Fulfill Your Hiking Dream! Here to help fellow hikers by offering wisdom, ideas, and lessons learned from a two-time AT North and South, Long Trail, Foothills Trail, Allegheny Trail, Colorado Trail, Florida Trail, Shenandoah Nat'l Park 500 miler completions. Former AT Ridgerunner for six years, Author, Speaker on Hiking and Backpacking
“Do I Need to Be in Physical Shape to Hike?”- a young hiker
asked tentatively on social media.
I responded in the thread – “No. The trail will help in that.”
And was rebuked in front of all. I was informed that is bad
advice. Dangerous advice. Advice that can put that hiker in jeopardy. Make them
miserable and quit. I had no business saying that. Of course
they need to be in
the best shape they can!
I thought about that. If one needs to be in physical shape
to accomplish a trail.
I thought then about my son, a couch-type guy, in no shape
whatsoever, who did the entire Appalachian Trail with me (in fact, he wanted to
quit midway, in the best shape of his life at that point).
I thought about the seven-year-old child who has done it. I thought
about the blind person who did it, the one who has joint replacements, the 80
year old woman, the one with heart issues, cancer, or other issues, do it….
Were they physically fit?
What did they have then that physical shape did not?
The will to accomplish something great in their
I believe in the power of the mind. The will. I have seen the
powerful will overcome whatever physical limitations a body has. I have seen folks
with the drive and determination to make things happen and succeed when the odds
speak against it. I have also seen physically fit people quit because they were
mentally miserable. Multiple times.
To me - if you keep walking, it makes sense the physical
shape will come right along with it. If you stop, it won’t.
That is what I meant by saying – the trail will get you in physical
shape. “If” you keep walking.
You see, I was one of those people that was told I couldn’t
do something (both in grade school and when I was injured as an adult). I was
not in physical shape at all. I had a sports doctor tell me I’d never hike again
because of a bad ankle. It was all impossible. But I found a doctor who said I
could accomplish it. Most importantly, I had my will, my dream that I had dreamed for 30 years
to keep me going. What the body seemingly could not do, the will could. And the body followed. One way or the other. Short or long.
The Florida Trail, a flat trail - is mental!
SO I did it. The Appalachian Trail, not once but twice. The Florida
Trail. The Allegheny Trail. The Long Trail. The Colorado Trail. And yeah, I wanted
to quit. I had physical issues. Mental issues. But I rose up with prayer and
the will to do it. On some of those hikes I was in great shape when I wanted to
quit. I was miserable anyway. But the mind overcame it. I found a reason to go
Is it necessary to be in physical shape? It can’t hurt, except
if that physical shape is from bicycling or running, for sudden backpacking and carrying a load uphill can still cause
mega issues (those sports uses different muscle sets than hiking. ITB issues are
major). Cardiovascular shape can help some. But I advise getting your mind in shape
above all. And through that strong mind, you will make the right decisions so that
you ARE in the best shape to hike. You will make the right decision with planning.
Goal setting. The gear you need. Safety. Going to see the doctor and dentist too
to make sure you are set (you never want to forego annual physicals). Have the
mind ready to get up and do a hike, even in rain, sleet, snow, or when you are
hurting or feel like, why am I doing this? You will keep walking. You will get in shape because you keep walking. But most of all, you keep walking in response to the will to keep walking. Then you will see a dream reached.
That is what I feel and believe and share with others. I don’t believe it's dangerous advice. I believe it’s
victorious to achieve a dream.