Posts for Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Mountaineering Training | High Altitude Physiology and Climbing

Posted by: Walter Hailes | June 03, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Adjusting to the low oxygen of high altitude environments is a natural process that we will all experience if we travel or live at high altitudes.  Like all things in life, some people are better at adjusting to high altitude than others.  Fortunately, there are ways that each of us can prepare at home and in the early stages of mountain travel before going to the big peaks.

We all experience the low oxygen of high altitude a little differently, but the most prominent symptoms of going to high altitude are categorized as the condition Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).  AMS is composed of a group of symptoms that can present themselves after spending some time at high altitude.  Symptoms of AMS include headache, fatigue, anorexia, nausea and insomnia.  While the severity of these symptoms can vary, AMS does not have to end your climb but should be used as an indication that your body is struggling to acclimatize.
   
The most important aspect of performing well and staying healthy in the mountains under the stress of low oxygen is by being physically fit.  If you have been following a rigorous training program then you are well on your way to being physically fit for your climb.  Fitness cannot prevent the symptoms of AMS but if the daily physical tasks of climbing are easier due to your high fitness level, then you have more energy reserves to battle the stress of the low oxygen environment.

Proper nutrition and hydration are also important variables leading up to and during your climb.  While you may avoid simple carbohydrates during daily life, at altitude simple carbohydrates are the most efficient and most preferred form of energy for your acclimatizing body.  Don’t be afraid to eat those high glycemic foods while working hard at altitude! Dehydration can certainly be detrimental to your performance and health at high altitude, but you do not need to constantly consume water.  Listen to your body, specifically you thirst, it has been finely tuned over many generations to keep you hydrated. 

The prescription medication acetazolamide (Diamox) can help with acclimatization to high altitude, but it is not a magic pill that will solve all your high altitude problems. Diamox has repeatedly reduced AMS symptoms and hastened acclimatization during multi-day clinical and laboratory studies. It can work and is a great tool to use if you are not acclimatizing during an expedition even though you are using a standard acclimatization schedule, but its efficacy is less known for a quick overnight summit attempt such as Mt. Rainier. Remember: all medications have side effects that you need to understand before using and Diamox will not make up for a lack of fitness when headed into the mountains. 

The bottom line is make sure that your body is fit enough to handle the stress of a high altitude mountain trip, and listen to your body while you are at altitude.  If you pay attention, your body will tell you what fuel you need to keep going and how well you are adjusting to the high altitude environment.  Have fun and climb safe!

_____
Walter Hailes is a senior guide at RMI and has guided extensively in North and South America.  He also works as an exercise physiologist at the University of Montana, primarily studying the human capacity to endure/excel in difficult environments including high altitude, extreme heat and cold.

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts with John and other readers on the RMI Blog!

You can read the past Weekly Mountaineering Training Series on the RMI Blog.

Dave Hahn climbs through Mt. Everest's Khumbu Icefall. Photo: Linden Mallory
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Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb Debrief

Posted by: | May 27, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

As the climbing season on Mt. Rainier gets underway, I want to acknowledge the hard training that has been logged. For climbers attempting mid or late season expeditions, I also want to offer encouragement for the remaining weeks and months ahead. 
 
The Fit To Climb training program is rigorous and to complete it in its entirety requires a substantial commitment of time and effort. Do people follow it to-the-letter? Sometimes yes, often no - people become ill, work or family situations come up and the best plans work on the basis of flexibility. 
 
A quote I find useful is, “My current circumstances do not determine the outcome, merely the point from where I begin.” No matter where my fitness is today, my job is to make the best of the remaining time between now and my climb. Practically, I’ll assess things in order of importance and re-evaluate strengths. For example, I have a Mt. Rainier climb on July 11th. I’ll be a little short on training time during the next month so I need to improvise and adapt. I feel that I have the muscular strength I need now and I’d like to be better prepared to ‘go long’ and to improve hiking efficiency. So, in order of importance, long hikes, back-to-back long hikes, and stair intervals will go in my calendar as priorities. I’ll also pay close attention to rest and nutrition to ensure that I can recover well.  
 
I’ll also make sure that I focus my attention during training to ensure that I’m doing each session in a way that ensures quality results. For me, that means attention to detail; everything from gear to food - and a full effort, especially on interval training
 
A paradox of training for a major climb is that we want to set the bar high in training in order to replicate the demands we’ll have during the expedition, however, we also want to maintain confidence if we fall short of a training session or goal. It’s rarely a linear process; sometimes we feel awful just when we expected to be strong, sometimes our perfect plan goes sideways, and sometimes we feel doubt when everything has been completed perfectly. 
 
As you start the final push, think of the key elements of success: Maintain momentum, rest when you need to, push hard when you feel strong, and constantly think about how you can recover well. And most importantly, be confident that your efforts will pay off; many people have climbed and succeeded in their goals while having not completed all of the training or while feeling sub-par. I remind myself that one can miss a few classes and still graduate. It’s progress, not perfection, that counts.

- John Colver

Have a question? See the Fit To Climb FAQ for explanations of specific exercises and general pointers to help you through the Fit To Climb Program.

John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle, and is working on his second book, Fit to Climb - a 16 week Mount Rainier Fitness Program.

RMI Climbers on the Emmons Shoulder, Mt. Rainier. Photo: Linden Mallory

Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 16

Posted by: | May 20, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Fit to Climb: Week 16 Schedule

DAY WORKOUT TOTAL TIME DIFFICULTY
1 Rainier Dozen / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 Rainier Dozen / Stair Interval Training (30 min) 42 min.   Hard
3 Rest / Travel Day - Recovery
4 The Climb Begins! - -
Total 1 hr 24 mins.

BRIEFING

To be honest, there is no way you can improve your fitness this week. Instead, the purpose of this week’s workouts is to simply allow your body to move, feel the benefit of some light exercise, and manage the stress of the upcoming climb. If any day this week you would rather not exercise at all, you should make that choice. Your top priority is being well rested and prepared by the end of the week!

DESCRIPTIONS OF WORKOUTS

Day 1: Rainier Dozen + Easy Hiking (30 Minutes)
Today’s hike is a recovery workout and you can always substitute it with a different activity, such as running, biking or swimming. The important thing is to move at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes. The pace can be conversational and you do not need to be dripping with sweat at the end of the workout.

Day 2: Rainier Dozen +  Stair Interval Training (60 Minutes)
You are cutting the volume of this workout by 50%. You should also cut the intensity by the same amount. You’ve been training for 16 weeks and will be working hard on the mountain. You do not want to feel your legs burning in this workout and you certainly don’t want to deplete your energy stores. Just get out, have fun, celebrate your last stair workout, and maybe head to a nice restaurant with friends and savor the opportunity to eat with a knife and fork off a real plate.

Warm up for about 10 minutes, and then climb up and down a set of stairs, at a consistent pace, for about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool down with some stretching. 

Day 3: Rest / Travel Day
Today may be a long travel day for you. If you’re traveling by air, be sure to plan ahead to maintain your nutrition intake, paying attention especially to your hydration. If you don’t have to travel, consider today a bonus rest day.

Day 4: The Climb Begins!

SUMMARY

Mt. Rainier is a tough climb no matter what amount of preparation you have managed to put in. Remember that all of the training you’ve put in up to this point is just getting you to the trailhead. From here, it’s all about managing the challenges of the mountain as best you can in order to preserve your strength and energy through the entire climb. In the mountains the little things add up: keeping yourself at a comfortable temperature and eating and drinking continuously throughout the day will help you arrive into camp feeling good and with energy to spare. Conversely, ignoring that hot spot on your foot and not taking the time to pull out a snack at a break can mean that by the end of the day you’re dealing with blisters and running out of energy. You know how to manage all of these little things after the training hikes you’ve already completed - carry these habits through to the climb!

And most of all: have fun! Mt. Rainier is a beautiful climb and an unforgettable adventure - enjoy the experience!

Good luck and safe climbing!

- John Colver

Have a question? See the Fit To Climb FAQ for explanations of specific exercises and general pointers to help you through the Fit To Climb Program.

John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle, and is working on his second book, Fit to Climb - a 16 week Mount Rainier Fitness Program.

RMI Climbers, led by Peter Whittaker and Melissa Arnot, celebrate on the summit of Mt. Rainier. Photo: Jon Mancuso

Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 15

Posted by: | May 13, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

EXPEDITION PHASE: PULSE CHECK

As we discussed in the summary of the last week, you really can’t build any more fitness between now and the climb. The other side of that point is there really is the potential to squander the benefits you’ve worked for by doing too much in the coming weeks and arriving to the climb thoroughly exhausted. You’ll note that there is no crux workout this week. For some people, the crux of the week is managing the reduced amount of effort and intensity. In a very similar way to being stuck on a mountain waiting for a storm to pass, this week may test your patience, but you have to recognize that to overdo it now would be akin to stepping out into the storm. There is just no point.

Roughly speaking, the training intensity and volume are reduced by 50%. Some ways to manage the additional downtime can be reviewing your gear, reading about the climb, watching a movie or catching up with friends and family. The last few weeks have been busy and your climb is coming up at the end of next week. It’s time to relax.

Given that your climb is coming up very soon, this week’s and next week’s preparation really blend into each other. As you look ahead at your schedule for the next ten days, bear in mind that it’s perfectly fine to juggle around the days to suit your needs. Another important thing to bear in mind is that it’s certainly okay to skip training days. The goal from now onwards is rest and preparation.

Week 16 is the week all the training has been leading up to. Most people are going to be a little nervous. If your nerves are getting the best of you, now is a good time to start actively practicing relaxation and anxiety management skills. My frank observation is that no matter what concerns or doubts come up between the start and the end of this week, the right thing to do in almost every case is to relax and focus on the next hour. You will need all of your energy to climb this mountain and you should feel confident that the training you have will afford you the opportunity to reach the summit of Mount Rainier.

There are, however, many things that cannot be controlled, weather and snow conditions being the biggest factors. It is easy to worry about both of these things, but I can promise you as a guide I learned not to worry about those things until the time is actually right. The determination of whether to continue or turn back is always a calculated decision made in the moment, and this is one of the fascinations of the challenge. A climbing team can have a hundred percent perfect weather forecast and if there’s a slight air pressure change two hours from the summit, this can result in white-out conditions and winds so high that turning around is the only reasonable option. It is also true that many successful climbs start out in poor visibility and inclement weather which dissipates as the team climbs higher. No one knows what the conditions will be like on your summit day and this is why the gear list contains clothing and equipment for all conditions. What you can count on is the knowledge that no matter how many times your guide has walked out of Camp Muir in the middle of the night, she or he does not forget what it was it is like the first time. Try and suspend thinking about what is happening above the clouds; I say this with absolute assurance, you will be supported by a world-class guide team.

On this note, many people report that the experience of being part of a team is one of the most memorable aspects of the climb. Being connected by carabiners and a thin nylon rope is certainly a bonding experience. The famous French guide and writer Gaston Rébuffat often spoke of the “Brotherhood of the Rope” to symbolize the connectedness of everyone on the team. It’s an amazing experience to share the mountains with like-minded climbers!

If at the end of next week, you stand on the summit of Mount Rainier, it will be because you put one foot in front of the other, over and over again, and met the challenge of climbing 9,000’ from the alpine meadows of Rainier’s foot to the glacier capped summit. Along the way, you will find synchronicity with your teammates. You will boost them when they are tired and they will do the same for you.

Fit to Climb: Week 15 Schedule

DAY WORKOUT TOTAL TIME DIFFICULTY
1 Rainier Dozen / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 Rainier Dozen / Stair Interval Training (60 min) 72 min.   Hard
3 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Rainier Dozen / Stair Interval Training (60 min) 72 min. Hard
5 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 Equipment and Food Preparation Day - -
7 Hike (4 hrs) 240 min. Medium
Total 7 hrs 30 mins.

BRIEFING

This week you scale back the volume all of your training sessions and switch back to the easier stair training at a consistent pace. You’ll still do a hike this week, but it will be only 4 hours. After the last week, this should be a walk in the park! Take an extra day of rest from physical exertion on Day 6, but you spend that time in the valuable activity of checking all your gear and making a list of all the food you’ll need for next the climb at the end of the next week.

DESCRIPTIONS OF WORKOUTS

Day 1: Rainier Dozen + Easy Hiking (30 Minutes)
Today’s hike is a recovery workout and you can always substitute it with a different activity, such as running, biking or swimming. The important thing is to move at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes. The pace can be conversational and you do not need to be dripping with sweat at the end of the workout.

Day 2: Rainier Dozen +  Stair Interval Training (60 Minutes)
Warm up for about 10 minutes, and then climb up and down a set of stairs at a consistent pace for about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool down with some stretching.

Day 3: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 4: Rainier Dozen +  Stair Interval Training (60 Minutes)
Warm up for about 10 minutes, and then climb up and down a set of stairs at a consistent pace for about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool down with some stretching..

Day 5: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 6: Equipment and Food Preparation Day
If you already have all your gear ready, just use this as a rest day. Otherwise, using the lists provided by your guiding service, make sure to go through all your gear and to ensure that you have everything that you need and that everything is in clean and proper functional condition. Make sure to practice packing all this gear into your backpack so that you know how to easily get everything to fit correctly.

Day 7: Hike (4 Hours)
This is your last substantive hike before heading up the mountain. All you’re aiming to do with this hike is to maintain the level of fitness you’ve worked so hard for over the last sixteen weeks. As always, after warming up, hike at an even pace for six to eight miles, or four hours, and bring the proper amount of gear and food to keep you safe and comfortable.

SUMMARY

By this time a week from now, you’ll be at Camp Muir, just one day shy of your summit climb. For now, get plenty of rest, pay attention to nutrition, and know that you are ready.

- John Colver

Have a question? See the Fit To Climb FAQ for explanations of specific exercises and general pointers to help you through the Fit To Climb Program.

John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle, and is working on his second book, Fit to Climb - a 16 week Mount Rainier Fitness Program.

Mt. Rainier's Ingraham Glacier at sunrise. Photo: RMI Collection

Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 14

Posted by: | May 06, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Fit to Climb: Week 14 Schedule

DAY WORKOUT TOTAL TIME DIFFICULTY
1 Rainier Dozen / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 1-2-3 Stair Workout x 5 90 min. Very Hard
3 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Rainier Dozen / Fartlek Training Hike or Stair Interval Training (2 hrs) 120 min. Very Hard
5 Rainier Dozen / Hike (2 hrs, 1,500’ of elevation gain) 120 min. Medium
6 Rainier Dozen / Hike (4 hrs, 2,500’ of elevation gain) 420 min. Medium
7 Rainier Dozen / Hike (7 hrs, 4,500’ of elevation gain, 45 pounds of pack weight) 420 min. Medium
Total 17 hrs 24 mins.

BRIEFING

Week 14 may well be harder than the climb itself. This is intentional: in an ideal situation, you want to make the training more difficult than the climb so that you can arrive feeling more than prepared! Self care, organization, and a positive attitude play a critical role in the success of this week’s training. Good luck!

The only easy day this week was yesterday! During the first part of the week, you complete the interval training you are used to from the last few weeks. On Day 4, you have a choice between stair interval training or a fartlek training hike. Heading into the weekend, over three days you’ll complete up to 13 hours on the trail. After this effort, the next big push you’ll do will be on the climb! With the appropriate planning, you could make Days 5 through 7 a three-day backpacking trip. If you are able to, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a day off from work so that you can focus on a pretty tough series of workouts.

The goal of these hikes is to prepare you fully for the terrain and efforts you will encounter in the mountains, hence the emphasis on elevations throughout the hikes - nothing beats training for uphill climbing like climbing uphill! Carry whatever amount of weight is necessary to pack all of the gear you will need for the hikes on Days 5 and 6, but aim to carry about 45 pounds on the final hike on Day 7. If you are unable to find steep enough terrain consider finding a series of smaller hills and repeating them until you achieve the needed amount of elevation gain. An altimeter watch is a great tool for this. You can also consider adding a bit of weight to your pack if that sort of elevation gain is out of the question for the terrain you have available but be careful not to injure yourself in the process.

DESCRIPTIONS OF WORKOUTS

Day 1: Rainier Dozen + Easy Hiking (30 Minutes)
Today’s hike is a recovery workout and you can always substitute it with a different activity, such as running, biking or swimming. The important thing is to move at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes. The pace can be conversational and you do not need to be dripping with sweat at the end of the workout.

Day 2: Stair Interval Training: The 1-2-3 Workout
Warm up with some moderate paced stair climbing. Then, make three efforts: one moderately hard, one very hard, and one close to maximal effort, with rest periods in between. This may look like:

• 2 minutes at 50-65% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest (1 minute standing, 2 minutes descending)
• 2 minutes at 65-80% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest
• 2 minutes at 85-90% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest

Repeat this sequence five times.

Day 3: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 4: Rainier Dozen /  Fartlek Training Hike or Stair Interval Training (2 hrs)
This week, you have a choice between a two hour fartlek training hike or your consistent pace stair training workout. Either way, warm up with the Rainier Dozen first.

Day 5: Hike (2 Hours, 1,500 feet of elevation gain)
After a warm up, hike for two hours and aim to cover 1,500’ of elevation change. If you are absolutely not able to take some time off from work or otherwise fit in three consecutive days of hiking, you might opt to skip this hike and do two long days instead by changing the hike on Day 6 to a 6 hour hike.

Day 6: Hike (4 Hours, 2,500 feet of elevation gain)
This is the second day of your three consecutive days of hiking this week. Find a hike that allows for 2,500’ of elevation change and takes about 4 hours. Warm up with the Rainier Dozen, and then hike at a consistent pace. Carry a light pack with you with just the bare essentials of food and water to keep you comfortable and adequately equipped for the hike.

Day 7: Hike (7 Hours, 4,500 feet of elevation gain, 45 pounds of pack weight)
This hike is shorter in distance than last week but bumps your pack weight up to 45 pounds. This is more akin to the weight of your pack on the actual climb. Pick a location that allows you to cover 4,500’ in elevation change.

This will be your longest hike or workout of any kind until your actual summit bid and it’s a great opportunity to practice packing well, exercising the right safety-related steps, and take in the right nutrition. On the hike itself, keep moving at a consistent pace and try out any gear that you’ve recently purchased to make sure it works well for you. Pay close attention to how you feel during the hike because it is a great opportunity to learn from you experience and make any adjustments to your gear or nutrition before the climb itself.

SUMMARY

Hearty congratulations! You not only completed the toughest week of training, but have completed the entire peak phase of the Fit to Climb Program! As you think forward to the final couple of weeks, one thing you should feel confident about is that you have prepared yourself well and are set up for success on your climb.

Next week’s training will be significantly different in that you’ll be resting instead of loading up your body. It’s also true that from this point forward, you really can’t build any more fitness. The best part of this news is that you don’t need to; you are ready!

- John Colver

Have a question? See the Fit To Climb FAQ for explanations of specific exercises and general pointers to help you through the Fit To Climb Program.

John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle, and is working on his second book, Fit to Climb - a 16 week Mount Rainier Fitness Program.

An RMI Team climbing Denali's Summit Ridge. Photo: Dave Hahn

Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 13

Posted by: | April 29, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Fit to Climb: Week 13 Schedule

DAY WORKOUT TOTAL TIME DIFFICULTY
1 Rainier Dozen / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 1-2-3 Stair Workout x 5 90 min. Very Hard
3 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Rainier Dozen / Fartlek Training Hike (2 hrs) 120 min. Very Hard
5 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 Rainier Dozen / Hike (3 hrs) 192 min. Medium
7 Rainier Dozen / Hike (9 hrs, 25 pounds of pack weight) 552 min. Medium
Total 17 hrs.

BRIEFING

This week’s final hike is the longest one of the entire training program. The all-day hike builds both physical and mental endurance. The purpose of this hike is to replicate the first day of your climb, which is coming up before long.

If you’re local to the Mount Rainier region, you will be well served to visit Camp Muir for this part of the training if the weather and conditions are conducive. Make sure to follow the appropriate safety guidelines when heading up there and bring all of the equipment, food, and gear you need (including a map and compass). If you’re elsewhere, you may need to get creative with your route choices. Either way, this will be a fun and substantial training session. The rest of your training this week will remain the same as the previous week.

DESCRIPTIONS OF WORKOUTS

Day 1: Rainier Dozen + Easy Hiking (30 Minutes)
Today’s hike is a recovery workout and you can always substitute it with a different activity, such as running, biking or swimming. The important thing is to move at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes. The pace can be conversational and you do not need to be dripping with sweat at the end of the workout.

Day 2: Stair Interval Training: The 1-2-3 Workout
Warm up with some moderate paced stair climbing. Then, make three efforts: one moderately hard, one very hard, and one close to maximal effort, with rest periods in between. This may look like:

• 2 minutes at 50-65% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest (1 minute standing, 2 minutes descending)
• 2 minutes at 65-80% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest
• 2 minutes at 85-90% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest

Repeat this sequence five times.

Day 3: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 4: Rainier Dozen /  Fartlek Training Hike (2 hrs)
Warm up with the Rainier Dozen, and then spend up to 2 hours on a fartlek training hike. Alternate sections of sprinting towards a target you select, with walking at your regular hiking pace.

Day 5: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 6: Rainier Dozen / 3 Hour Hike
Like last week, you are building your endurance for multiple days of sustained effort with this hike. Warm up with the Rainier Dozen and then hike for 3 hours at a consistent pace. You may choose to include some pack weight if you’re looking for a little extra challenge.

Day 7: 9 Hour Hike (25 pounds of weight)
Load up your pack to 25 pounds. Since you are getting pretty close to your actual climb of Mount Rainier, you’ll want to get comfortable with the gear you’ll be using on the climb (if you haven’t already). If I’m going into the mountains, I like to add realistic weight: clothing, extra water bottles, perhaps even some summit gear like down parkas, heavy gloves, long underwear, or a helmet.

This is your longest hike of the entire training program and you will do well to plan this hike as if you were planning your climb of Mount Rainier. Check the weather and get all the necessary gear ready prior to the hike. Take appropriate amounts of food and water to sustain you on the all-day hike. Get a good night’s sleep the night before and leave early enough to account for the time it will take you to get to the parking lot. Make sure to hike with a friend and let someone else know where you will be and what time you will be expected back. Be safe out there!

Warm up with the Rainier Dozen, and then hike for 9 hours, or about 15 - 16 miles. Be sure to hike at an even pace that you can maintain throughout the day.

SUMMARY

For reasons that are not always clear, it’s not uncommon for climbers to experience a very difficult day on this week’s long hike. At this point in the training, you are coping with fatigue. If you have a hard time on the trail, don’t feel discouraged by your performance. You’ll have a chance at another challenging hike next week, and you’ll have the benefit of this week’s experience.

If you do successfully complete this week’s hike, congratulations! You’re doing very well in your training and have completed one of the hardest weeks of the entire program. You are preparing well for your climb of Mount Rainier!

- John Colver

Have a question? See the Fit To Climb FAQ for explanations of specific exercises and general pointers to help you through the Fit To Climb Program.

John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle, and is working on his second book, Fit to Climb - a 16 week Mount Rainier Fitness Program.


Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 12

Posted by: | April 22, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Fit to Climb: Week 12 Schedule

DAY WORKOUT TOTAL TIME DIFFICULTY
1 Rainier Dozen / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 1-2-3 Stair Workout x 5 90 min. Very Hard
3 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Rainier Dozen / Fartlek Training Hike (2 hrs) 120 min. Very Hard
5 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 Rainier Dozen / Hike (3 hrs) 192 min. Medium
7 Rainier Dozen / Hike (7 hrs, 15 pounds of pack weight) 432 min. Medium
Total 15 hrs.

BRIEFING

At this point in the 16 week training program, you are all in and the end is not far off! This week adds a second hike to your weekend, the Day 2 stair session becomes a little more challenging, and you’ll be adding a new kind of workout in for a bit of variety: a fartlek hike on Day 4.

DESCRIPTIONS OF WORKOUTS

Day 1: Rainier Dozen + Easy Hiking (30 Minutes)
Today’s hike is a recovery workout and you can always substitute it with a different activity, such as running, biking or swimming. The important thing is to move at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes. The pace can be conversational and you do not need to be dripping with sweat at the end of the workout.

Day 2: Stair Interval Training: The 1-2-3 Workout
Warm up with some moderate paced stair climbing. Then, make three efforts: one moderately hard, one very hard, and one close to maximal effort, with rest periods in between. This may look like:

• 2 minutes at 50-65% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest (1 minute standing, 2 minutes descending)
• 2 minutes at 65-80% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest
• 2 minutes at 85-90% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest

Repeat this sequence five times.

Day 3: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 4: Rainier Dozen /  Fartlek Training Hike (2 hrs)
‘Fartlek’ training is another version of interval training. The word originated in Sweden and means ‘Speed Play’. Fartlek training is popular with cyclists, runners and cross-country skiers. During your workout, you simply chose random ‘targets‘ like the top of a hill, a loop of a track, a tree or trail marker and then get after it with gusto! Increase your effort level as much as you feel like and mix up the length of the intervals for variety. I like this type of training because it replicates the unpredictable nature of mountain terrain: you can never be certain of the terrain or length of challenging portions of the climb. It’s fun too; it helps to pass the time while training alone, or adds a competitive challenge with friends. If you lack stairs, you can use any uphill grade and no matter the terrain, you can always increase intensity by adding weight to your pack.

Warm up with the Rainier Dozen, and then hike for two hours. Depending on how you are feeling, pick a spot on the trail that feels an appropriate distance away, and sprint to it. Alternate these high speed sections with walking at your regular pace. If you are doing the workout with friends, you can take turns picking the target.

Day 5: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 6: Rainier Dozen / 3 Hour Hike
The back-to-back hikes this weekend mimic the actual Mount Rainier climb where you complete two days of climbing in a row. The conditioning benefit is to get used to doing these long practice sessions close together. By this point, you’re getting so used to hiking so that this won’t seem like a significant challenge as it would be before the program.

Warm up with the Rainier Dozen and then hike for 3 hours. You may choose to include some pack weight if you’re looking for a little extra challenge.

Day 7: 7 Hour Hike (15 pounds of weight)
Warm up with the Rainier Dozen, and then hike for 7 hours, or about 12 - 14 miles. Be sure to hike at an even pace and bring all of the clothing, food, and equipment you need to be on the trail all day.

SUMMARY

This week is capped off with your first back-to-back hike. You may be tired when you start the second hike, or even have some muscle fatigue, but try and persevere. There are great benefits to be gained from introducing your body to the stress of multiple days of extended effort as it prepares you for the same challenges of climbing. We are headed into the final push of preparation over the coming weeks with several of these back-to-back days. When the climb comes you’ll know what to expect and how to take care of yourself over several days of climbing!

- John Colver

Have a question? See the Fit To Climb FAQ for explanations of specific exercises and general pointers to help you through the Fit To Climb Program.

John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle, and is working on his second book, Fit to Climb - a 16 week Mount Rainier Fitness Program.

Dave Hahn navigating the Giant Heather of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
4

Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 11

Posted by: | April 15, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Fit to Climb: Week 11 Schedule

DAY WORKOUT TOTAL TIME DIFFICULTY
1 Rainier Dozen / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 1-2-3 Stair Workout x 4 72 min. Very Hard
3 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Rainier Dozen / High Intensity Stair Interval Training (50 min) 62 min. Very Hard
5 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 Rainier Dozen / Cross Training 60 min. Medium
7 Rainier Dozen / Hike (6 hrs, 15 pounds of pack weight) 372 min. Medium
Total 10 hrs 32 mins

BRIEFING

This week’s weekend hike is 6 hours and your Day 2 stair workout will bump up to 4 sets of the 1-2-3 Stair Workout. Be sure to stay focused on your sleep and food intake this week, you’ll be burning a lot of energy and you want to give your body the rest and fuel it needs to recover from these workouts!

DESCRIPTIONS OF WORKOUTS

Day 1: Rainier Dozen + Easy Hiking (30 Minutes)
Today’s hike is a recovery workout and you can always substitute it with a different activity, such as running, biking or swimming. The important thing is to move at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes. The pace can be conversational and you do not need to be dripping with sweat at the end of the workout.

Day 2: Stair Interval Training: The 1-2-3 Workout
Warm up with some moderate paced stair climbing. Then, make three efforts: one moderately hard, one very hard, and one close to maximal effort, with rest periods in between. This may look like:

• 2 minutes at 50-65% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest (1 minute standing, 2 minutes descending)
• 2 minutes at 65-80% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest
• 2 minutes at 85-90% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest

Repeat this sequence four times.

Day 3: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 4: Rainier Dozen + Stair Interval Training (50 Minutes)
After the Rainier Dozen, warm up for about 10 minutes, and then climb up and down a set of stairs, at a consistent pace, for about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool down with some stretching. You don’t need to carry a pack on your stair interval training, the focus in this workout is on speed and intensity.

Day 5: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 6: Rainier Dozen / Cross Training (60 mins)
Warm up with the Rainier Dozen and then spend an hour in some moderately vigorous activity as cross training (find out more about cross training here). Listen to your body, and have fun with it.

Day 7: 6 Hour Hike (15 pounds of weight)
Warm up with the Rainier Dozen, and then hike for 6 hours, or about 10 - 12 miles. Be sure to hike at an even pace. Be sure to prepare yourself for this hike. It may require extra food and water and ensure that your socks are comfortable and your feet are well taken care of. Consider taking an extra pair of socks to change later in the day if your feet are tired or wet.

SUMMARY

It’s normal to feel that you are pushing the limits with this week’s workouts. You are ... and you’ll do well to let friends and family know that this is an important time for you. Remember that during this phase you are intentionally going to the edge which means that you are taking risks. Peak training requires meticulous attention to restoration and recovery. This is not a time to be burning the candle at both ends. Ample sleep, quality food and good relaxation are your allies when you challenge your body like this. But, the benefits are worth it!

- John Colver

Have a question? See the Fit To Climb FAQ for explanations of specific exercises and general pointers to help you through the Fit To Climb Program.

John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle, and is working on his second book, Fit to Climb - a 16 week Mount Rainier Fitness Program.

An RMI Team on Mt. Shuksan, North Cascades. Photo: Paul Maier

Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 10

Posted by: | April 08, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Fit to Climb: Week 10 Schedule

DAY WORKOUT TOTAL TIME DIFFICULTY
1 Rainier Dozen / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 1-2-3 Stair Workout x 3 90 min. Very Hard
3 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Rainier Dozen / High Intensity Stair Interval Training (50 min) 62 min. Hard
5 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 Rainier Dozen / Cross Training 60 min. Medium
7 Hike (5 hrs, 15lbs of pack weight) 300 min. Medium
Total 9 hrs 38 mins

BRIEFING

The weekend hike will be 5 hours and your Day 2 stair session will bump up from 60 to 90 minutes. Depending where you live, you may well be experiencing lighter evenings so this will be a chance to get outdoors, even at the end of the work day. In my estimation, nothing burns workday stress like a stair workout!

Speaking of stair workouts, this week will see the introduction of a new variant of interval training: the 1-2-3 Stair workout. This workout will push you beyond your anaerobic threshold and help increase both your aerobic and anaerobic capacity in the long term. A detailed explanation is included below. The consistent pace stair training that you’ve been doing for the past several weeks moves to Day 4.

DESCRIPTIONS OF WORKOUTS

Day 1: Rainier Dozen + Easy Hiking (30 Minutes)
Today’s hike is a recovery workout and you can always substitute it with a different activity, such as running, biking or swimming. The important thing is to move at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes. The pace can be conversational, and you do not need to be dripping with sweat at the end of the workout.

Day 2: Stair Interval Training: The 1-2-3 Workout
For your first stair workout of the week, you’ll take on a new challenge. First, warm up with some moderate paced stair climbing. Then, your challenge is to do one burst of effort moderately hard, followed by a rest; then a second burst of effort very hard, followed by another rest; and then the third burst of effort where you’ll make a close-to-maximal effort. In other words, you’ll go from the bottom to the top of the stairs as quickly as you’re able, or at least as fast as if you were being chased by a bear! This might end up looking like the following;

• 2 minutes at 50-65% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest (1 minute standing, 2 minutes descending)
• 2 minutes at 65-80% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest
• 2 minutes at 85-90% intensity, followed by 3 minutes of rest

For this week, repeat this cycle up to three times, depending on your level of fitness. If three times is too much too soon, fall back to some consistent pace stair climbing like you are used to, or stop at two sets and work your way up next week. This is a very demanding workout designed to mimic the physical stress that might be encountered on the mountain, so don’t be discouraged if takes a few weeks to work up to it!

An additional note on safety: after charging up the stairs at 90% intensity your legs might be a little wobbly, so be extra careful not to trip while coming down the stairs.

Most people will experience some discomfort at this intensity. Remember that all of these workouts are challenge-by-choice. Whenever training for mountaineering, I always try to bear in mind that I’m responsible for my own safety, and sometimes the safety of others. So even in training, I’m careful to not exert myself to the extent that I’ll overextend or injure my body. 

Day 3: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 4: Rainier Dozen + Stair Interval Training (50 Minutes)
After the Rainier Dozen, warm up for about 10 minutes, and then climb up and down a set of stairs, at a consistent pace, for about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool down with some stretching. You don’t need to carry a pack on your stair interval training, the focus in this workout is on speed and intensity.

Day 5: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 6: Rainier Dozen / Cross Training (1 Hour)
Warm up with the Rainier Dozen and then spend an hour in some moderately vigorous activity as cross training (find out more about cross training here). Listen to your body, and have fun with it.

Day 7: 5 Hour Hike
Find a location to hike that is about 9 to 10 miles in distance and takes about 5 hours. Maintain the same weight for your pack as last week. If the weight of your pack has to increase a little bit to account for the additional time you’ll be on the trail, that’s ok too.

SUMMARY

Perhaps the most noticeable thing you’ll feel after this week is that you are really used to these workouts. As aerobic endurance increases and strength builds, you’ll likely be finding that the workouts are more enjoyable and perhaps less taxing. Remember that at this point in training your goal is to perform well. You may not be as fatigued as in previous weeks but you are really moving forwards. Also, by now you’re probably getting highly organised with your equipment and clothing during your training hikes. Everything is falling into place!

- John Colver

Have a question? See the Fit To Climb FAQ for explanations of specific exercises and general pointers to help you through the Fit To Climb Program.

John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle, and is working on his second book, Fit to Climb - a 16 week Mount Rainier Fitness Program.

RMI Trekkers acclimatizing on their way to Everest Base Camp.

Mountaineering Training | Fit To Climb: Week 9

Posted by: | April 01, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Fit to Climb: Week 9 Schedule

DAY WORKOUT TOTAL TIME DIFFICULTY
1 Rainier Dozen / Easy Hiking ( 30 min) 42 min. Medium
2 Rainier Dozen / High Intensity Stair Interval Training (60 min) 72 min. Very Hard
3 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
4 Strength Circuit Training x 4 54 min. Hard
5 Rainier Dozen / Rest 12 min. Recovery
6 Rainier Dozen / Cross Training 60 min. Medium
7 Hike (5 hrs, 15lbs of pack weight) 300 min. Medium
Total 9 hrs 12 mins

BRIEFING

This is a big week! This week’s hike will be the longest yet and will mark the end of the foundation phase of your training. After last week’s fitness test, Day 6 reverts back to cross training this week.

DESCRIPTIONS OF WORKOUTS

Day 1: Rainier Dozen + Easy Hiking (30 Minutes)
Today’s hike is a recovery workout and you can always substitute it with a different activity, such as running, biking or swimming. The important thing is to move at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes. The pace can be conversational, and you do not need to be dripping with sweat at the end of the workout.

Day 2: Rainier Dozen + Stair Interval Training (60 Minutes)
After the Rainier Dozen, warm up for about 10 minutes, and then climb up and down a set of stairs, at a consistent pace, for about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool down with some stretching. You don’t need to carry a pack on your stair interval training, the focus in this workout is on speed and intensity.

Day 3: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 4: Strength Circuit Training x 4
Repeat the strength circuit training workout introduced in Week 3. After warming up, perform four sets of the following exercises:

• Steam Engine
• Push Up
• Three Quarter Squat
Russian Twists
• Lunge
• Steam Engine Laying down
• Mountain Climber
8 Point Bodybuilder

Spend 40 seconds performing the exercises, and take 20 seconds between exercises to rest and rotate. Take a full minute of rest between each set. Take a full minute of rest between each set. Take ten minutes to cool down by stretching after you’re done.

Day 5: Rainier Dozen / Rest
Begin your day with the Rainier Dozen. Feel free to take another 30 to 60 minutes of light exercise if you feel like it (a brisk walk is a great option). If you feel tired, today is a good opportunity be good to take a complete rest day instead. Listen to your body.

Day 6: Rainier Dozen / Cross Training (1 Hour)
Warm up with the Rainier Dozen and then spend an hour in some moderately vigorous activity as cross training (find out more about cross training here). Listen to your body, and have fun with it.

Day 7: 5 Hour Hike
Find a location to hike that is about 9 to 10 miles in distance and takes about 5 hours. Maintain the same weight for your pack as last week. If the weight of your pack has to increase a little bit to account for the additional time you’ll be on the trail, that’s ok too.

SUMMARY

How do you feel at this point of the program? Compare where you are now to week one; in what ways do you feel different as a result of the endurance, strength and skills that you’ve earned?

You are on-track to being a strong member of your rope team. Individual focus, skill, coordination and a multitude of factors make up the basis of split-second judgements in the mountains but physical fitness is the foundation for your climb, and you’ve got it. With the foundation you’ve built over the past nine weeks, and with the seven weeks remaining, you’ll have what it takes to be a strong member of your climbing team.

- John Colver

Have a question? See the Fit To Climb FAQ for explanations of specific exercises and general pointers to help you through the Fit To Climb Program.

John Colver is a longtime climber, former mountain guide, and certified personal trainer with the American Council of Exercise. Colver introduced outdoor fitness classes to athletic clubs throughout the greater Puget Sound region before creating his adventX brand. Currently, adventX leads training programs in Seattle and Colver presents clinics on outdoor fitness at companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, the American Lung Association, and REI. Colver lives in Seattle, and is working on his second book, Fit to Climb - a 16 week Mount Rainier Fitness Program.

RMI Climbers on Island Peak, Nepal.

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