Will Thru Hiking Leave You In Great Shape?

by | Oct 22, 2018 | 0 comments

Will Thru Hiking Leave You In Great Shape?

Will thru hiking leave you in great shape? We can agree that what being in “shape” means can be subjective. But it’s fair to say that finishing a thru hike doesn’t leave you in great shape. I’ll explain this and what you can expect as your thru-hike concludes. Before we dive in, let’s also recognize  that age matters, as does genetics and previous fitness/activity level going into the hike.  Let’s assume you finish the hike since most hikers abandon due to injury.

Thru Hiking Won’t Leave You In Great Shape

In this article, we mentioned that the body is so efficient, it wants to do as little as possible to maintain muscle. It takes a lot of calories to retain muscle; if you do not use it, you will “lose” it.

Will Thru Hiking Leave You In Great Shape?Walking and hiking can certainly help facilitate fitness, and they’re a great addition to any health and wellness program. But walking or hiking as the sole means to attain the greatest shape of your life is simply not enough. There is insufficient resistance, loading, or rest to build better fitness—not to mention the lack of quality nutrition!

On a hike, your endurance will absolutely improve. And your cardiovascular fitness aerobic base will be outstanding, but there are limitations. Endurance and strength require different stimuli. And endurance doesn’t equal strength. There are different muscle fibers for each (and some that do both), but each must be targeted with a good training program.

On the cardio side, while aerobic training should be part of your training program, you must include some higher-intensity cardio. As a thru-hiker, your heart rate will increase with steep sections of trail and some ascents, but perhaps not enough to boost higher levels of cardiovascular efficiency.

Aim To Start Your Hike In Your Best Shape

Considering injury is the number one reason hikers abandon a hike, it stands to reason that you would want to be in the best shape of your life *before* you leave. Being in your best shape beforehand reduces the stress on your body, which reduces the risk of injury. Most overuse injuries happen from doing too much too soon in a hike. If your fitness level or general physical preparedness is greater, you can buffer the stress that comes at the start of a hike, reducing the risk of injuries. Combined with a smart starting strategy, your odds of success greatly improve!

Updated 5/7/2024

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Lee Welton