Mountaineering Training | Time & Terrain Tips For Training

Posted by: | February 22, 2014
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

The training required for mountaineering is difficult: the workouts are strenuous, committing, and time consuming. A major challenge many climbers face is balancing training with the realities of daily life. Time and terrain are both constraining: it is difficult to find the time to fit in all of the training and not easy access to miles of trails and thousands of vertical feet is difficult to find.

The reality is that there is not one a single solution to these constraints. In order to fit in the training you need and head into the mountains prepared you have to adapt your training plan to fit with what works for you.

To help we’ve put together a collection of ideas, suggestions, and tips that our guides and climbers have used over the years to help you get the most out of your training.

Time

There is no way around it: mountaineering training takes time. To get the most out of your training, use the time that you have well:

• Have Purpose: Make each workout have a purpose (base, interval, strength, or balance training) and know what you need to do so that you can complete it.
• Plan Ahead: Have your gym bag packed or your hiking clothes ready so that you can start right away. This will help you stay committed to fitting in your training. 
• Set A Routine: Whether it’s getting up early, using your lunch break, or skipping Happy Hour a few days a week, dedicate a time that you commit to training.
• Get Creative: Perhaps you combine your training with other activities: try riding your bike to work to get in a workout while you commute or hop on the stationary bike with your book and spin while you read.
• Break It Up: Need to fit in a 2.5 hr workout but don’t have the time? Try breaking it up into two 1.25 hr sessions instead. While building endurance requires consistent training, you’re better served by still getting in a couple of shorter sessions than cutting short or even skipping the longer session.
• Commit: Join a hiking or running group, take part in a spin class, or hire a personal trainer. Being part of something bigger helps you motivate after a long day to get your workout in.
• Plan The Weekends: The weekends are usually the best block of time to commit to training - especially the longer sessions. Pull out a calendar and mark the weekends you need to fit in your long hikes and climbs. If that means taking a trip to nearby mountains, make your lodging reservations ahead of time so that you’ll stick to your plan!

Terrain

Nothing beats training for climbing like climbing, but easy access to mountainous terrain isn’t available out of everyone’s backdoor. Even for climbers who live close to the mountains, there isn’t always the time to hop in the car, drive to the trailhead, complete the workout, and return again. Don’t let this be daunting, finding terrain alternatives is a creative endeavor:

• Do Some Research: Ask around at the local gym or trails for suggestions on where others train. Websites like RootsRated.com and AllTrails.com may help you discover new trails or places to train. 
• Go Mechanical: Use a treadmill on an incline, a stair climber, or a stationary bike to get your workout in. Better yet, grab a road bike and incorporate cycling into your training.
• Stairs: Find a long set of stairs in a nearby stadium or office building and make a few laps. Skip the elevator on the way down: you’ll want to get your legs ready for the downhill too!
• Look For The Hills: No mountains around? Look for a small hill and make multiple laps of it. Training on inclines is good preparation, no matter how continuous they are.
• Think Outside of the Box: Don’t have a great 10 mile hike nearby? Can you link up a few shorter walking, hiking, and biking trails instead? Constantly looking for new terrain alternatives is a great way to stay motivated too!
• Don’t Be Limited: The goal is to get yourself ready for climbing, no matter what it takes. A recent Vinson climber told us about how he put his pack on and made laps of the stairs in his house for an hour a few times a week just to get some vertical in!

The Little Things

Given all of the hurdles faced with training for mountaineering, take advantage of little things that you can do to help fit in some training:

• Take The Stairs: Climbing a few flights of stairs in itself won’t get you ready for the Himalaya or the Alaska Range, but it certainly won’t hurt! So skip the elevator or the escalator and hit the stairs!
• Go Short & Go Hard: Don’t have time for a long workout? Still try and be active, whether it’s a quick strength circuit or an interval session. You’ll benefit from the exertion, even if it’s not the exact workout you had in mind.
• Mix It Up: Don’t limit yourself to just the gym or the same running loop day after day. Whether it’s finding a new trail or joining up with a group of other climbers or people training for a race, build some diversity into your training. It will help you keep motivated and inspired!

Did we miss something? Leave a comment and share your suggestions and tips on how to manage the constraints of terrain and time in mountaineering training!

An RMI Team climbs Mt. Shuksan's Sulphide Glacier (Courtesy Chris Villar).

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