How my "Life Training" Helped me Hike Zion & Kolob Canyon

What do I mean when I say "life training?" That's how I refer to my normal exercise routine. I know I'm not alone when I share that on several occasions, I have been stopped mid workout by guys and asked what I'm training for, to which I usually respond kind of confused "um...life?". So now I jokingly refer to my training as "life training". 

Anyway, as many of you may know, a few weeks ago my husband Camron and I took a trip out west to complete a 4 day backpacking trek through Kolob and Zion Canyon. Let me preface by saying I don't think completing this trip makes me some kind of elite athlete. I understand all different types of people hike all the time. An 80 something year old woman hiked the Appalachian Trail. A blind guy hiked the Appalachian Trail. People backpack for months at a time, putting in 20+ mile days, so I get it.. in comparison our trip might seem pretty average. But let me just tell you, there were times where it was the hardest thing, physically and mentally, that I have ever done. 

 Here we are on day 1 about to head out into the wilderness!

Here we are on day 1 about to head out into the wilderness!

Our first day we had a short 6.9 mile hike in, set up camp, and hiked another 3 miles to see Kolob Arch. Day 2 we hiked 14 miles. Day 3 we hiked 15 miles. Day 4 we had about a 9 mile hike out; so for about 45 miles we hiked with 30-some-pound packs on our back, in extreme heat. We went through an 18 mile stretch with no water source. We went through insane elevation challenges, with steep inclines and steep declines, all while carrying our packs (and we hardly even bickered!). Even though this was all extremely challenging, in hindsight I have to say I handled it like a G-D champ.

Often times during the hike I thought to myself "I'm so glad I'm in decent shape" or "how could I ever do this if I didn't work out?". I needed my strong legs to climb those canyons. I needed my strong back and shoulders to help hold the weight of my pack. I needed my cardiovascular training to give me endurance to keep going for 14 miles. A healthy combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training helped get the job done. 

A solid training regime also helped me deal with the hike mentally. While nothing can really prepare you for ascending and descending through canyons with a 30 pound pack on your back quite like actually DOING it, the discipline I've achieved through consistent workouts certainly didn't hurt. It's the feeling of doing one more set of walking lunges at the end of a leg day when your legs feel like jello. It's that last rep of heavy weight glute bridges when your glutes are already quivering. It's those last few incline treadmill sprints when you wanted to quit 5 minutes ago. It's a little bit of pain for a lot of glory. It's hiking 2 miles uphill but being totally worth it because the scenery takes your breath away when you get to the top. It's being able to enjoy a hike with your husband and not feel miserably out of shape the entire time. It's getting to the last day and wishing you could go longer instead of wanting to be done. It's being able to say you hiked for 4 days, with nothing other than the items you could carry on your back: your tent, your sleeping bag, your clothes, your food, and your water. 

So in case you don't have enough reasons to work out, add this to your list.. Some day you may want to hike 4 days straight, and actually ENJOY yourself!