Tuesday, August 23, 2016
The LT and the body
Hiking 273+ miles in 24 days is bound to affect your body, and even more so when you're carrying most of your own food. If you've read much about thru-hiking, you know that it's a struggle for most hikers to eat enough calories. Then there is the adjustment of the tendons and muscles to carrying your body and a pack around. Plus, there might be blisters, chafing, and less attention to personal hygiene ...
Well, I was lucky when it came to blisters - I only had one, and was easily dealt with. A little Desitin cleared up a bit of monkey butt. Otherwise, I had no major skin ailments to deal with.
My body worked hard, of course, and I built up my endurance but lost some strength. Upon my return, I either had to go down a bell size or work harder at kettlebells. (The exception to this was overhead presses with my right hand - putting my pack on and taking it off apparently works those same muscles!) Of course, muscles adjust faster than tendons. My Achilles tendon and the back of my heels were hurting, especially in the middle of my hike. It's been a month now, and the soles of my feet still hurt easily; Sunday's hike wasn't that tough, but my feet quickly felt sore. I've definitely been avoiding classes with jumping rope at the gym.
And the calorie thing ... whoa. I knew I lost a few pounds, but I didn't realize how many until I got home and stepped on a scale - after I'd already gained a few back eating in Burlington. Whether it was going stoveless, snacking instead of eating full meals, or whatever, my calorie intake wasn't enough. It was sustainable over the few weeks I was out; but my body would have been in real trouble if I had been on a long thru-hike. Next time, I'll have to reconsider my food choices.
(To be honest, like most people, I didn't mind losing a few pounds. But now most of my bottoms don't fit, and I don't know if I should buy new clothes or if my weight will get back to normal quickly.)
Anyway, now I truly understand the phrase "going to town on" something. Whenever hikers get into town, they eat a lot! Here was where I think snacking instead of eating meals hurt me; my stomach just didn't have room for enormous meals.
But none of these issues turned out to be significant. I didn't have any serious injuries or medical problems on the trail, thank goodness. Part of that is luck, I realize, but it's also good to know my body is generally capable of doing that kind of work.