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I Hear The Training Plan A Coming


Nov 21, 2022 #Coming, #Hear, #Plan, #Training

Crafting a Training Plan for a Thru Hike

The data shows most who complete a thru hike for the first time did not have extensive training prior to the attempt (curiosity of The Trek website under FAQs). It is true you can have little hiking experience coupled with limited training and still make it all the way through. There is a level or risk involved with this strategy. To lower the level of risk, I developed a comprehensive (I hope so) training plan to ensure my body and mind can meet the physical/mental demands of this adventure.

Lifelong Fitness

I will be 44 at the end of next month and have had varying levels of fitness over a lifetime. I played sports in middle school and high school, stayed in shape during the military, and dabbled in cross fit, triathlons, and long distance cycling. Using all these experiences and the insight of knowing my own body (definitely important to listen to it), I crafted a weekly training plan to include nutritional aspects. Quick disclaimer though: I do not have certifications in fitness, nutrition, nor am I a medical competent authority. The majority of my knowledge is from reading and trial and error.

A Thought on Training and Correlation to Resilience

I view physical fitness and training for an event as a checking account. Imagine your body is the checking account and every workout you perform is deposited into that account. This builds up a fitness balance which you can then withdraw as you compete or perform. If you do not have a balance in your account, well then your body laughs at you and the check bounces so to speak. I experienced this first hand going from training at 100ft elevation to over 6000ft elevation. My checking account was not ready for that withdrawal.

Consistently working out will also help with resilience. When the body starts to experience fatigue in regards to performance the mind will either push through, or decide today ain’t the day. When in this spot, you can counter this thinking by reminding yourself how many workouts you’ve made it through to this point and push further. The mind will quit way before the body will. So to help prepare mentally for a tough task, training (for me) is a key component.

What to Train and How

I looked at what muscle groups and types of workouts will pay the most dividends for hiking consistently. Strong legs, back and shoulders, along with a sustained level of exertion for hours at a time. I focused on three tenants to improve my overall hiking stamina and physique: Muscular strength endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance, and joint/ligament stability.

Can this be achieved by just hiking? I am sure it can, however I figured I will be “just hiking” for 5-6 months. I wanted to have a plan that didn’t have me dreading a workout or mentally drained before I even started the actual conquest.

When training there is always a line between intensity and insanity. An intense workout is beneficial in many ways, however lack of intensity can be detrimental. On the flip side an overly intense workout to the point of insanity will more likely than not cause injury and require time to heal. Finding the “Goldilocks Zone” between those two aspects is key.

I am a huge proponent for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts because of this concept; those types of workouts can really skirt the line between the intensity and insanity. Not too mention intensity is in the name too! There is a veritable gold mine of fitness articles describing the benefits of HIIT from weight loss to VO2 Max and sustained health.

Another important aspect of training is recovery. A simple rest day or a lower intensity day (particularly after a toughening day) can do wonders for the body. Sprinkling in stretching and flexibility throughout a training program pays dividends with joint stability and prevention of injury.

Sample Plan

 With all the previous aspects mentioned, I crafted a 7x day training plan that looks like this:

Example key___Day #: First workout is performed in the morning (mileage, minutes, or Targeted Heart Rate); second workout is performed in the afternoon or evening

  • Day 1: Hike (5-7mi) or cycle (20-25mi) additional option spin class; second workout weightlifting back exercises
  • Day 2: Recovery cardio (60min) either elliptical or light spinning (126-148BPM with 30min 140-148BPM);  second workout weightlifting shoulder exercises
  • Day 3: Weightlifting focus leg exercises with stair master while wearing pack as a finisher; only one workout on this day
  • Day 4: Hike (6-9mi)
  • Day 5: HIIT cardio workout (examples are Cindy, Ivan the Terrible, Helen, etc/148+BPM); second workout weightlifting focus arm exercises
  • Day 6: Hike (7-10mi) or cycle (25-30mi) additional option skiing!!
  • Day 7: Recovery walk (2-4mi, THR 126-148BPM)

This plan allows for some flexibility to switch up days and workouts depending on how my body feels and weather conditions. Here is an example of one of the weightlifting focus workouts:


  • Start the workout by walking reverse on a treadmill for 5-7min (this does wonders for knee pain and joint stability)
  • Next move to the leg extension machine. Pick a weight that you can hold extended for 30sec. Rest 1min, then repeat 3x more times (this strengthens the joints and ligaments around the knees)
  • Squats or leg press: 8-10reps for 4x sets
  • Lying leg curl: 8-10reps for 4x sets
  • Weighted step ups (using dumbells) or walking lunges with barbell (15 steps per leg)
  • Calf raises: 10-12reps for 4x sets
  • Finisher: Stair master with weighted pack (30min {10min stepping up forward, 5min stepping up sideways left leg first, 5min stepping up sideways right leg first, 10min stepping up forward}) or 30min climbing stairs. With the stair master 5min intervals I pick two songs on my playlist that are roughly 5min so I know exactly when to switch vs constantly looking at the time.

Ready to Train!

So there’s my training plan I will follow for at least the next four weeks. After that time frame, I will conduct an assessment to make sure I am doing things right and doing the right things. I typically keep logs of data (times, weights lifted, etc) to aid in the assessment process and show improvement. Sometimes it’s hard to see improvement when consistently working out and not monitoring progression. If anyone has any tips or tricks please let me know.  My next post I am going to cover nutrition for the training plan which is uber important. Thanks for following along and have a great weekend!

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