Monday, April 28, 2014

Hiking: Setting goals for the summer

I am happy to report that I endured the harsh winter and am finally back to hitting the trails - hard! Last week for the first time in 2014, I achieved my 20-miles/week goal. For two years I was hiking 20 miles per week, but 2013 had seen a steady reduction in miles, and my fitness level has declined as a result. I just didn't have the same access to trails as before. For that reason, I've moved to a neighborhood that abuts a park with some mildly rugged trails, and from my front door step I can make a nice loop of between three and seven miles that includes a bit of city trekking mixed with good old dirt-and-rock single-track. I'm back in the zone. Location is everything.

During the dead of winter, I joined several organizations related to hiking, the sport that's got my passion. I joined the American Hiking Society, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, the Philadelphia Trail Club and the Appalachian Mountain Club. All of these organizations have incredible missions and tons of ways to get involved. But the one that reached out to me in a way I responded best to was the Appalachian Mountain Club - Delaware Valley Chapter. I had been looking for affordable outdoor leadership training, and they offered a two-day class for just $35. Cha-ching!

I attended the two-day training in the beginning of April, and throughout the month I have been training to be an outdoor leader with the AMC, which is the oldest conservation and recreation organization in the United States if you didn't know. After the two-day training at Nockamixon State Park, the club assigned a mentor under whose guidance I was to arrange to co-lead two hikes.

Serving as "sweep" on my first AMC-DV co-lead, April 2014
The first co-lead I did was with the DV chapter chair, Joan, on a brisk and sunny jaunt through the Tohickon Gorge. For that one I helped with registration at the trailhead and served as sweep on a hike of nearly 30 people. My second co-lead is one I actually planned and executed with the help of my mentor, Lennie, who is also the club's leadership chair. That one was just this past Saturday in the Upper Wissahickon Gorge, and I did it with Midori as the "leader", since Lennie was unable to hike that day. Midori's role was really to observe my leadership skills in the field and report back to Lennie.

While many people do this training to lead hikes with the AMC, I am still leading hikes independent from the AMC with the fitness-inspiration group I started, Hiking Megalopolis. I've held two hikes within the past 10 days - one was an Earth Day Hike in East Fairmount Park and another was a thru-hike of the Wissahickon Gorge. I am feeling that my fitness level is getting better than it was a month ago, but with this being said, I still need to train harder so I can finish that 20-mile hike I've been talking about since forever. I am still gung-ho as ever about it, but I fear my body is not up to it yet, so I have some preliminary weight loss goals that must be attained before I can set out on the hike with any degree of certainty for success.

I have set a goal to hike 20-miles per week as part of a fitness plan that includes core training with a medicine ball and strength training three days per week at the local YMCA. With this, and a healthy eating plan based on Michelle Obama's My Plate, I believe I will be able to achieve a large portion of my weight loss goals by August - around my birthday. This means that September is when I will plan my 20-miler.

September 7, there is a 5K on a historic trail near my house - The Boxer's Trail 5K. I plan to run this, and then two weeks later I will do my 20 mile hike. I am planning a route that leads from Love Park in Center City, Philadelphia, through East and West Fairmount Parks, and through the Wissahickon Gorge to Chestnut Hill.

Well, that's it for now. If you have any questions or comments for me about this post, please leave it below. And check out a list of my other blogs and social media contacts at About.Me/Brian.Schwarz.