking about training for a long-distance thru-hike and immersing yourself in nature, then here are four ways to condition yourself.
Carry Your Full Backpack
Thru-hikes require a significant amount of supply planning. Even ultralight backpackers might discover that their load becomes difficult to manage after a few hours. Before you commit to an extended trip, load up your backpack and take it on several smaller day trips. This can help you build endurance and condition your shoulders and neck, which will be impacted by the weight of your backpack. Don’t forget to bring water too! These small trips will also help you identify problematic areas of discomfort on your backpack, so that you can adjust straps and attachments as needed.
Many long-distance trails have elevation fluctuations, and you will need to be able to handle incremental and sharp inclines. Put on your trail shoes or boots and work on your hill climbing. Condition your calves and hamstrings so that you can endure long periods of walking uphill. Descents can be extremely rough on you feet, placing pressure on your toes, so make sure to find the right shoe and sock combo before your thru-hike.
Work on Your Cardio
Your cardiovascular health will be instrumental during your upcoming thru-hike. Your body system will be object to long time of stress and strain, and it’s important for you to build up endurance. Don’t take on a project like this without conditioning your body first. A personal trainer can push you to meet cardio goals, especially if you have a difficult time getting motivated by yourself. Thru-hikes rely on careful scheduling and pacing. The better your endurance, the more mileage you’ll be able to cover each day.
Many people see thru-hiking as a rite of passage, marking their ability to surmount intense physical obstacles. Backpackers can spend months on trails, taking their bodies to the far extreme and getting closer to nature. Careful planning, backpacking practice runs, and cardio training can help you prepare to take on the immense challenge of a thru-hike.