It’s now just a month before we head off to America to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. In order to give ourselves the best chance of success, we have been doing a bit of physical training so that the 150 days of continuous walking comes as less of a shock to the systems. The challenge has been how we fit training in around our busy lives as training to walk long distances can take a lot of time.
The best way to train for a through hike is to get out and hike. We’ve done a practice hike every year, making them progressively more like the real thing. We started with Nepal were we hopped from teahouse to teahouse. Next was the West Highland Way were we carried our camping gear and clothing, through to the Rob Roy Way where we were completely self sufficient, carrying all food and water filtration.
Unfortunately camping in the UK over winter isn’t really that doable. We also don’t have a lot of holiday days left to take before we go. Instead we’ve been practicing the distance by walking in and around London. We researched long trails that are an easy train ride from London. Our favourite was the Solent Way Walk in the New Forest. When we did this, longer daylight hours allowed us to complete 30 miles at a good pace. We’ve also walked the South Downs Way and the North Down Way. However entering winter meant that traveling for a couple of hours on the train really cut short the daylight hours of walking. Instead we have started walking the Capital Ring in London. This walk is a circular 80 mile walk around London connecting many of the parks. Whilst not as hilly, we’ve been able to up our mileage to the high twenties. We’ve also done this with our hiking bags on so we get used to the hip belts rubbing and the additional weight.
This is a fairly recent addition but one that doesn’t mean we have to devote any additional time to training. Joal had a set of dumbbells and we’re using the plates as additional weight in our work bags. For Joal this is a 5kg weight (our base weight) whilst jenny is carrying slightly less. When you add in a laptop, notepads or extra layers, this acts as great conditioning for the trip.
Legs, bums and tums
As these muscles will be most in demand we’ve been doing some strength training workouts. Most mornings before work we’ve been doing a 7 minute workout and then a couple days a week we’ll do a 30 minute session focused on our core or legs. From doing this we’ve already felt our legs get stronger, and exercises like lunges are becoming more controlled. Jenny also runs 6 miles once or twice a week. It had been her aim to do a half marathon before leaving but with practice hikes and busy social calendar it doesn’t look as if she will fit one in.
As one of Jen’s new year resolutions she took up yoga, joining a 10 week course. This is to help with balance, core strength and posture. We’ve taken these poses and combined them into our daily routine. For instance, we incorporate a 2 minute balance pose whilst brushing our teeth.
Walking to work
One of the perks of living in zone 2 in London is both of us can walk to work. Jenny’s walk is 1.8 miles each way, whilst for Joal this is 2.4. Combine this with carrying weights and we’ve both got a daily workout that doesn’t cost us any additional time.
We would have liked to have done a lot more practise but there is only so much you can fit in around busy London lives. In reality nothing can prepare your body for weeks of physical exercise. Therefore we’ll start at a slow pace and with shorter distances (10-15 miles) and we’ll slowly increase the distance from there. We have no idea how we’ll cope with the heat of the desert or the climbs of the Sierras so it’ll be a case of slowly adjusting to life on trail.