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Recovering After a Thru-Hike: How to Bounce Back After Trekking 3000 km


Recovering after a thru-hike: How to bounce back after trekking 3000 km in four months?

The truth is, there's no one-size-fits-all answer.

Recovery varies from person to person, depending on the nature of the hike and its impact on the body.

Recovery After Thru-Hike:

Drawing from my own experiences, particularly from my Appalachian Trail journey in 2017 where I covered 2200 miles in 100 days, the path to recovery was arduous. It took me a staggering one year and nine months to regain my physical strength.

Returning Home: Transitioning from Adventure to Routine:

Returning home to the UK after an epic adventure, my life takes a dramatic turn. Let me paint you a picture of my routine. When I'm not on the trail, I dive back into the realm of running my business, editing podcasts and vlogs, drafting sponsorship proposals, and managing a flurry of emails.

My laptop becomes my constant companion from the moment I wake up until I finally surrender to sleep. I've never been one for traditional desk setups; instead, I prefer to work from the comfort of my bed, finding that sitting aggravates my hip flexors. So, I opt for a horizontal workspace, where I can stretch out and focus.

Post-Hike Routine: Rest, Nutrition, and Exercise:

Listening keenly to my body's cues, I've come to understand that rest and recovery are non-negotiable. While my approach may not be universal, I've discovered what works for me through a series of adventure-packed endeavours. With only brief intervals between challenges—usually four or five times a year—I prioritise maintaining my fitness level. After all, preserving endurance is far easier than rebuilding it from scratch.

Recovery Strategies: Rest, Hydration, and Nutrition:

Rest, hydration, and nourishing food are my three pillars of focus during the initial 10 to 12 days of recovery post-hike. 

Let's rewind to March, back on home soil with a month to spare before my next adventure kicks off in April. I dedicate the first ten days to complete rest, limiting my movements to essential tasks like trips to the bathroom and kitchen. 

Sleep becomes my ally, and hydration is paramount. At home, my dietary habits undergo a significant shift. Unlike on the trail, where my body craves sugar and fat, I opt for healthier fare—think protein-rich chicken, vibrant salads bursting with vegetables, and wholesome eggs. Supplements like collagen, magnesium, and creatine make a comeback, supporting my body's recovery process. Evening meals are a celebration of meat and vegetables, with a rainbow of flavours enhancing each plate. 

In our household, sweet treats are a rarity, making it easier to stick to nutritious choices. However, occasional cravings for chocolate or crisps prompt me to venture out for a guilty pleasure. For snacks, I gravitate towards yogurt topped with berries, seeds, and a dollop of peanut butter, or a hearty mix of oats, chia seeds, and dark chocolate. Satiated, I prefer to wrap up my eating by 6 pm, allowing my body to digest before bedtime.

In essence, my post-hike routine revolves around nourishing my body with wholesome foods, prioritising rest, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle that supports both physical and mental well-being.

Physical Recovery: Exercise and Yin Yoga:

As my body begins to reacclimatise, a desire to move outdoors gradually emerges. I find solace in walking or occasional running sessions, albeit constrained by time constraints. To maximise efficiency, I've devised a routine where my parents drop me off approximately 9 miles (15 km) from home. Clad in my running vest equipped with water, snacks, and essentials, I embark on the journey homeward, alternating between running and walking based on my body's cues. This allows me to return home feeling invigorated and accomplished, even amidst a busy schedule.

Yin yoga serves as a vital component of my recovery regimen, albeit one I struggle to maintain consistently. To circumvent this challenge, I integrate short 15-minute sessions into my morning and, occasionally, evening routines. Yin yoga's gentle, prolonged stretches prove instrumental in alleviating tightness in my hip flexors and promoting overall relaxation.

Mental Landscape: Professional Adventurer Perspective:

As a professional adventurer, my post-hike mental landscape differs from many. The looming sense of adventure blues, often experienced upon completing a significant journey, is mitigated by a calendar filled with forthcoming expeditions. 

Unlike past instances where uncertainty loomed over future endeavours, I now enjoy a more stable footing, with a steady income stream and ample sponsorship opportunities paving the way for a packed adventure schedule. 

With adventures planned for nearly every month, including an upcoming trek along the Camino via de la Plata in Spain, my focus shifts seamlessly from one journey to the next, leaving little room for post-hike melancholy.

Though the completion of the Te Araroa Trail marks the culmination of one chapter, there remains unfinished business in the form of editing footage and tying up loose ends. However, with a busy year ahead, including plans for extended travel and new challenges, these tasks will find their resolution in due course, allowing me to fully immerse myself in the adventures that lie ahead.

Maintaining Balance: Prioritising Well-being:

Yet, it's essential to strike a balance to prevent burnout. Towards the end of my New Zealand trail, signs of exhaustion emerged, signalling the need for rest and recovery. Now, as I eagerly anticipate my next adventure along the Camino via de la Plata in Spain, I've found renewed energy and enthusiasm. Balancing my time between adventures and home life is a delicate dance—one that ensures I continue to relish each journey while nurturing my well-being. As I embark on this next challenge, I'm reminded of the importance of this equilibrium, knowing that maintaining it will sustain my passion for adventure for years to come.

Conclusion: Join the Conversation: Sharing Recovery Tips for Adventurers

As we conclude this exploration of post-thru-hike recovery, I invite you to share your own experiences. After embarking on a monumental journey, whether it's a thru-hike or another adventure that pushes your limits, how do you bounce back? What strategies have proven effective in nurturing your body and soul? Do you have any top tips for fellow adventurers navigating the path of recovery?

Recovering after a thru-hike is a deeply personal journey, shaped by our unique bodies, experiences, and needs. By sharing our insights and learning from one another, we can enrich our understanding of recovery and support each other on our respective paths.

So, I encourage you to join the conversation. What rituals or practices help you replenish your energy and restore balance after an epic adventure? How do you honour your body's need for rest and rejuvenation? What advice would you offer to fellow adventurers embarking on their own recovery journey?

Share your recovery story and top tips in the comments below!


1 Comment

Apr 07

Thanks Sarah, great blog.

This is such a crucial part of any adventure. I like to include it into the adventure, with an attitude of curiosity, to discover what my body and mind will want and need. At 71, sleep ,rest nutrition gentle movement ( yoga, easy walks in nature) and really listening to my body are the prime focus.

At my age after a 3 week challenge I need a full 7 days before renewed energy allows me to step into all normal activities. Would love to hear more stories from older (over 65yrs) women still adventuring.

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