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Hiking training and conditioning

Looking for suggestions in preparing for a two week event on the AT in March.  How much time devoted to steep climbs of 1 mile or less verses gradual inclines of long distances. I’m 72 and want to be prepared

4 Replies

great question!  I really recommend some walks around the neighborhood with a loaded pack, an inclined treadmill (slow, but REALLY inclined), and step-ups onto a stool, one leg at a time, working up to about 25-50 reps at a time. This simple plan works for me. Maybe throw in a push-up routine to work the shoulders.

REI member since 1979

REI Member Since 1979

HI @Skillbud 

@Philreedshikes has some really good suggestions.  I have found that nothing prepares you for a hike like hiking.  I would definitely recommend those exercises but would also intersperse as many day-hikes (with a full pack) in a local or state park as possible.   That will get you used to all the trail conditions you may encounter.  Cold, mud, off-camber, uphill, downhill, etc.  

One can never be too prepared.  Enjoy your trip!

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one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Not familiar with the AT and I'm a bit younger but my general advice...

Make sure you can walk at least your planned daily average mileage in the the shoes and socks you plan to use.  Adjust and repeat until you don't get blisters.  Occasionally hike with your pack increasing the load over time. 

Hike at least once or twice with your pack full loaded with what you plan to take or the equivalent weight, at least your planned daily average mileage...adjust.

Hike in the rain if possible and test your planned rain gear

If you don't already, plan to use hiking poles and learn to use them properly.  Most people use the straps wrong and lose some of the benefit.  These save your knees on the downhill, help you power up hills, can save you from falls,  can add up to 15% to your efficiency on the flat and can help with self rescue should you get injured.  I recommend name brand (eg: Black Diamond, REI etc) aluminum not carbon fiber which shatters rather than bends.  You will be relying on them so don't cheap out.  You can get light weight tents that use them as tent poles..generally for that you need the telescoping ones rather than the folding style to get the correct tent pole height.  Flick locks are generally easier to use and more reliable than twist locks but they can need adjustment so learn how they work.  You can use slip on rubber ends on pavement and also on rocky terrain. 

Learn how you can reduce your pack weight.  More weight increases the likelihood of injury.  Comes down to three things...

  • Managing your supplies efficiently
  • Taking less stuff
  • Buying lighter gear

The first two don't cost money.  The third can cost a lot.  Most will tell you to look at your big three (tent, bag, pack) first since it is easy.  However it also can be expensive.  So I say if what you have works, do that last, especially your pack since you can't know what pack buy until you know what weight and bulk you need to carry and it's weight matters the least since you carry it close.  Depending what you currently have there are some good weight savings to be had by refining the rest of you gear first, some of which don't cost very much and which you can do over the winter.  Once you have done that then look at the tent (which may be on sale in the spring), then the bag/pad (they work together) and finally the pack (which may not be worth switching out if what you have is comfortable.   One exception may be if you are considering a quilt from a "cottage" vendor since there may be a lead time to order one.

Plan and test your intended diet and try to design it to have higher calories per oz so you can carry less weight.  General rule of thumb is 2# a day (3200 cal) but you may need less and can do better.  Sawyer squeeze filters are light and quick to use allowing you minimize the amount of water you have to carry.  Learn about that.

Unless you are planning to do big miles out of the gate (say, for argument more than 10 max and more that 5 to 8 average)  or you have health issues, doing regular day hikes up to your max intended mileage with and without gear is probably all the exercise necessary.  You can do more if you like that sort of thing.  If you can't get out much to hike in the winter where you live the the gym or stairs may have to substitute but cross country skiing or show shoeing might be more fun!

Don't know the AT specifically but my guess is that it will be cold and wet in March depending what part you are planning to do and it is easy to pull something when it is cold.  I would learn some warm up exercises and some dynamic stretches to get you going in the morning and to cool you down in the evening so you don't stiffen up so much.

Watch other people hike on YouTube.  "Darwin on the trail" aka "Darwin" and "Homemade Wanderlust" aka "Dixie" are good communicators so a good place to start.

Thanks so much for your well thought out and presented suggestions. Great help