How one epic hike turned this woman into an athlete

Long hikes through the Grand Canyon are notoriously treacherous. Hikers can suffer heat exhaustion, dehydration, elevation sickness, injury and worse if they haven’t adequately prepared, usually with months of cardio training. So when Kristin Salzman, 44, decided she was going to complete a two-day, 48-mile hike with the non-profit Project Athena, she started training. A lot.

To ready herself for the trek – which would include a 6,000-foot elevation gain and hikes through incredibly steep switchbacks – Salzman worked with a registered nurse and personal trainer for four months. They used an online platform to program Salzman’s rigorous workouts, which included three climbs lasting 45 minutes, an hour-and-a-half and two-and-a-half hours, respectively.

Salzman also did three hikes at an elevation of over 5,000 feet while carrying a backpack that weighed 20 lbs. The longest hike took nine hours. And she rounded out her workouts by kayaking and swimming in the lake in her backyard of Clear Lake, Minnesota, and by circuit training, running and exercising on a trampoline.

The intense training gave her a newfound respect for her body and new priorities when it comes to being healthy. “I used to want to be skinny or hit a certain weight, but now when I go to my circuit-training class, I see my arms, and I’m like, ‘I have muscles!’ You need the strength and the will to go through something like the canyon.”

At the height of training, she was logging almost 20 hours of training a week – and it was grueling. But it also felt like the perfect way to celebrate being breast cancer-free for two years.

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