Last week, I did a speed hike on pavement instead of risking the muddy Foothills. This week, the rainy weather forced me away from the Foothills again, but I didn’t want to pound the pavement. Pavement pounding is not a part of what I’ll be doing when I backpack, so I don’t consider it ideal practice. Plus, the pavement route is very flat. So I came up with another alternative.
I would pack up my weekend pack with a middling amount of weight, and bring it to the gym for a treadmill hike.
Now, I’m not planning on doing any hiking on treadmills as part of my backpacking this year, you don’t really get anywhere walking on them, and there’s nowhere to camp (gyms frown upon tents set up in the weight room – true story). However, for the sake of training, hiking on the treadmill has several advantages over pavement, or even the Foothills.
- Pit Stops. The bathroom is always the same distance from the treadmill no matter how long I walk on it. It also does not close. Well, it might close for cleaning, but then there are alternate bathrooms that are not prohibitively distant in an emergency. Last weekend when I was hiking on pavement, I was absolutely counting on a park bathroom to be open. It was not. It turns out that those bathrooms are closed for the winter, but they were no signs, so I might have cried a bit at finding the doors locked. I had to keep hiking another mile to get to a gas station. It was NOT fun (but I did walk really fast).
- Vertical Gain. Unlike the flat pavement, I can simulate an incline on the treadmill. And, unlike in the Foothills, I can go uphill for my entire hike. In the foothills, I might gain 2000 feet. On Saturday, with a combination of the treadmill and the stair climber, I almost hit 5000 feet of gain (if I had known I was only 11 feet short, I would have kept going!).
- Multitasking. Not only did I do a much better job of hydrating myself while hiking on the treadmill, I also did my reading for the class I’m taking. Twice. I hardly manage to snack and drink sufficiently while I’m hiking outside with my trekking poles – reading a book would be impossible.
- Visibility. This is a pro and a con. On the one hand, it’s nice to see people I know or chat with people I don’t know who are intrigued by the fact that I have a pack on while walking on the treadmill. On the other hand, I don’t like to be stared at and I know I look silly in my boots and wearing that big pack indoors. On the other-other hand, on Monday when I was lifting weights in the gym with my husband two guys asked me if I was “the lady with the backpack” and told me they planned on backpacking too. I liked that.
- Hot Tub. Not much more that needs to be written there. The gym has a hot tub.
- Scale. Without the scale at the gym, I wouldn’t have bothered to figure out that my pack weighed between 21 and 24 pounds (depending on how much water I was carrying and whether or not I put my textbook up).