Mountaineering Training | Cycling for Mountaineering Training

Posted by: | March 02, 2014
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Some Rainier climbers are fortunate to have enough mountainous terrain in their area to train on realistic terrain for their upcoming climb.  However, many are completing their training in locations far from the mountains and with limited access to hiking trails. In these places it takes a little more creativity to functionally train for mountaineering.  Fortunately, no matter where you are, we all live in the midst of an almost unlimited network of pavement.  Road biking can be a great tool for getting a lot of variety of training done, with the added bonus that it is a low impact activity on your joints.  Depending on the type of training you are trying to accomplish, there are many ways to use your road bike as a tool:

• Long Endurance: Road bikes are a great way to get that long, 3 to 4 hour workout done on the weekends.  Look for different loops that you can do with a variety of terrain, and try to keep your heart rate in Zone 1 or Zone 2.  On a road bike, often times this means using an efficient gear to spin a good cadence or tempo, rather than mashing high gears for a bunch of hours. Keep in mind that 3 hours of spinning on a bike may not provide the same workout as a 3 hour hike on mountainous terrain so you may need extend your rides a little if you feel like you’re not getting the workout you desire. If you aren’t sure where to go in your area, check out apps like Strava or EveryTrail, which let you share your rides with other users, compare your times, and get ideas for new rides in your area!

• Fartlek Intervals: If you have a loop or ride around you with some rolling hills, your ride can turn into a natural interval workout, known as Fartlek Intervals.  Up the intensity up each hill, and recover down the backside or across the flats.  Similarly, use telephone poles, signs, road junctions, or other landmarks to setup a series of intervals if your terrain isn’t as suited for climbing.

• Speed: Along similar lines to intervals, you can do a series of short sprints or speeds (this can be really fun if you are riding with a group of buddies, and someone calls out a finish line at random that the whole group races for) that helps build your fast twitch muscle structure for those short bursts of quick steps that you encounter climbing.

• Strength: Biking works many of the same leg muscles that we use climbing, namely the quads, hamstrings, and calves.  While a lot of good road cyclists often focus on riding an efficient gear at high rpms, if you want to do a series of strength exercises, try to a type of interval where you push a higher gear than you normally would for a minute or two, then back off. Repeat this for several repetitions. Think of it as a sort of leg squat. As you get stronger, you can increase the resistance for this exercise.  This may not be that aerobically challenging, but remember the point is strength, rather than aerobic threshold with these.  

As with any workout, you will be far more successful if you set out for each workout with a focus and purpose, rather than to just go for a ride each day. The variety and quality of the training that you can do on a bike is great, but remember that it doesn’t replace the need to put a pack on for some of your workouts and do them with weight on your back, just like you will have on the climb. Similarly, road biking is great for reducing the strain on your joints, but remember that during your climb, you will climb (and DESCEND!!) 10,000 feet and your joints need to be ready for that. So if riding is better suited to your area, use it as a great tool to get a ton of training done, but don’t forget to get out on your feet, boots on, with a pack on your back. Mix it up and stay excited about your training! 

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!

(RMI Collection)

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