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Getting in shape for a thruhike
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Blair Gentes
(blastreach) - F
Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/08/2009 17:06:26 MDT Print View

I am plannng a thru hike of the pct this coming summer.

I was just wondering what any of you long distance hikers do to get ready/maintain their bodies before a journey?

It's not that i'm not in good shape. More along the lines of preventing injury.

I am currently cutting fat and building muscle. This is because of a recent knee injury, which put me on the couch for a couple months. (Tho this is the first time i've tried building muscle, so I'm a newb to that as well.)

Any information would be very helpful and greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Blair

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/08/2009 17:43:52 MDT Print View

as long as you are injury free, and in reasonably good shape at the start, the trip itself will get you into shape.
if you feel you must train, I'd say more of the same. put a pack on your back and go for a hike.

edit :
what I mean by the above is a basic starting ability to hike 15 miles a day with a pack. if you can do that, the PCT will get you into "real" shape as you hike it. Doing the PCT (4+ months) is much different than doing the JMT (2+weeks).
If you struggle to do 15 mile days then some training is in order.
Pick trails with hills, put a pack on your back.

Edited by asandh on 10/09/2009 10:26:44 MDT.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/08/2009 18:04:23 MDT Print View

as long as you are injury free, and in reasonably good shape at the start, the trip itself will get you into shape.

caveat: ... as long as you don't plan on doing 20 miles days (or even 15) starting with day 1

Ryan Teale
(monstertruck) - F

Locale: Almost Yosemite
Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/08/2009 19:06:26 MDT Print View

I started training for the my 16 day JMT hike about 3 months out.

My training consisted of a 6 mile hike up and down a 1000 foot hill here in San Luis Obispo, CA. I started out with twice a week for the first month. The second month I hiked with a golite ion filled with a bunch of t-shirts and a two liter playtpus and upped it to 3 times a week. After the first month I also added in some longer hikes whenever I could,longest being about 12 miles. I squeezed in one 3 day backpacking trip to test out some new gear.

I like to do lunges, calve raises, and do squats holding two 25lb dumb-bells. Core training using an exercise ball instead of on the floor. I also like to do various dumb-bell lifts to strengthen shoulders for pack wearing and trekking pole use. I think doing a lot of core training would be the most important before starting a thru hike.

I started out the trail with low mileage the first 3 days and never experienced muscle soreness. Now I just need to find some good ankle strengthening techniques to counter all the damage from sprains over the years

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/08/2009 20:46:34 MDT Print View

> what any of you long distance hikers do to get ready/maintain their bodies before a journey?

Just keep walking. With a pack., Every week.

Cheers

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Re: Getting in shape for a thrukike on 10/09/2009 16:13:17 MDT Print View

what others said: if you hike regularly, that's probably all the training you need. I started with 20+ mile days with no previous training other than my regular, almost weekly hikes. YMMV but not much, I guess.
The PCT is a very good trail and 20 miles go fast. And maybe just because of that the feet get a beating! so take care of your feet, let them rest regularly, clean them, dump them in cold stream water. And have fun!

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/09/2009 19:22:39 MDT Print View

The best training for backpacking is backpacking.

The thing that'll get you at first on the PCT is the heat and the lack of on-trail water. Blisters and dehydration as well as hyponatremia (not enough salt) are common issues. Being in good physical shape will help, but if you can find a way to prepare for these common problems, you'll have a better time at the beginning.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
ankle strenghtening on 10/09/2009 23:11:41 MDT Print View

Here's a good ankle trick - find a nice area with a fairly good slope - a medium steep driveway is good, but something wider is better - and walk in circles on it. It can get boring, but your ankles will get worked through a variety of angles, working all the muscles in the lower leg. You'll want to wear low-cut shoes so you have plenty of flexibility.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Don't laugh on 10/09/2009 23:33:38 MDT Print View

This is a classic physio exercise. Barefoot, CLOSE YOUR EYES and lift one foot off the floor (just a little) and stay there for as long as you can. You'll fatigue faster than you think at first. Strengthens the little muscles that stabilize the foot and ankle. This is easier in shoes as the foot is somewhat stable. Once you're not too wobbly and won't risk embarrassment, you can do it in line at the bank.

Here's another one. Walk backward on a tread mill at about a 7 degree incline at maybe 2mph. You want to take large controlled steps on this one and really feel the knee tracking.

I have one I like related to Paul's post. I like it for ski season -- I run down hills (I think this is an exercise for smooth pavement) slaloming, varying my turn radius down to zipperline bumps. Trying to angulate a bit.

I never carry a load unless I have to -- basically once I set out on a long hike. I never use sticks unless I have a significant load. Without a load, I usually walk way too fast for my sticks to keep up anyway.

Core stabilization but NEVER crunching movements. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/core-myths/?scp=1&sq=ab%20exercises%20back&st=cse Try the stirring the pot in the video.

As many different activities as you can. When it comes to walking trips, just walk myself into shape over the first few days.

And I am woefully inconsistent with all this. :)

SHORTEN YOUR STRIDE! This is much more efficient. You will move much faster. And in the event of a slip, you are much less likely to injure yourself. Once I put on my pack, I am extremely conscious of stride length.

DON'T TRAIN. DO PLAY!

Edited by backpackerchick on 10/10/2009 02:22:10 MDT.

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
Re: Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/10/2009 03:33:48 MDT Print View

My advice is to plan for shorter distances on the first few days. Why wreck a holiday by reawakening the knee injury immediately?

This will give your body a chance to adjust.

My other advice is, TRAVEL LIGHT. And as Roger C says, little and often. Carry a full pack even on local walks, just to get used to the extra weight on your knee and ankle joints.

Check to see if there is a T'ai Chi class near you. Standing Chi Gung is an excellent daily practice.

Reinhold Metzger
(JMTReinhold) - F
Getting into hiking shape on 10/10/2009 12:02:08 MDT Print View

Ryan wrote..I need to find some good ankle strengthening techniques.
----------------
Ryan,
I would assume walking around in high heels would be a good way.
Word of caution...do not wear a dress while doing this ankle strengthening exercise.

JMT Reinhold

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
factor in first-day dynamics on 10/10/2009 12:17:39 MDT Print View

I started on the first day (in 2008) with the intention to do, I think, 16 miles to Hauser Creek, and carried enough water to dry camp. But I felt good enough that I ended up doing 20 to Lake Morena state park. Made up for it with a couple of easier follow-on days, but in general the availability (or lack thereof) of water sort of encouraged me to start doing bigger days earlier than I had expected.

I think it was good to be in sufficient shape to be able to do this --- if you're confident that you can, you don't need to carry that extra water weight from the start on day 1 (I had sort of the worst of both worlds due to being conservative).

For training I agree with the "just walk a lot" approach, maybe a little cross training in something else if that works for you. For the last couple of weeks before I started I added increasing weight to my pack for training day hikes, but mostly just walked relatively long distances --- a great way to better learn the town I live in was to go on 5 - 15 mile walks around it (without a pack). Of course the lighter your base weight, the less you need to focus on walking with pack on, but I would definitely do most if not all of your walking in the shoes you plan to do the PCT in.

And even then, expect your feet to behave differently in SoCal, be prepared for some blisters --- going through the blister phase is just part of the price of admission, seems to me ...

Edited by brianle on 10/10/2009 12:19:11 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Re: Re: Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/10/2009 12:30:30 MDT Print View

" just to get used to the extra weight on your knee and ankle joints"

Do you really feel this? In late July 2008, I threw on a pack nearly 1/2 my body weight (one of the reasons I joined here! I did have 4 lbs of snowshoes) and set out for a winter hike in Tasmania.

I NEVER carry weight until I need to. Period. My joints don't feel any different. My speed and efficiency decrease markedly and I tire much easier but just don't really feel the need to get used to extra weight before hand. My real concern is taking a sudden metre post hole in the snow with this weight or slipping on some ice or scree and hyperflexing a knee. Balance and agility are more useful in that respect, IMO. Think deliberately beefing up would be pretty useless!

Walking need not be a brute force endeavor. Just get out and play -- run in the hills near your home, SWIM, yoga and the martial arts, cycle whatever. SKI -- that is my main thing anyway. I really need to get off this board and go to the aquatic center or run in the hills -- our local trails have reopened!! Yeah!

Edited by backpackerchick on 10/10/2009 12:41:10 MDT.

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
Re: Re: Re: Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/10/2009 12:39:59 MDT Print View

Hartleyf, I'm offering it as advice to Blair because it seems he has some joint issues. It's about balance and foot placement as much as weight bearing really. There is a tendency for people who are a bit overweight and under condition to lock out their knees when carrying a pack. This is to be avoided, as it puts much more shock loading on the joint at each step.

Edited by tallbloke on 10/10/2009 12:40:35 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Re: Re: Re: Re: Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/10/2009 12:50:03 MDT Print View

Shortening the stride may help with the knee locking thing. We're all overweight with our packs. Girls especially may have knees that hyperextend a bit -- just don't let them do it! Yes, this is something that's always on my mind. Or that slip where you get hyperflexion of the lagging leg --feeling that "tearing". OUCH.

Do y'all do that squat walk where you take a big steps with your back knee nearly touching the ground, right angle of the tibia and and femur on both front and back lower limbs keeping the upper body horizontal to the surface. Classic and straight forward. Need only do a minute or so. Speaking of which I was sick a couple weeks ago and have been lolling around this board when I should be playing outside!

Edited by backpackerchick on 10/10/2009 12:53:54 MDT.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/11/2009 22:02:44 MDT Print View

I think you're getting a lot of good advice here. Definitely you need to hike to get into shape for hiking. Also stairs. I did stairs at my office on my breaks, and found that really helped for my trip up Mt. Whitney a few years ago.

As to whether or not you want to hike with weight, I sure find that it helps. My legs bulk up when I carry weight on my training hikes. I usually start training for a bigger trip with just a fanny peak, then a light day pay, and then a heavier day pack. I'll also do a couple of short BP's before I take off on my long BP.

Cross training is great too.

backpacker chick wrote: >

Core stabilization but NEVER crunching movements. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/core-myths/?scp=1&sq=ab%20exercises%20back&st=cse Try the stirring the pot in the video.
Wow. I guess that's the last time I go to the "All Abs" class at the gym. I'm going to have to forward that link to my exercise instructor. Thanks for posting it.

Edited by hikin_jim on 10/11/2009 22:05:37 MDT.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/12/2009 01:17:00 MDT Print View

I'm going to disagree with the above. To prepare for hiking all day every day you either need to hike all day everyday which no one has time for or do the same amount of work in a shorter time. This means lifting heavy weights, squats and walking lunges are great, and running, on trail will help strengthen ankles. Just finished at manning park yesterday. And the people that blew by me where much stronger in the climbs which takes leg and core strength. Not getting giardia twice would have sped things up as well.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/12/2009 13:12:46 MDT Print View

"And the people that blew by me where much stronger in the climbs which takes leg and core strength"

Not my experience. I have fantastic leg and core strength, but due to a sedentary job my aerobic fitness is what lets me down long before my legs tire :(

There's nothing wrong with crunches if done properly as part of a balanced core strengthening program. Doing nothing BUT crunches OTOH is counter productive to functional strength.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/12/2009 20:05:42 MDT Print View

Congratulations on completing your hike, Nia!

I hiked the PCT this year, too, but I hiked 1800 miles, not the whole thing. (I did the other half last year.) I finished on August 31.

I hiked with some of the front-runner thru-hikers as they came up from behind and passed me, with section hikers and with thru-hikers who had flipped up. A cross-section of people with different hiking speeds.

Being fast is more about your pace than with being in shape. I was in as good a shape as anyone out there. But some people were faster than me and some were slower. Some were faster than me on downhills but equal with me on uphills. We all have a different pace.

Also, hiking the PCT slowed me down. It's going to take a while before I'm back to my normal fast pace. This happened last year, too. I can't keep up on day hikes with people who used to complain I was too fast. I don't know why this happens.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: Re: Re: Getting in shape for a thruhike on 10/12/2009 22:48:43 MDT Print View

Also, hiking the PCT slowed me down. It's going to take a while before I'm back to my normal fast pace. This happened last year, too. I can't keep up on day hikes with people who used to complain I was too fast. I don't know why this happens.
Interesting. Do you mind if I ask how long the "slows" :) lasted?