Using a Virtual Through-Hike to Make Exercise Fun

Dory: Adventure Dog and Hiking Enthusiast
Dory: Adventure Dog and Hiking Enthusiast

Hiking season is nearly upon us and it’s time to start training up. True spring is at least two or more months away, especially for those of us hiking in the Rockies, but if I’m going to keep up with my husband when May gets here, I need to start walking more now.

Our miniature poodle Dory is an enthusiastic walker and can easily hike ten miles when she’s in shape, but she lost her endurance over the winter. Because she is so small, she doesn’t like to be out in the cold and snow, so she hasn’t been getting as much exercise lately.

Dory riding in Kurt's vest during a hike too cold and snowy for her. She's ready for spring!
Dory riding in Kurt’s vest during a hike too cold and snowy for her. She’s ready for spring!

Now that the weather is starting to improve, I want to make sure we get outside whenever we can. We are blessed with a lovely walking trail that runs right by our house, but I still find myself reluctant to get moving.

Exercise is not at all natural to me. It’s too much like work, so I try to find ways to make it more fun. I’ve decided to use the idea of a long through-hike, something that both interests and scares me, to set my training goals.

Dory and I are going to walk the Hadrian’s Wall Path (HWP). I adore the British Isles, and when I first learned you could hike across the country this way, I was entranced. But the real reason I’ve chosen it is that, as through-hikes go, it’s short.

Hadrian's Wall at Greenhead Lough (via
Hadrian’s Wall at Greenhead Lough (via

The HWP is 85.3 miles long, but Dory and I will be walking 94 miles total. Our neighborhood walks are nearly flat, but there’s over a mile of cumulative elevation gain on the HWP, so I used Naismith’s rule to make the adjustment*.

We will take our virtual hike without leaving Colorado, and we will tackle it in stages. I’m going to keep track of the miles we walk each day with the goal of covering the full distance of the path in nine weeks. My hope is that this concrete if whimsical goal will help me to keep up with our walks.

I originally thought I’d get a paper map and mark off our progress as we walked so I could see us moving along the trail. Then I found a website that covers each stage of the trail in detail and decided I would use it instead. I can move from section to section as we cover the miles and also see pictures and read descriptions of the things we would be seeing if we were on the trail in person. It even includes elevation gain for each section, so I can adjust the mileage using my formula.

I am setting May 23 as our deadline. It’s Dory’s sixth birthday, and is just over nine weeks away, which will require an average of ten miles of walking per week. If we walk five out of seven days and take the longer of our two walks three out of five days, we can meet this goal. As the weather improves, we will probably get some extra walks in on the weekend with Kurt, making up for any days we might miss.

The big question is: will this work? I can be competitive, even with myself. So my hope is that a goal and a deadline will help me to get moving. But I’m guessing the real key will be tying this goal to a real hike and tracking our progress. That sounds like fun to me, and I’m so much more likely to do something I think is fun.

What do you do to motivate yourself to meet your goals? Have you found ways to make less than enjoyable tasks that you really want to do more fun? Please tell me about them! I’m always looking for more ideas.

*Naismith’s rule is used to estimate how long a hike will take and accounts for both flat miles and vertical gain. I applied the suggested 8:1 ratio to the HWP to find out the equivalent flat mile distance.


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Kit Dunsmore

Kit Dunsmore has believed in the magic underlying the muggle world since she was a child searching for the Shetland pony pooka she was sure was hiding in her back yard. She learned early on that books were magic doors into other worlds, and that she could revisit a beloved character or place by opening the right book. As she grew, she decided she wanted to make magic with words, too. Today Kit writes about things she loves: poodles and dragons, witches and artists, quirky underdogs and loyal friends. Whether her setting is 6th-century England, the imaginary Twelve Kingdoms, or an art-obsessed version of modern America, magic always finds its way into her story. She enjoys turning fairy tales inside out and watching characters sacrifice everything to reach their goal, but she also believes in happy endings. When she isn't writing, Kit experiences magic by making things with her hands. Over the years, she's made quilts, fabric sculptures, collages, sweaters, and blank books. Her newest interest is learning how to spin her own yarn, a skill guaranteed to strengthen one of her many delusions: that she is a self-sufficient pioneer woman. She also thinks she is a hobbit, a witch, an artist, and a good cook. Living in the foothills of Colorado, Kit enjoys the giant skies and prairie landscapes which suit her need for wide open spaces. In addition to hiking through glorious scenery with her husband or imagining herself living in the Middle Ages, Kit works as a pillow for her miniature poodle and polishes the next small piece of her handmade life.

2 thoughts on “Using a Virtual Through-Hike to Make Exercise Fun”

    1. OMG how awesome! I didn’t even think of that! But wow are those some major distances. Might as well hike the PCT… 🙂


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