Training for the AT
So how does one train for the Appalachian Trail? An average hiker on the AT walks 15 miles a day up and down steep mountains day after day. How does an average joe like me prepare for this? I read a lot of interesting articles on this subject. Most experts claim that starting a slow and gradual increase in exercise resistance is the best option. They advise gradually increasing your physical work load and the amount you hike. “Experts”….who are these ‘experts’ that I frequently read about? What do they know about training and conditioning anyway? I could only sit and chuckle at their advice while I prepared the ultimate exercise program that my body couldn’t handle.
First thing is first. Freeletics. I came across this program online and was hooked instantly. All you need is a phone and $4.99 for the app. $4.99??!!! Yes, there is a small fee. Seriously guys, it costs as much as 1.5 gallons of gas. And instead of burning through it in 20-30 miles and never seeing it again, you could own it forever. Yep, FOR-E-VER. Anyways, this app is awesome. The workouts last about 20-30 minutes on average and are super crazy. The hardest one I did was called Kronos (all workouts get cool Greek God names)
Kronos: 100 pushups, 200 situps, 300 squats, 200 leg levers, 100 pullups.
Do those in order as fast as you can. Here is different one:
Hades: 25 burpees, 15 pullups, 15 pushups, 25 burpees, 80 yard sprint, Repeat everything 3 times as fast as you can.
This stuff is brutal! I was heaving, gagging, gasping… its rough. But for those of you who are mere mortals, there are easier ones. For ex:
Ares: 7 pullups, 7 jackknives, 80 yard sprint, 1 min rest, Repeat everything 5 times.
Freeletics definitely toughened me up. But, that wasn’t enough. I wanted, needed, and craved for more. So that was when my cousin Euge introduced me to GoRuck. “Huh? What’s that?” That is the most common response I get when telling people of GoRuck. Their website says it best:
Teamwork, leadership, camaraderie, smiles and a gut-check worthy of Special Operations training. This challenge isn’t about you, it’s about the men by your side who become your team. Ruckers have called it an introduction to themselves. I call it the most painful and miserable 14 hours of my life.
For my first GoRuck Tough Challenge, my bro Surge joined me. Its always awesome when you do something like this with a buddy. I bought myself a rucksack, stuffed is with 6 concrete bricks (yes it is a requirement), threw in 5 cliff bars and some water, and showed up at Charleston on December 14. About 14 other guys and a few brave girls showed up for the fun. The event started at 1:00 am on Saturday morning. It was rough. First few hours were spent doing team building exercises: pushups, squats, lunges, situps, sprints…. and the list goes on. Then we took a long walk/run to the beach, 14 miles away! Along the way we picked up strategically placed items such as 20 lb chains, 35 lb kettle bell and metal plate, 2 car tires that were 50+ lbs…. all of this stuff had to be carried by us on our backs. Nothing could ever touch the ground or the whole team gets punished. We eventually got to the ocean when early dawn started breaking and then things got interesting.
Cadre made us get into the freezing ocean where we spent doing exercises for what seemed like ages. The ice cold water was something else that no one can truly be prepared for. What I have written up is just the tip of the iceberg. There was so much stuff we had to do later on in the day that pushed me to the point of complete exhaustion and beyond.
(The box is full of wet sand. It weighs several hundred pounds and I am carrying the team rock. Check out the guy carrying the huge tire)
I know you must be bored reading about this so I will save you from the boring details and cut it short. All in all, the challenge lasted 14 hours and took us over 20 miles across Charleston. I spent 4-5 days recovering from that event.
As if the first GoRuck challenge wasn’t enough, I did another one on February 7th. Apparently I bought the first one during a promotion – buy one get one free! Of course I leaped with joy an signed up with a uncertain smile. Well, this event was straight up miserable, see for yourself:
Yep, we carried that utility pole across Cooper Bridge in Charleston. It took us 5.5 hours to carry it 6 miles. And that log carry was after hours and hours and Hours of exercises, hauling around 100 lb sandbags, and miles worth of rucking.
The upside to that event was that my two bros did it with me which turned out to be an epic memory we share to say the least.
(Me, Al, Surge)
So let me tell you why I pushed myself beyond my comfort zones physically and mentally with all this crazy training. Physical training will not get you through the AT. It does help but that is not enough. It’s not how strong you are going into the hike but how mentally tough you can be. The mental aspect is missing in most hikers, that is why 75% drop out and never make it to the finish. Those long cold/wet days when you are tired and hungry can break a person down if you let it. This type of training is what I needed to understand what my body was truly capable of. Going into this hike, I am in the best shape of my life physically. I think my legs are part steel, like Wolverine you know. They sure feel like it! My mental outlook is simple, if I could get through GoRuck Challenges alive and not pass out when doing Kronos, then I could definitely make it through the AT.