diary of an aspiring A.T. thru-hiker


Bard from Maryland
Pronouns: they/them
Posts: 23
"I just needed to get that off my chest"
I have wanted to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail for many years, ever since I was in high school. Now, I have decided that I'm going to take the leap. My goal is to start my southbound journey in June of 2024 and finish by the end of the year. This is a pretty massive undertaking, especially because southbound is the most difficult way to go. Hikers starting in Maine will have to begin with Mount Katahdin, the most difficult mountain on the trail, and pack extra heavily due to the long distance between resupply points in New England. What I'm getting at is this: If I want to pull this off, I have a little over a year to get in the best shape possible.

I've never considered myself fit. Granted, growing up with my fitness nut of a father, who has run the Ironman triathlon twice and more marathons than I can count, does give me a bit of a skewed perspective on what is considered "normal." Still, I have baby noodle arms that can barely do a single push-up. I run regularly, but I've never done a sub-30 5K. There is only one physical activity to which I seem inclined, and that is---you guessed it---hiking. Not to brag or anything, but I was always the first to the campsite on long backpacking trips with my youth group as a teenager, and in 2019 I hiked 50 miles in 15 hours 15 minutes with no prior training (a feat that my aforementioned fitness nut father describes as "something that sounds really hard, until you get halfway through, at which point you realize it's going to be a lot harder than you thought"). But that won't be enough to get me through 2,190+ miles. I know I have a long way to go.

One of my many barriers to getting in shape is my apparent inability to stick to a routine. If I don't set aside a specific time for exercise, odds are I won't do it. But if I do set aside a specific time and forget, I feel as if I've missed my window and get too discouraged to keep trying. (Can any of my fellow ADHDers relate?) So I'm trying to find a strategy to combat this. Right now, the plan is to break my training up into a couple different sessions throughout the day. That way, even if I miss one of them, I will at least take comfort in knowing that I've done something.

Here's the schedule I'm going to try:

6:35 a.m. - run to work (just shy of 0.7 miles and almost entirely uphill--not far, but better than nothing). Change and have a small snack upon arrival.
8:50 a.m. - run home.
~9:00 a.m. - immediately, before changing, do 10-30 minutes of at-home training. When finished, reward self by watching an episode of a TV show while stretching and eating breakfast.
At home - wear a loaded hiking pack around the house when going about daily business.
2:45 p.m. - walk back to work (my work schedule is weird, I know).
6:30 p.m. - walk home.
After dinner - go for a short hike in the woods with the loaded backpack, anywhere between 2 and 7 miles.

I'm sure there will be issues to work out, and I have yet to come up with a specific plan for weekends.

I can do this.