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Backpacker Magazine – March 2014

Go the Distance: Physical Endurance

Prepare your body for the rigors of hiking long distances.

by: Casey Lyons

Power Food (Photo by Ben Fullerton)
Power Food (Photo by Ben Fullerton)

Profiles in Endurance
Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe 
John Muir Trail (supported) in 3 days, 12 hours, 41 minutes
The hallucinations started at dusk on the second day. Trees became people, rocks morphed into tents. Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe had slept just two hours the previous night. Their eyes were seeing what their minds craved. And in that fuzzy headspace, they relied on their training. “Running,” Koerner says, “was our comfort zone.”
Koerner and Wolfe aren’t your average speed hikers. They’re athletes who finish 24-hour footraces across distances that most people would groan about driving. And they nearly met their match over the JMT’s 210.4 miles and 84,000 feet of elevation change.
Of course, it wasn’t all sore-footed suffering. The Sierra granite pinches into snow-capped ridges separated by great, lake-filled basins. There’s enough beauty to all-but cancel out the pain—and Hal and Mike were seeing it in fast forward. This is what sticks with them. “That trip for me, I’ll never forget it,” Koerner says. “It was unlike any other that I’ve ever lived.”

No Pain, No Gain

Work through four common overuse injuries.

1. Outer knee

Pain Burning sensation

Problem Iliotibial band syndrome

Fix Ease IT band tension using a foam roller. Lie with your hip on the roller and slowly work your way down to your knee, pausing on any sore spots.


2. Kneecap

Pain Constant dull ache

Problem Patellar tendonitis

Fix Strengthen the muscles that support the knee (do squats and lunges, see right) and stretch your hamstrings: Sit with your hammie on a foam roller and move back and forth from knee to thigh. 


3. Heel

Pain Throbbing and tender

Problem Plantar fascitis

Fix Sit with legs outstretched and gently pull back on toes to stretch the plantar fascia. Hold for 1 minute.


4. Shin

Pain Sharp and stabbing

Problem Shin splints

Fix Stretch calves by hanging your heels over the edge of a step and lowering down. Loosen your tibialis anterior (shin muscle) by laying one ankle across the opposite knee (while seated) and pushing your toes away from your knee. Hold for 30 seconds.


Perfect 50: Zion NP, UT

Pass 47 miles of labyrinthine canyons and slickrock on the cross-park traverse from Lees Pass to East Rim. INFO 


Choice Words

Why do you like suffering?

“Part of it is that rawness that appeals to me. You have to be present in the moment. You don’t have a choice.” –Mike Wolfe

Food: Fuel Up

Maximize strength gains and speed up recovery with this simple eating strategy.

Post-workout, consume 20 grams of protein and 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates within an hour, says Monique Ryan, author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes. This one-two punch helps replenish fuel (carbs) burned during workouts, and starts muscle repair and rebuilding (protein), which leads to strength gains. Good protein sources include: powders (see below), lean red meat, chicken, fish, and Greek yogurt (much higher in protein than regular yogurt). For a quick carb infusion, eat a bowl of cereal with milk and fruit, an energy bar, or some whole-grain bread.

Food: Powder Hounds

Your guide to which protein mixes to consume and when.

Whey This fast-acting, milk-derived protein absorbs easily and jump-starts the muscle rebuilding process. Take it right after workouts for best results.

Casein Also milk-derived, casein acts about half as fast as whey. Take it just before bed to promote muscle recovery and rebuilding while you sleep.

Soy Soy absorbs about 30 percent slower than whey, but it’s plant-derived and a good post-workout option for vegans and those with milk allergies.

Don’t  F
Figure out your fitness

Don’t get fixated on the wrong measure. VO2 max measures your muscles’ ability to uptake oxygen at the highest athletic output—a useless stat for lower-output  hiking. Instead, boost your lactate threshold, the level of exertion where your muscles can clear lactic acid as fast as it’s created. Find it: If you can’t hold up a conversation while hiking, slow down.



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Falling in the backcountry
Posted On: Aug 20, 2014
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Anyone else planning a JMT hike this summer?
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