Transitioning from Cycling to Hiking

    After logging over 13,500 miles of cycling in the last four years I concluded that a switch to hiking would be a breeze. Heck, it’s all in the legs! Proof came when Scamper and I hiked to Len Foote Hike Inn last fall. That hike was in fact a breeze, even if a bit different than the last time I hiked those mountains in 1973. As noted elsewhere in this blog, four months after the Len Foote excursion I committed to hiking the AT.

    We took a follow-up hike with overnight stays in the Hike Inn in August of this year. Again it proved that cycling was keeping my leg and cardiovascular systems in good shape. I even added a 25-pound pack on that last sojourn. Another breeze. However simplistic the assessment might have been, I was pleased with the correlation between cycling & hiking fitness. Pleased – until I had a small issue with a knee while cycling in September – which was quickly resolved by adjusting the seat of the bike back ever so slightly.

    With the arrival of most of my hiking equipment, I began “hiking” with a pack on a treadmill and a couple of weeks later I took off to hike the Pine Mountain Trail (PMT). On the third hike the problematic knee barked – a slight pain associated with the patella – and similar to a problem encountered while cycling a couple of years ago. The interim fix for the cycling problem was a knee-strap – the long-term fix was to adjust the seat of the bicycle back. The interim fix for the hiking problem was to resume wear of the strap on the forth hike. It worked just fine – except that I developed a cramp in the back of the same knee. I began a regimen of RICE immediately upon returning home. (Note the absence of a long-term fix for the hiking knee problem!)

    When I began the 3-day weekend of hiking on PMT, I once again opted to wear the knee-strap. No pain was felt – great! But, I began to get that cramp again which failed to subside overnight. In fact, it became more pronounced during the two hikes on the 2nd day. Conclusion: the knee strap was the cause and that the symptom was likely tendonitis. ‘Dr. Google’ provided corroboration. Following another period of RICE I started a program to strengthen the knee muscles (the previously absent long-term fix). As I wrote to an associate: think wall-squats, lunges, side steps, step-ups, step-downs, beam-walks…ad nauseam. My transition from cycling to hiking was not proving to be so simple!

    In a conversation last weekend with a friend’s wife who is a physical therapist, I was delighted when she too corroborated my “expert” diagnosis. She discussed the numerous ways to strengthen the knee muscles to resolve the root-cause. The very next day she forwarded a link to a training program (vice PT) for hikers and mountaineers. I reviewed the 12-week program and began it the next day. It does include bike riding – for its cardio benefits rather than as any tie to muscle groups for hiking. Provided I did not begin too soon following the RICE regimen, I suspect the training program will be helpful. Long cycling rides are now off the training agenda. Which is just as well because I don’t enjoy cycling in cold, windy weather, despite its cardiovascular benefit!

   With that background, I arrived at the realization that while I might have thought that the transition from cycling to hiking would be a breeze, it didn’t work out that way. For certain, the cardiovascular benefits from cycling carry over. But fixing the knee issues related to cycling & hiking led to a different knee issue. Resolution of both issues before starting the AT next February seems, well, prudent! Onward.

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