Preparing to Hit the Trail from a Physical Therapist’s Point of View


The Physical Therapist as the Patient

Utilizing my capabilities as a PT, I am preparing to thru-hike the AT in 2020.  I have  the advantage of becoming each the therapist and the patient.  I have suffered serious injuries from becoming hit by a automobile though operating, and then later once again right after a head on automobile collision.   two years ago, I underwent a ideal hip replacement due to a mixture of variables. My husband reminds me that “nothing like that ever takes place to me on the couch.”  I am content to say, I continue to be in a position to run 30+ miles a week with out discomfort.  OK, so I appreciate becoming active, in spite of the dangers.  However, as a physical therapist, it is nicer to avert injuries than treat them.

Taking a History

Preparing for  thru-hiking the AT, I want to avert injuries.  I want not only to total my hike but to get pleasure from it.  Looking at my history reveals what variables could make me extra prone to particular injuries or discomfort in the course of my journey.  I will be turning 50. Even though I hate to admit it, I can not just go out and run a half marathon with out education any longer.  Recovery occasions boost with age.  My physique is much less resilient and extra prone to injury.   Preceding injuries  have left me with a number of implants: I have plates and screws in my left arm, a metal coil which remains in my spleen and a hip replacement. Even though none of these items limit my existing activities, a fall could outcome in a fracture about these implants which would most surely finish my trip.  Medication and symptoms of hypothyroidism and anxiousness/depression is also a consideration.

What am I Worried About?


This crazy, great, life-altering activity does come with dangers.  Blisters and Plantar fasciitis can happen when a particular person walks extra than his or her usual distance, carries excess weight, or wears improper footwear. Scrambling up and down steep inclines, rocky trails, and wet, slippery terrain challenges even a very good athlete’s balance and endurance, growing threat for a fall resulting in injury.  Climate modifications and a limit in what a single can carry can outcome in heat exhaustion, hypothermia, or dehydration.  Discomfort, exhaustion and poor nutrition or hydration can lead to poor mental function and boost threat of having lost, or creating poor choices, not to mention outcome in a much less than enjoyable knowledge.

Plan for Prevention

Weighted Vest

Training equipment

20# weighted vest

So, what am I carrying out to decrease my threat of having out there only to finish my trip prematurely?  I do not have a lot of time to go on practice backpacking trips.  Working six days a week (I have to save up for these six months off,) it is a struggle to get my weekly operating miles in.  I purchased a weighted vest (20#) which I put on a number of hours a day though functioning, cleaning, carrying out yard function, and so forth.  I have been growing the quantity of time per day I put on it.  This is assisting my not only construct my endurance and tolerance for carrying further weight, but strengthening my feet, ankles, legs and core with out taking time out of my day.  This will support avert plantar fasciitis, fatigue and support construct my core and muscle tissues that help my joints.


Tightness causes discomfort.  Restriction of  normal movement of our joints and muscle tissues can outcome in nagging aching discomfort.  Although, it appears basic, it is of utmost value to retain joints moving by means of complete variety of motion.  I am as guilty as the subsequent particular person in neglecting this.  Yes, even me…the PT who knows improved.  The point is, I do know improved.  Now, I require to get back into the habit of everyday stretching for my feet, ankles, back, neck, arms, hands, wrists, fingers…everything!  Sleeping on the ground and hauling 30 pounds for 14+ miles of rocky terrain a day is going to build stiffness!  Heck, sitting in a chair for extra than 30 minutes these days creates stiffness.  So, I require to commence now and give myself and effective stretching routine that I do morning and evening.


On a run with Mika, my Border Collie

Operating above the fog

I put on a match bit.  I do not reside and die by it, but it does make me a bit extra conscientious of the distance I cover on a everyday basis. 14 to 20 miles a day is what I want to be comfy hiking.  It’s not just the miles, but the quantity of time on my feet – with a heavy pack.  I am joining buddies in operating a marathon in March. Largely, I did this to force myself to boost my operating mileage more than the winter months so that 14 miles a day does not really feel awful. Presently, I attempt to run a 10 mile run each and every 1 to two weeks. Having said that, considering that I began wearing my weighted vest, I have not been able to run extra than 7 to eight miles right after wearing the vest all morning.  Luckily, my Border Collie Mika is content to run any distance with me!

Trialing Footwear and Clothes

I am researching and trialing my footwear and clothes.  Just for the reason that Gear Guru 2019 extremely recommends Solomon boots, does not imply it is the finest for every person.  I am a sweaty pig and require clothes that dries immediately.  Despite becoming sweaty, I get cold incredibly simply, so I nonetheless require clothes that is warm.  I have identified a number of “must haves” on line, only to come across out, I hated them though wearing them with a pack or for extra than two hours.  Clothing that chafes can bring about burns and blisters.  Boots that do not match my foot like a glove or socks that do not function for my feet can bring about blisters.  Poor arch help can outcome in plantar fasciitis.  Wet clothing can bring about hypothermia.  Even getting an awareness that the incorrect clothes and footwear for my specific physique could have injurious effects will support me know ideal away if I require to attempt anything distinctive.

Hoping for the Most effective, but Preparing for the Worst (Program A,B,C…)

I vacillate in between becoming variety A and variety C- on an everyday basis.   Pepper spray, a loud alarm, a knife, and a GPS method with an emergency button. Initially, I got these products to make my loved ones really feel improved, but I recognize that it does also make me really feel improved.  These products will be on me at all occasions even when I drop my pack to pee or get water.  Having worked as a PT in wound care for a number of years, my initially aide kit contains QuickClot, hydrocolloids (dressings that are thin and can be left on for a number of days) and silver (antimicrobial dressing that can be left on for a number of days.)  CPR education is essential to me.  In the case of lightning strikes (my private most significant worry), this can often be the distinction in between surviving and not surviving. I am also thinking of taking a self defense course.


No matter how considerably I prepare, and how considerably arranging I do, I know there will be hard moments.  There will be days I hurt, days I really feel mentally beat, and days I am cold and tired.  I hope on these days, I can recall progress seldom happens on a steady course.  Nothing I do now, is going to make this an uncomplicated endeavor.  I do not want it to be uncomplicated.  If it is uncomplicated, I will not really feel so proud to have completed it in the finish.  I am just attempting to avert any challenges that make it definitely needed to quit.

The Take Away

We all have exclusive strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and stressors.   In the health-related method, you have to know the accurate diagnosis to properly treat it.  It is the exact same right here.  You have to know your weaknesses in order to address.  Sure, there are some international suggestions for prepping for a thru-hike, but it truly comes down to person preparation. Other hikers’ blogs have been valuable in arranging.  However, I nonetheless have to retain my person wants in thoughts and keep away from liking or disliking anything just for the reason that it gets very good or undesirable testimonials.  For me, this will be my journey and no a single else’s.  I want this to be anything that I will recall with pride and joy for the rest of my life.  So, I am preparing my physique in the finest way I know how.  If my physique can total this, my thoughts will be forever fulfilled



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