AZT Day -9: Physical Preparation

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Hiking to the top of Mt Constitution

In 9 days I’ll step foot on the AZT. It’s 800 miles long. It will take me 40-50 days to hike. That’s 20 miles per day, with a little slack. I figure it will take me a few days to get up to speed. And when I hit a town I will want to slow down or have at least a half-day or full-day to relax and rest. While on the PCT in 2014 I had a shin splint which was painful and horrifically annoying. Common long distance hiking overuse injuries that I really hope to avoid include (but are not limited to): shin splints, achilles tendonitis, IT band issues and knee pain, and plantar fasciitis.

Physically I am decently prepared. I have been “training” more or less for the past month or so. In an ideal world, I would have been training and hiking for the past several months so that I could hit the ground running. Realistically, once I made the decision to hike – which was about a month ago – I made a concerted effort to run, walk, and lift weights as frequently as seemed reasonable. The goal is to get my muscles, tendons, fascia, and all the parts ready and used to plenty of wear and tear as well as carrying weight.

I’m also making regular visits to a chiropractor and massage therapist to ensure that my body is in good working order. My body is a bit lopsided after a car accident 18 years ago that left me with a broken femur and fractured pelvis – which has led to some unevenness, more well developed right leg muscles, a weak left hip, and typical compensation. But on the plus side it has also meant that I am diligent about exercise and physical activity in order to keep any ailments at bay.

So here are my training specifics: Training hikes in early-mid August on WA PCT Section J 10-15+ miles per day carrying a pack. Since then, trail walking or trail running 3.5-7 miles per day, about 4 days per week. Lifting weights about 3 times per week – upper and lower body – plus a few physical therapy moves, core work, and some stretches for good measure. A few lower body exercises to target those pesky trail muscles include: split squats, goblet squats, cook hip lift, RDL and one-legged RDL (thank you Andrea, my favorite strength-and-conditioning coach friend for the tips!).

Hopefully this training has me in decent enough shape to hike the AZT. If for any reason I get behind schedule, I can always modify the plan as needed to hike as much of the trail as possible.

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