Six Things You Can Learn From A/T Thru Hikers

AFF-alachian Trail Challenge Spring 2015

The 2nd Annual Great AFF-alachian Trail Race is still going strong. Yes, we have some go-getters who finished the Trail in three weeks. But there are still five weeks to go, and lots of miles to complete!

If you’re feeling discouraged, take heart from these lessons learned from some bona fide thru hikers (on the actual Appalachian Trail).

1. Stay present today. It takes at least six months to hike the 2,181 mile trail. That means on any given day, you can’t stress about how far you still have to go – or you’d have a pretty stressful six months. Each day, you do what’s in front of you. You climb that hill. You take in this view. You talk to this smelly stranger. Apply this to your daily workouts, and not only will you enjoy them more, you’ll cultivate more peace of mind throughout your life.

2. Rest when you need it. Walking an average of 12 miles a day, you run into some problems. Blisters. Callouses. Sore toes, knees, and ankles. Thru-hikers take a rest day if and when they need it (it’s called a “zero day.”)

3. Showers are overrated. Any thru-hiker would tell you, they’d love to be able to shower more often. But the fact is, Americans tend to overwash themselves. Folks who have done long-term work overseas (like the Peace Corps) or outdoor traveling (like the A/T) with limited access to showers tend to shower less overall upon their return. If you’ve done a grueling workout or are covered in dirt from the garden, sure. But you don’t need to shower every day if you’ve just been sitting around. It depletes your skin and hair of their natural oils, and can exacerbate skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

4. Take some time in nature. The natural world is your grounding center. In this age of technology, constant connection, and unparalleled stress, it’s the only thing that’s really real – and you’re still a part of it. Taking five minutes every day to be in nature is calming, healing, and  centering. (More is better, but take what you can get.)

5. Get the right gear. Thru hikers live and die by the quality of their stuff. Proper shoes are an absolute must if you’re walking 2,181 miles, right? Same goes for packs, sleeping bags, water filtration systems, etc. Translate this to everyday life: the right gear supports your body to do whatever it is you do at your best, without injuring yourself. If this means getting better shoes to stand in all day, or an ergonomic desk to sit at, or a purse that doesn’t kill your shoulder….do it!

6. Setting & achieving a big goal is a major self-esteem booster. You don’t have to run a marathon or hike the entire A/T. (Who has that kind of time?) If you struggle with low self image, start setting small goals, and throw a big party for yourself every time you succeed. Make the bed 30 days in a row. Or walk a mile every day. Little by little, you can work up to a bigger, long-term goal, like your first race, or a big creative project. Just remember to keep the small goals in place, as “mile markers” for the larger one.


Can you think of any other ones? Share them in the comments below!

Written by Damon

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