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prehike conditioning

The question came up recently about the need for prehike conditioning.  Last
night I was reading the October Backpacker, and there was an article on how
to prevent injury.  One of the main points was the need to be in shape
before you go.  Someone on the list said that it wasn't necessary,because
you can get in shape during the first few weeks of daily hiking.  There is
some truth to this, many people start out with no prior conditioning. 
However, there is a tremendous difference in how much you enjoy the trail
and the hike.  If it is true that 50% drop out by Damascus (or was that
Fontana -Wingfoot, you would know), isn't it likely that a lot of those
people simply were not in good enough shape, and were utterly miserable as a

I tried to get in shape, walking/hiking about 35-40 miles a week during the
six months or so before my thruhikes.  It helped.  I was able to start out
strong.  Even so, Springer was a tail buster and my pack felt too heavy. 
For my next long distance hike, I will train again. The benefits are worth
it.  Best training is to put on the pack and go into the woods.
Alternatively, walk as much as you can, with weight on your back, and go up
and down stairs, hills, whatever you can find to approximate a mountain. (I
can't run because of bad knees, but that is supposed to be excellent
conditioning for backpacking.)  

Although some people start out the AT with no prior experience, it has
always seemed very odd to me.  How can you know whether you will like it? 
There are about six months between now and Springer (or Katahdin for the
directionally challenged) - how many camping trips can you arrange between
now and then?  Don't say that winter will stop you - if you start the AT
before the end of April, chances are you will run into snow - how prepared
will you be?  You have lots of time to get into shape, and your enjoyment of
the trail will be so much greater if you aren't fighting six months of
winter lethargy.   And besides, if you don't like to hike, why are you out

Sorry for running on, but I'm wishing I could be hiking, since I can't I
like talking about being in the woods.

Ginny "Spirit Walker" Owen