Monday, May 13, 2013

Preparation For The Physical Hike Of The Appalachian Trail

Physical preparation

The first few miles of any hike are often the toughest, and you will appreciate any physical edge you can bring to your trip during these first few miles. Don't overlook the basics: Take a few overnight training hikes; be sure to seek out mountainous terrain or you won't have a clue about what you are getting into for 6 months. Be sure to put some mileage on your footwear. Your shoes or boots should be at least 1/2 size larger than your normal size. Get used to carrying your pack, fully loaded and adjusted. You'll be surprised to find how unnecessary some items become after you've carried them uphill for 5 miles.

On the Trail, start out with low mileage (eight miles a day for the first week is a good goal) and gradually increase distance to avoid injury. Allow two to four weeks on the Trail to get into peak condition if you are already fit; six to eight if you are not. Knee and foot injuries, stress fractures, and shin splints force many hikers off the Trail; the risk of these can be minimized by keeping your pack light and your mileage conservative in the beginning.

How should I get my body in shape for a long hike?

There is no better way than to put on your boots, load up your backpack with what you think you'll want to take on the A.T. and go for a hike. Start with short distances first and not just on level ground. There is an extra benefit to this conditioning process. After a few miles with the pack, which mysteriously grows heavier each hour, you will discover that you are carrying at least one item you can do without. The lighter the pack at the beginning of the hike the less strain on your body as well as on your spirit.

Stretching exercises before hiking seem to help some hikers avoid common injuries such as shin splints, sprains and knee problems. Again there is plenty of material already written on this subject.
Are there any other things I can do to help me prepare for my hike?

A variety of workshops are given at the annual ALDHA Gathering. Recent workshops have covered such topics as equipment and food tips, women and backpacking, psychological and philosophical aspects of hiking, wilderness medicine, and packing maildrops. Members of the current year's class of thru-hikers usually conduct a workshop for the following year's class of thru-hiker wannabes. And as mentioned before, just talking informally to some of the hundreds of people who are there will be enormously helpful.

Check with local colleges, hiking clubs and backpacking stores. They often sponsor hiking-related classes or outings. Join an online discussion group via the Internet, where you can communicate on a daily basis with like-minded souls all around the world. You can even pay to attend a five-day program geared specifically to preparing dreamers for an A.T. thru-hike, conducted by the Appalachian Trail Institute. Although it's not affiliated with the ATC, details are sometimes available through the ATC office.

Information From Appalachian Trail Conservancy & ALDHA

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