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627 Trail Sense

fitness walker on the streets

There is a woman in our neighborhood that I see walking almost every day. She not only walks, but she walks fast. In fact, she probably walks as fast as I run. I have never spoken to her, but I would assume that she is a fitness walker and she is walking for exercise.

As fast as my neighbor, the fitness walker, walks, I was wondering if she would be a good hiker? Would we even be able to keep up with her? Amy, might be able to walk at the fitness walkers pace, but I am slower than Amy. I would probably lag behind.

Then, I remembered a story from years ago...

I was an assistant leader on a backpacking trip. A teenager was having trouble with her pack and the steep, rocky trail. I was trying to coax her along when she stopped and told me in no uncertain terms that she could walk forever on a flat carpeted surface. The problem was not her walking ability, it was the mountains! I laughed so hard I almost cracked a rib!

Hiking is walking, but walking is only a part of hiking. As my young hiker friend told me - she didn't like the pack, she didn't like the rocks, she didn't like the steep trail, and she didn't like hiking.

If hiking and walking are so different how do you train for a hike? Here are a few tips ...

Your training plan needs to match your hiking plans.

Naturally, you should keep your pack weight to a minimum, but when you are hiking all day long, even a day pack gets heavy. Train your shoulders to carry a pack.

Train by carrying a pack that weights close to what you expect to carrying on your trip. (If you are expecting to carry a heavy pack, you might want to start with a lighter load and work to the monster load.) We like to use water bottles or water bags as our weight for training hikes. If we stop having fun, we can easily lighten our loads by dumping the water.

This spring we met one hiker training in a local park carrying a heavy looking pack who was preparing for a Grand Canyon trip and another training for the Appalachian Trail.

Train by hiking similar distances as you are expecting to walk.

If you are planning a 17 mile day hike, make sure that you can walk that far! If possible train for the expected mileage plus a few extra miles.

The actual hike is almost always harder than expected. Hikers tend to underestimate the trails' difficulties.

If you are planning on wearing running shoes or light hiking boots, train on tread similar to what you are expecting. Rocky trails take a toll on your feet while wearing light hiking footwear. The bottoms of my feet have been so sore from the rocky trail that I have been hobbled.

Dry creek beds offer rocky training terrain.

Many sections of the Appalachian Trail are very rocky. It is a good training trail or if it is a destination, it is a good reason to find a rocky trail to train on!

Train in the shoes you are planning on wearing on the trip.

Try to find trails that offer the same elevation gains and steepness as the ones you are training to hike.

Many of the Smoky Mountain National Park trails have 3000 foot climbs, which equal many of the Colorado peaks. The Colorado peaks would in turn be a good training ground for hiking in the Smokies, but don't underestimate the heat and humidity of the southeast.

Train in a similar climate as you are expecting on the trip. Cool temperatures are easy to acclimate to by adding an extra layer, but hot temperatures can be crippling. Train for the heat.

The fitness walker would probably be a good hiker, if she she wanted to be a hiker and trained for the trip. My little backpacking friend did become a good hiker, but she had to gain strength first. If she had trained for the trip, the hiking would not have been so difficult.

Happy Training trails


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