I like running. Especially now that I’m starting to get faster, I enjoy running. It helps keep my legs ready to go, and provides the main aerobic component of my exercise routine.

But running serves backpacking.

I like lifting weights. It’s an activity that my husband and I do together, and it’s fun to figure out new routines or tweak old ones. It’s nice to go spend time in the hot tub afterwards.

But lifting weights serves backpacking.

I really like CrossFit. It’s a challenging workout that introduces me to new things that I would otherwise have never thought to try, like box jumps, rope climbs and double-unders. It makes me push myself.

And it serves backpacking.

Running builds my aerobic capacity and helps train my legs; lifting weights helps me carry my pack; CrossFit helps with functional movement and mental toughness.

Each exercise I do in the off season is meant to make next year’s backpacking season better. And so far, I have gotten better every year. Last week, I had a realization. Backpacking is my sport, and if I am going to get better at that sport, if I am going to succeed in my goal of consecutive 20 mile days next season, then I need to practice that sport.

On Christmas day, I went on an 11.14 mile hike in the foothills, with 1850 feet of gain. And on 12/28 I did 15.79 miles with 2400 feet of gain.

I only carried a light pack, but had the added complication of snowy weather to contend with. I know I still have a ways to go before stringing together 20 mile days with a loaded pack, but I’m getting an idea of exactly how far I have to go by doing this. I’m learning how to push myself in this sport. I’m learning how much my feet can hurt without stopping me.

This off-season, for the first time, I’m focused on practicing and perfecting my sport.

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