My fitness level was pretty good! I may change up a few things for a future hike, but overall I felt I was well prepared.
To prepare for my SOBO Fall 2018 AZT thru-hike, I made an effort to get in shape and be trail ready. My goal was to hit the ground running as much as possible. I wanted to be able to hike 20+ mile days out of the gate without a second thought about an overuse injury.
I prepared by walking, running, and lifting weights – and one backpacking trip. I started getting into shape about 1-2 months prior to starting my hike. I hiked PCT WA Section J 1-2 months prior to hiking the AZT, but did no other backpacking. I walked or ran 3-6 miles/day, 3-5 days/week. I lifted weights 3-5 days/week. Lifting prepared my tendons and fascia for repetitive use. My lifting was as follows:
– Dumbbell Split Squat. Lower down slowly on a 3-count. 3 sets of 5 reps.
– Goblet Squat. Lower down slowly on a 3-count. 3 sets of 8 reps.
– Cook Hip Lift. Push through heel. Hold at top 3 seconds. 3 sets of 10 reps.
– RDL. 3 sets of 6 reps.
(I also did upper body-focused lifting, but it didn’t prepare my legs for the trail, obvi)
How did my fitness prep work out? Quite well. I was able to hike quickly from the start of the trail. My first day of hiking was a 30-mile day, even. My body felt fine. No major issues or overuse injuries to contend with. As my body eased into the long days of hiking and lots of miles on my feet, I felt normal aches and pains (e.g., sore, aching feet), but nothing that I felt I could have better prepared for.
What would I do differently next time? I’ll start by saying, if I followed the same plan for a future hike, I would be happily well prepared. That said, in the future I might like to incorporate more day hikes and backpacking trips in order to get my feet and back accustomed to the weight of my pack.