Preparing For Thru-Hikes

"West Virginia - end" by McDowell CrookWhether your spending six months trekking the AT or just doing a five-day stint on a local trail, prepping for long-distance thru-hikes starts at the same place—preparing your body. Are you ready to carry a pack on your back for hours on end, trudging through the woods? Probably not, unless you do it quite a bit already. The best thing to do to prepare is that same activity in shorter stints, like all-weekend hikes with your pack filled to 40 pounds. If that isn’t feasible for you, there’s an alternative.

Instead, focus on increasing your strength and endurance, especially in your core muscles and legs. Those two areas get the most workout keeping you stable and moving forward while hiking. Aerobic exercise is also really important to keep your lungs and heart conditioned and ready to go through the paces on a thru-hike.

Walk Everywhere

When you don’t have to drive, don’t. Walk it if you can manage it or use your bike to get you where you need to go. Fayetteville’s hills are a great training ground for short bursts of high energy when you’re walking or biking to work or school. The more you can go by your own power to somewhere in your regular life, the better off you’ll be later when it’s all you have going for you.

Start Working Out

Do whatever floats your boat, whether that’s PX90 or a kickboxing cardio class. Give it your all, work on improving, and focus on areas that will be a huge help later. The healthier and fitter you are to start your hike, the more likely you are to make it through without injury and the more likely you are to enjoy it. Would you rather be trudging along with a sense of doom because your body isn’t up to the task or enjoy every second?

Set a Healthy Weight

Hiking is hard work and most people end up losing weight while they’re on a long thru-hike. Some experts say that starting off a bit chunkier than you want to be is a good way to keep from dropping your weight down to an unhealthy level. Whatever you decide, figuring out how many calories you’ll need on your hike is a good place to start to keep up your weight. When you’re working out hard, try to balance out what you’re eating and what you’re burning to find the right level for you and start working on meal ideas for your hike.

Hike, Hike, and Hike More

The best thing to prep you is shorter hikes. If you’re really dedicated to doing a longer hike than you’ve done before, start working up towards it. Hike every weekend you can manage and really start racking up the miles!

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