This week I have reached my peak mileage– training for the 750 mile Shikoku hike. The actual start of the hike is about 2 weeks away.
I’m following the same basic training schedule as I did for past marathons… modified for walking with much higher mileage.
The big challenge of this hike is that a marathon is just a one day event… but for this hike I must sustain 16-20 mile days every single day for 45 days.
The Shikoku 88 trip therefore requires a much greater level of aerobic fitness and endurance. With marathon training, for example, I peaked at about 45-50 miles a week during my training.
I’ll hit about 95 miles this week. During the hike I’ll be doing 120-140 miles a week– starting lower during the first couple of weeks, and relentlessly ramping up as the hike goes on.
Which is to say, I’m in the best aerobic shape of my life already… and it’s going to get better!!
That was ONE of my motivations for this hike. I find that exercising just to exercise is boring. I prefer to train for inspiring, challenging and interesting events. I would never have done this kind of mileage if my only goal was to “get in shape”.
But the Shikoku trip inspires me. First, it’s a physical challenge– which is motivating. Second, it’s a cultural challenge. I’ll be hiking around rural Japan and must adjust to the culture, food, people, etc. (and I speak only a few Japanese phrases). Thirdly, this is also an opportunity to re-connect with nature– doing most of the hike in rural and semi-wilderness areas. Finally, this is a spiritual trip… an 1100 year old Buddhist pilgrimage route. I’ll be meditating every day during the pilgrimage.
Here in the West.. and increasingly all over the world… people my age are in terrible physical shape. It makes me very sad to see this. I’m 42 and in the best shape of my life. I say that only to illustrate that age is no excuse.
Of course, I know that a lot of people are unhappy about their physical condition. They have tried many things but just can’t seem to sustain consistent exercise. My Mom is one such person.
The problem with a lot of people, I think, is that they associate exercise with discomfort and pain. They exercise just to exercise… or to “get in shape”. Some people may like that… but for most people that’s boring and unpleasant.
It’s much more inspiring and motivating to think like an athlete. Athletes don’t “exercise”… they “train”. They train for a purpose that excites and motivates them. Maybe they want to win a championship. Or become a professional. Or whatever.
The point is that they have a BIG DREAM– a BIG REASON to exercise. They don’t just lift weights and run “to lose 40 pounds”.
This is the secret to consistently exercising. Find a big inspiring PHYSICAL challenge and dream. Maybe you always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail? Or bicycle across Europe? Or climb Mount Ranier? or whatever. It can be small or big. The only important thing is that you get excited thinking about it.
The next very important step is to schedule this event! Pick a time in the future that gives you enough time to prepare for the event (this depends on your current fitness level). Then buy the tickets, register, etc… Commit totally to doing it.
Once you do this, you’ll be inspired to train every week. You’ll know that big event is coming… and you’ll be exercising for a reason.. for an adventure!
This is exactly what I did for Shikoku. When I decided to do it, I’d been sedentary for several years (by my standards). I was not physically ready for the challenge… but I calculated how long I needed to prepare… then chose a date. Then I told EVERYONE I was going to do it… all my friends and family.
I got a little map and picture book for the route… and that got me more excited. I watched a couple of Youtube clips about Shikoku. And I got more and more excited.
That’s what kept me going… that’s what motivated me to walk 4-8 hours a day (4-5 times a week). That was the rocket fuel that energized me.
Now I feel great. I’ve lost about 7 pounds of fat and gained a bit of lean muscle. I have momentum.
The trip itself will increase my health and fitness level.
And afterward I won’t quit. I’ve learned that valuable lesson from the past. And so I already have my next physical challenge and adventure planned: cycling around Italy for a few weeks. And after that… hiking in Patagonia… and/or the Appalachian Trail.
So… get out there! Don’t just suffer and sweat in the gym for no reason. Choose an inspiring physical challenge/adventure and TRAIN for it!
Here are a couple of videos by people who have done the same “Shikoku 88″ route I’ll be doing in a couple of weeks: