Have you been planning on doing a thru-hike? If you’ve already made a decision to do it, remember that it’s not as easy as going to the trail and dedicating months to hiking. Completing trails like the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trail from end-to-end can be transformational and life-changing, and it takes a lot of preparation, both physically and mentally.
You don’t want to hit the trail unprepared because you’ll be prone to injuries and health problems along the way. You might even think of giving up! A successful thru-hike will require months of training, so we’ve given you a training guide you can follow before starting your thru-hike adventure!
What is a Thru-Hike
A thru-hike is a specialized end-to-end backpacking trip on a long-distance trail that usually lasts for months. Trails like the AT or PCT usually come to mind when we hear the term. Other examples of thru-hikers include the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Via Francigena in France and Italy, the Lycian Way in Turkey, and the Israel National Trail.
How to Train for Thru-Hiking
Proper preparation for a thru-hike is important to increase your chance of being successful and to improve the quality of your hike. Training will also help decrease the likelihood of injuries. Here are some ways to prepare for the end-to-end hike.
Hike frequently and participate in forms of aerobic fitness like cycling, running, swimming, or group fitness classes. Aside from the physical preparation it offers, it also lets you build confidence and momentum for your adventure.
Spend a few days a week for aerobic training and stick with it. Try starting at thrice a week and gradually add more days. Remember to keep one full day free for rest and recovery.
As with volume and progression, begin with volumes of time or distance in your cardiovascular training that are sufficient to fatigue your body, but that falls well short of exhaustion.
It’s important to keep your muscles strong during the thru-hike to carry your upper arm, shoulder, and back muscles. Focus on these muscle groups when strength training. Ease your body into carrying all the weight it will carry on the trail. Start small by using wrist/ankle weights during training walks or fill your pack with 5-10 pounds for day hikes.
You may try climbing to build upper body and leg strength or hit the gym. You can also just workout at home and find quick routines online.
If you don’t want to get injured on your long hike, practice flexibility. Yoga can help in training for long-distance hiking as it builds core muscles and improves your breathing. Improving your balance is also important to prepare you for difficult stream crossings
Yoga also helps identify great exercises you can do on the trail. You have to know how to stretch your tired back and how to soothe our legs.
Have the Right Mindset
Physical preparation is not the only type of preparation you need. You also need to mentally prepare for the months’ worth of hike, especially if you’re going alone. The right attitude can be acquired through training and it’s as necessary as physical, logistical, or technological elements.
From the first day of your hike up to your last days on the trail, having an open mind and a resilient mindset is a must to deal with the obstacles on your way. A continued focus on taking really small steps to your goal is your most crucial weapon in confronting fear, doubt, and weariness.