Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Earning It

Scaling the Scorpion Mountain ridge line with Jasmine
The general rule I've upheld since I first started to work on my endurance training is to switch off between distance and elevation with every hike. For awhile, I worked three long shifts per week and had four full days off. At that time, it was super easy for me to swap between a short, steep hike and a long, lower elevation gain nearly every other day. It was an extremely effective training method and got me to my first physical goal of 10 miles and 3000 ft. e.g. much faster than expected (5 months faster to be exact).

When I first started hiking [January '15], I was coming off of two years of constant back pain and extremely limited mobility coupled with ZERO core strength. I herniated two disks in my lower back (C5, S1) a couple years before that and had an absolutely torturous time healing and getting to a pain free state. I saw countless physical therapists, pain management specialists, massage therapists, radiologists, and chiropractors. I had a dozen blood draws and exams for degenerative spine disorders, fibromyalgia, lupus, RA, and viral diseases. My inflammation marker tests kept coming back inexplicably high. I had a massive amount of psychological and emotional stress at the time, compounding or causing the problem, depending on your interpretation of the mind-body connection. The only two things that actually supported my recovery were acupuncture and hiking; Essentially, anti-inflammatory treatment and strength building.

Special offshoot trail between Denny Creek and Melakwa Lake

Summit Lake at Mt. Rainier

Getting ready for backpacking and camping season, I've started thinking way more about my training regimen. These days, I work 5 days a week (though finally not 6! Woo!), so my interval schedule has to be significantly more flexible and realistic than before if I'm actually going to blossom into a savvy backpacker. Lots of long walks around the city after work and steady weight training with a pack. Right now I'm happy if I can get one long distance hike in per week, since I really don't enjoy being on the trails during crowded weekend hours. I first typed that I hate it, but that isn't really true...being out in the woods is never wrong for a nemophilist. 

All this training talk is also on my mind because I intend to take longer, multi-month pilgrimage in the near future. My uncle and aunt hiked a portion of the Camino de Santiago in Spain last year, which was the first time I'd ever heard of it. A few months later my mom gave me a memoir about the Santiago by Kamal Ravikant, called Rebirth. It may not be the exact pilgrimage route for me, but its fascinating to read about nonetheless. His story touched and ignited me much more than the wildly popular Wild book/movie.

"What to do next? Keep moving. Leave behind the past, the fears, the guilt, and lose myself in the new. With movement, there’s action. And with action, perhaps there are answers." -Kamal Ravikant

>'Long' but flat trails in WA:
-Goat Lake on the Mntn Loop Highway (10.4 miles, 1000 ft. e.g.)-Forever holds a special place in my heart; Still my favorite hike to date in Washington state
-Packwood Lake in the Goat Rocks Wilderness area (10 miles, 600 ft. e.g.)
-Boulder River near Arlington (9 miles, 700 ft. e.g.)
-Ancient Lakes (12 miles of trails, 700 ft e.g.)

Goat Lake

Goat Lake

Packwood Lake

Boulder River Trail

>Short but steep trails in WA:
-Heybrook Lookout (2 miles, 1200 ft eg)-You could even do this one twice in a row for optimal switchback training!
-Umtanum Ridge Crest (6 miles, 2500 ft. e.g.)
-Little Si (4.5 miles, 1500 ft. e.g.)
-Index Town Wall (2.6 miles, 1300 ft. e.g.)

Heybrook Lookout
Mt. Si on a shitting-rain kind of PNW day

Enjoying the sea of trees from the top of Little Si has some great information about backpack training exercises if you are seeking more professional advice. Here is a basic and effective training schedule they suggest for starting in the early season:

Weeks 1-3
STRENGTH ➞ 3 days per week, 1 hour/session. “Put on strength now and you’ll have muscle that you can later sacrifice to build up your endurance.” Keep rest periods to a minute or two.
Weeks 4-6
ENDURANCE ➞ 1 day per week for 45 minutes at moderate intensity (e.g. jogging, hiking)
Weeks 7-9
INTENSITY ➞ Increase weekly endurance workouts to 1.5 to 2 hours, and add 1 day of high intensity exercise with high output but less weight (e.g. speed hiking).

REI is a great resource as well, and on top of articles like this one below, they also hold classes at most of their locations on hike training and safety: 

Summerland Trail, Mt. Rainier Ntnl Park


  1. You are on the right track, J. May I suggest pumping hand weights on your city hikes/walks...start with 1 pounders in each hand and work your way up to 4 or 5 pounds, in addition to a weighted backpack of course :). You will feel it...

    1. Got to be up-to-snuff for these Utah trails in the Fall! My training is starting late, but hey, Autumn is my very favorite time to hike anyway..

  2. So I had to look up nemophilist. Turns out I am also a "haunter of the woods", and I like the deserts too! It's been great to see you move from that long period of back pain to where you are now...Keep moving.

    1. Don't worry Dad, I didn't know what it meant the first time I read it either. It's a word we need to bring back into the fold though, so let's keep dropping it into conversations. Love you


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