Valuable Lessons From An Unfinished AT Thru-hiker

by | Oct 24, 2018 | 2 comments


  • Training Matters
  • Pack Weight Matters
  • Listen To Your Body
  • No Pain, No Gain is The Wrong Mindset

I was scrolling through Facebook yesterday and I came across an excellent video by Jeremy Coody. Jeremy is an Appalachian Trail hiker who wasn’t able to complete his hike in 2018, but he learned some valuable lessons that he kindly shares with aspiring hikers.

Now, I don’t know Jeremy or much of his story, but he hits on many of the key points that can make or break a hike. His top five pieces of advice create a solid foundation for any hiker. Let’s look at his “Top 5” and break them down a little further.


Training Matters

Jeremy discusses how assuming you will get in shape on trail is not a good strategy. I could not agree more! There will be an adjustment as the body gets into a rhythm of hiking every day. Bodies need time to adjust to carrying an extra 20-30lbs after all. Here’s where the training months beforehand come in. If you take the time to properly train and get in shape, you decrease the stress on your body and make that transition smoother. Decreasing the stress is what reduces your chance for injury!

Make Smart Choices Around Food

Jeremy talks here about only bringing what you know you will eat to reduce weight in your pack. Pack weight does matter! The military has done numerous studies looking at pack weight and injury rates and found that weight does matter. Hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail took an average of a week longer for each pound in their pack. You can visit Halfway Anywhere and search through his yearly surveys to learn more.

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Listen to Past Hikers

What Jeremy points out here is that past hikers on the PCT, AT, or CDT have a wealth of information and if they are willing to share it with you, listen. Before we left for our PCT hike this year, I spent a lot of time at Halfway Anywhere pouring over Mac’s surveys. I really like that there was a similar “Top 5” list; a pass down to next years cohort. On that list each year hikers wish they would have trained more and eaten better while on trail. I took that advice and was able to be successful in my PCT thru hike. Heck, it was the reason I started Trailside Fitness!

Pack Weight Matters

Similar to excess food adding weight, Jeremy discusses unneeded items causing a burden. If you are not using it to get where you need to go, he advises you ditch the dead weight. Amen! For us, our cell phone was our biggest multi-tasker used for navigation, photos, videos, listening to an audiobook, podcast or music in camp as we lay in our tent. We actually sent back our deck of cards and light cribbage board because we didn’t use it on the trail, even though on a typical weekend trip it’s always part of the kit. Take a good look at what you are bringing and do shake-down hikes.

Listen to Your Body

Great last point by Jeremy. Pain is a lagging indicator that something is wrong. There are actually signs that your body gives you before pain sets in, but they are easily ignored. Maybe it’s a tight muscle every day, a nagging foot pain, hot spot, swelling or something worse.

It IS NOT no pain, no gain – drop that mindset, quickly!

Sharp, stabbing, or electric sensations are not good, neither is a deep ache or pain with certain motions. These are signs that need to be listened to. Days will be hard and you will have sore muscles but learning to distinguish between pain and discomfort is very important.

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You can reach me with any injury issues, past or present that you feel will impact your hike. Training questions are also welcome – I am happy to help!