» Learning curve (+++*) You can’t go from zero to hero overnight. Building fitness for long mileage—without suffering blisters and serious soreness—takes months.
*(+) = Low effort, low risk (+++++) = Get a lesson and life insurance
» Wear running shoes or lightweight, low-cut hiking boots. You need cushion
and flex, and choose the most breathable shoes conditions allow.
» Trim your daypack weight: Aim for 10 pounds or less, including food and water.
» Shorten your stride for maximum efficiency. With longer strides, your heel hits hard—which puts the brakes on with every step.
» Don’t bend forward at the waist. Keep a straight back, and ease your hips forward, which counterbalances gravity’s backward pull on your pack.
» Refuel frequently, says Northwest editor Michael Lanza, who routinely notches 30- to 40-mile days. He carries at least two pounds of food, and spikes his water with powdered electrolyte-replacement drink mix.
» During breaks, elevate your feet to drain stale blood and refresh muscles’ oxygen supply. “Even three minutes will recharge your legs,” says Danny Dreyer, an ultramarathoner who developed the “chi” technique for pain-free running and walking.
» Use trekking poles, so your upper body can take on some of the work.
» Start flat: To claim your first 30-miler, tackle a flat or rolling trail rather than one with an EKG-style elevation profile.
» Florida The 35-mile Panhandle segment of the Florida Trail from Porter Lake Campground west to Camel Lake Campground traverses some of the remotest terrain in Florida—with almost zero elevation change. Contact: floridatrail.org
» Indiana Circle the Charles C. Deam Wilderness on a 32-miler that connects the Cope Hollow, Martin Hollow, Sycamore, Terill Ridge, Axsom Branch, Grubb Ridge, Peninsula, and 545 Trails. Contact: fs.fed.us/r9/hoosier
» Utah Go big: Follow in the footsteps of our editor-in-chief on a 52-mile traverse
of Zion National Park. Get GPS data and a slideshow at backpacker.com/zion52.