Health must not be sacrificed to learning. A strong body makes the mind strong. - Thomas Jefferson
Training the Body
I've been writing a lot about addressing behaviors and associations that will support the success of our trip, but if we're going to hike 15 or so miles a day for a few days and carrying a good percentage of our body weight, we're going to have to work up to it.
I'm no stranger to endurance efforts, having a background in triathlon, marathons, and ultra distance, topping off at 50 miles.
The triple secrets of being able to complete any kind of endurance event are:
1. Taking the time to prepare your body through gradual increases of duration and intensity with periodic breaks in throughout.
2. Proper mental attitude, meaning both the confidence that you will be successful and having a plan of how you will handle things when they go wrong.
3. Proper nutrition and hydration. Too few calories at too much effort and your body makes you stop. And of course, we need water, even more than food.
This post will focus on preparing our bodies for the task at hand. Here's the general training strategy:
1. Weekly mileage increases should, on average, be around 10%, working towards a target of a single hike equal to the anticipated longest day of hiking (about 16 miles) and a longest run of a bit more than half of that (actually, I have a 10 mile run planned for late March near the Delaware Water Gap that should be pretty exciting for the two of us). Our final pre-trip hike is scheduled on a 16+ loop from Hell (well, actually around Hell, MI).
2. Amount of weight carried will be added by about 25% at a time, reaching 100% within 4 weeks of the trip.
3. Physical activities will include hiking with equipment, running, body awareness exercises, and strengthening.
Obviously getting hiking miles in with our actual equipment is the best kind of preparation, so we've been building our miles.
I don't have the time to hike as many miles as I would like, so I'm choosing to up our activity level doing something that is more efficient and that Sparkle and I both enjoy: running! We're starting out with a couple of one hour runs a week, throwing in as many hills as we can, which is a challenge where we live. Delaware Water Gap 10 mile prep run I have planned (because it's on the way to a training conference), the hills will matter because there is a lot more elevation change there as opposed to the CL50, which is good, because it should make the actual CL50 not seem quite so hard.
I'm using the Omnijore by Ruffwear to connect Sparkle to myself. I like it because it keeps her safe, is comfortable for both dog and human, and is designed to distribute weight evenly across her body. The leash stretches, so there is there is no chance of her pulling and then coming to a jarring stop. There is also an emergency release system so that if I need to quickly disconnect her, I can do it almost instantly, and with one hand. It also allows me to carry a phone, keys, poop bags, and water for us.
This is the route we took on a recent training run. Despite the small elevation gain, the hills that we did climb were quite steep and the trail was quite muddy, thus slowing our progress.
Body Awareness and Strenghtening
I've started doing the 7 minute workout 3 times a week and highly recommend it. Do yourself a favor and make time for it! I've also been getting Sparkle both on various natural objects such as downed trees to build body awareness and confidence as well as on exercise balls.
Work on building your dog's own fitness. One easy way to get started is to use the information associated with Dog Scouts of America's K9 Fitness Merit Badge, which was developed by Harmony Dog Training!
Angela and Lowell, your friendly Harmony Dog Trainers!