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Physical Conditioning: Beyond the logistics of the hike, much attention is often given to physical conditioning.
This is important, of course.
Make sure your boots are well broken-in; be aware that you will likely wear them out on the trail and need a new pair. Do lots of hiking to accustom your feet to your boots.
Wear your pack, and gradually increase the amount of weight you carry. Climb stairs. Go on practice hikes of two or three days.
But realize that the only way to prepare your body to hike ten hours a day, carrying forty or more pounds up and down mountains, is to do it.
You will hurt.
The pain will never go away, but there will come a day two or three months into the hike when you are in trail shape, the strongest you’ve ever been, and you’ll know that, physically, you can complete the trail. This is the advantage of thru-hiking over section-hiking. People who hike a long trail in short sections over a period of years never reach that level of conditioning; they must start from scratch every time.
Mental Conditioning: Let’s face it — three to six months is a long time to live in the woods with your very survival on your back.
You will be hot, cold, tired, wet, lonely, and scared. You will itch, ache, and smell bad. You will be hungry all the time. You will hurt worse than you ever have before. You will get homesick. After awhile, hiking becomes your job, and you’ll be bored.
You’ll want to quit.
The hardest part of completing a thru-hike is knowing you don’t have to. No one is making you hike day after day. You can go home anytime. The trick is to keep that far-away goal in the back of your mind while focusing only on the immediate day’s hike.
Don’t think of hiking 2,000 miles; the longest trail is just a series of week-long hikes.
From one town to the next.
One day at a time.
Just this next climb.
If it sounds like Nancy Shepherd knows what she’s talking about it’s because she does. She’s an accomplished thru-hiker and the author of My Own Hike: A Woman’s Journey on the Appalachian Trail and a few other trail-savvy books. Read more right here.
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