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Posted by: | January 28, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training
We are excited to share a weekly trainings series from the book Fit to Climb: The Adventx 16 week Mount Rainier Training Program authored by former RMI Guide John Colver! This conditioning plan is designed to help you train for a successful Mount Rainier climb.
As the plan unfolds you’ll quickly gain momentum, achieving milestones, and navigating each phase of training. Before you’re halfway through, you’ll feel confident in your abilities and have experienced significant physical gains.
Features of the Fit To Climb plan are:
• A progressive training schedule with measurable milestones
• A weekly chart with day by day workout descriptions
• The ‘Rainier Dozen’ daily strengthening workout
• Tips on cross-training and alternative training options
• Instruction on aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance, and strength training
• Nutrition for training and climbing
• Tips on motivation, goal setting, and mental preparation
The Fit To Climb Program is designed to be done anywhere and with the minimal of equipment. No matter where you live, you’ll be able to participate and each week you’ll build strength and endurance for the climb ahead.
The 16 weeks are comprised of four phases:
• Phase one = Adaptation Training (Weeks 1 - 2)
• Phase two = Foundation Training (Weeks 3 - 10)
• Phase three = Peak Training (Weeks 10 - 15)
• Phase four = Expedition (Week 16)
These phases are the building blocks, each ending in milestones. We start with general conditioning, then add endurance, followed by the addition of high intensity interval training in the peak phase and ending with a short ‘tapering’ phase during the final preparation in the week before your climb.
The timing commitment of the Fit To Climb Program varies. The Adaption and Foundation Training Phases ask for 4 - 7 hours a week of training. During the Peak Training Phase the focus is on building solid and aerobic endurance with long training sessions and the plan calls for 10 - 15+ hrs of training per week. It’s a big time commitment so plan ahead and try and prepare your schedule to handle the increased training demands. For some tips, see RMI’s collection of ideas to maximize the time and the find the right terrain for your training.
The timing of the sixteen weeks is designed to prepare you for Mount Rainier climb that is four months away. If your climb is later or sooner you can adjust the timing as necessary, either getting a head-start or beginning in the appropriate week.
The Fit To Climb Program can easily be tailored to prepare you for any mountain beyond Mt. Rainier. In developing training plans for other climbs, plan your training with the end in mind: is the major challenge the high altitude, extreme temperatures, heavy pack, or multiple days or weeks?
As you create the training map, ensure that there are stepping stones to gain new skills and strengths as well as milestones where you can “test” your ability. One principle of training for mountaineering in all ranges, is that aerobic endurance conditioning is the primary training component for most climbers. Start by making sure that you have what it takes to “go long,” then focus on the specific challenges of your climb or expedition.
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 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 process, 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.
I’ve just returned to Washington after taking part in a six day Avalanche Level 3 course in Jackson, WY. ‘Avy 3’ is the highest level of formal avalanche training in the US. It is a professional level course designed for Guides, Ski Patrollers and other avalanche forecasters. One of the best parts of the course was interacting with the other participants who all came with a high level of experience. The instructors were top-notch as well, but the best learning opportunity came from the weather. Our course began with a huge winter storm dumping several feet of snow on top of a very weak base. This was a perfect recipe for avalanches and over the remainder of the course we were able to study the cycle as it progressed. It was fascinating to say the least and we were able to sharpen our skills while closely examining the highly unstable snowpack. The ability to take weather reports and our own observations, then build a hypothesis of how the snowpack should behave, followed by then going out into the field and testing our predictions was invaluable. It was a very productive week to say the least! I’m also very thankful for the professionalism of the instructors and the participants. We were able to keep the course very safe while also being able to get the most out of the time we spent in the field.
Feliz Ano Nuevo from Mendoza! Our last dispatch was from Aconcagua’s base camp and we have certainly covered many miles since then. A big day of walking from Plaza Argentina to Pampa de Llenas put us in camp just in time for a big Asado prepared by our herreros, the mule drivers who transport our gear off the mountain. An early morning walk brought us to Penitentes where we showered and had lunch before heading to Mendoza. Now back in civilization our celebratory meal felt great and is a far cry from mountain food and the thin air of the Andes, but the significance of the last few weeks that put us on top of the highest mountain outside of the Himalaya is still sinking in. Everyone has done a great job and I am thankful for the time spend with a great team. Nice work all!
Like most good climbing plans, I was told that the idea for the Climb for Five was hatched in a pub a while back. Already involved in the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer charity that raises money for childhood cancer research, the three climbers came up with the idea of tackling serious mountaineering objectives in an effort to raise money and awareness for St. Baldrick’s by using the metaphor of climbing to illustrate the challenges and trials children go through while battling cancer. Hence, on Sunday September 18th, Patrick, Eric, Jon and I gathered under a thick layer of grey and drizzly clouds hanging over Rainier BaseCamp to tackle Mt. Rainier over the course of a 5 day Expedition Skills Seminar - Camp Muir.
The days of near fifty degree temperatures and rain, coming down in sheets at times, did not do much to instill confidence in the conditions above. Yet within a half an hour of leaving the trail head at Paradise the clouds thinned and by the time we reached 7,600’ on the Muir Snowfield we were standing in the sun above the low-lying maritime clouds. Above us Mt. Rainier stood proudly with a fresh layer of snow from the recent storm blanketing its’ slopes. During the rest of the climb to Muir, Patrick further explained the concept for Climb for Five to me: St. Baldrick’s chooses five Ambassador Kids every year, representing that for every 5 children that get childhood cancer only 4 survive. The Climb for Five honors those Ambassadors; each day of the climb is chosen to honor one of the kids and the climbers carried keepsakes from each of the kids with them throughout the climb.
After a full day of training, learning the fundamentals of safe climbing and glacier travel techniques, exploring the Cowlitz Glacier outside of Camp Muir, and preparing ourselves for the climbing above, we set off on our summit bid under a beautifully starry sky early Wednesday morning. The new snow on the mountain smoothed over the rocky sections of the mountain and we made good progress across Cowlitz and Ingraham Glaciers and onto Disappointment Cleaver. Just before sunrise, breathing hard from the exertion at those altitudes, we reached the top of the Cleaver and added more clothes to fight the biting predawn winds. Continuing above the Cleaver the sun finally began to break above the horizon of eastern Washington and gave way to one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen on the mountain. The unsettled layers of clouds filtered the light such that shades of pink, red, yellow, orange, green, and blue were simultaneously covering the mountain’s glaciers and the surrounding landscape below. The array of colors around us contrasted sharply with the traditional monotones of high alpine environments of rock, ice, and snow. Unfortunately, those same unsettled clouds soon overtook the sun and by 13,500’ we were enveloped in a cloud cap, covering us in a thick layer of rime ice and blowing just enough to add to the challenge of making the final 900’ of climbing to the summit.
Standing on top, buffeted by the wind and precipitation, Eric and Patrick unfurled the St. Baldrick’s Banner and then pulled out a few keepsakes in memory of Arden, the Ambassador Kid for whom we were climbing that day. We then turned back and set our sights on descending. Like children battling cancer, reaching the summit is only half of the battle - the road to recovery once defeating the cancer is as long and as challenging as retracing one’s route back down the mountain. We carefully picked our way back down Mt. Rainier’s flanks, weaving our way amongst the seracs and around the gaping late-season crevasses that cover the mountain back to camp.
The winds from higher on the mountain descended not long behind us and continued to blow for the next several days while we finished the rest of the Seminar: building snow anchors, practicing the rigging systems needed for crevasse rescue, and ice climbing on the Cowlitz Glacier before descending back to Ashford on Friday. Taking part in the Climb for Five was a special experience for me and I feel fortunate to be involved. Having lost a sister to cancer as a kid, I share the same with the climbers of the Climb for Five and the entire climb struck a chord with me and I look forward to future climbs with this team. Thanks to Patrick, Eric, Jon, and St. Baldrick’s for pursuing this endeavor, RMI is proud to be a part of it.
RMI Guide Linden Mallory
The Safari Team is back at the Dik Dik! We’ve had a great couple of weeks but our trip is just about over. Last night we stayed at Kikoti Camp, an amazing safari camp that has tons of wildlife literally right in the middle of it. We went on a great little hike to a rock outcropping where we had drinks delivered while we enjoyed the sunset. It made for a great finish to an outstanding trip. Now everyone is busy getting ready for their respective flights home.
Thanks for a great trip guys!
RMI Guide Seth Waterfall
Another day of waiting and hiking for those of us at Mt. Everest Base Camp, but an important day none-the-less. The “fixing team” made it to the summit today, taking advantage of stable weather in the morning. We heard that things weren’t quite so stable in the afternoon, with wind and snow working over the upper mountain, but climbers pushed on to the mountaintop anyway and then descended safely. The word was that several hundred climbers moved up the Lhotse Face today to be in position for summit bids tomorrow. We wish them all fine conditions for those bids, but we are keeping focused on our own window, which the forecasts still predict to be a good one, several days out.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
Posted by: | June 17, 2012
Categories: *Guide News
It’s June already. Do you have a Mount Rainier climb planned this summer? If so, you are probably at the peak of your training efforts and devoting a good amount of energy and time to preparing your body for the big climb. Many people ask, “What’s the most important thing for training right now?”
If you are less than a week away from your climb, you’ll want to rest. By all means, do some activity — but just enough to keep you moving — not so much that you arrive fatigued. You’ll want to maximize your sleep and relaxation this week. Also, be sure that you’re eating plenty of carbohydrates to ensure you start the climb with a full tank.
If your climb is still a few weeks or even months away, then you have a great opportunity to add to your endurance.
I like to keep things simple. My recommendation to people training for mountaineering is to include at least one long hike each week. How long? Well, your summit day will start in the middle of the night and you may well be climbing and descending for upwards of 14 hours. So, it’s important to condition yourself to be on your feet for that long.
Practically, if you live near Mt. Rainier you can train on any number of long steep hikes in the area, or even hike up to Camp Muir for practice. One big weekly hike is my minimum, but if you can you’ll benefit from back-to-back days of hiking, or maybe even sneak in a midweek hike as well. A man I know was out of shape with only two months to go before his Mt. Rainier climb. He realized he was behind on his training, took vacation time, and hiked Mt. Si, near Seattle, eighteen times in one month! I thought it was a bit extreme and advised him to pay attention to his knees and joints, but he did it — and he made it all the way to the summit and back.
If you live in a flat city you can still get in good training. I’ve done urban hikes before to get in condition for a climb. Once, when I was getting ready for a big climb while I lived in London, UK, I would put a metal weight and some water-bottles in a pack and walk all day, stopping at restaurants to eat and visiting the occasional museum. It’s fun and a great way to see a city. This winter in Seattle I set a goal of walking three miles each day. It’s great for the feet, legs, and back and it’s easy to plan to walk places instead of driving. Arrive at work or a friend’s house and tell them you walked — you’ll inspire them too! It might be tough to get elevation in flatter regions, but don’t let that stop you from building endurance.
If you can’t hike or walk anywhere then bicycling is about as close as you can get to hiking as an alternative. It works the same energy-systems and many of the same muscle groups. If you do a lot of cycling, also do jumping exercises, perhaps even get a jump-rope and use it for a few minutes every day. That will help with the coming-down part of the climb. Cycling builds strength and endurance but doesn’t replicate the impact of stepping down. The combination of both is very effective.
Top three tips for June:
1. Make the main thing - the main thing: It’s a long endurance climb with a 35lb pack. Go long in training and wear a pack when possible.
2. Back up your long hikes with shorter sessions: 60 - 90 minute efforts at a higher intensity. Stairs, stair-master, elliptical machine, cycling or spin class are good options.
3. Mix up your training: Some long and steady ‘conversational’ pace sessions; some hard and steady; some intervals of 1 minute of very hard effort followed by 1 minute of rest.
A parting thought: I used to get close to a climb and worry that I hadn’t done enough of this or of that. Right now you’ve done what you’ve done. Its best to take out a calendar, figure out how many long hikes you can fit in, block out those time and then use the other days for shorter sessions. Take a day or two of rest as well, you’ll benefit from doing so. As the guides will tell you on the mountain, don’t worry about tomorrow or next week, just focus on now. Focus on how you can complete — and enjoy — today’s workout. You’ve trained hard and what you do now will make a difference on the mountain.
Author of Fit By Nature by Mountaineers Books.
For more information please see our resources for mountaineering fitness and training.
Hi this is Seth, checking in from 15,000’ on Kilimanjaro.
We have enjoyed another great day on the mountain. As we left our Shira Plateau Camp we ascended to 15,000’ and everyone on the team reached a new high altitude record today. This is a great mountain to push your personal altitude records as our packs are light and we are ascending without crampons, ice axes and other alpine climbing gear. We’re about to drop back down about 2,500’ to our camp for tonight. Tonight’s camp is set at the base of the great Barranco Wall, a steep canyon emerging from Kilimanjaro’s southern side.
We will check in again tomorrow.
RMI Guide Seth Waterfall
On The Map
Posted by: | October 15, 2012
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training
As we start the training process we want to decide how often to train, how hard to work, what type of activity to do, and for how long. A useful acronym is F.I.T.T. and it stands for Frequency, Intensity, Type and Time. We can use the F.I.T.T. principles to ensure our training provides the results we expect.
Frequency. The frequency of training is simply how often you train. For example, how often you complete your long hike or your strength training. My experience working with climbers and athletes is that in order to decide how often to train, it is best to look practically at our lifestyle and build the training in around work, family, and other important commitments. Most people can spend an hour or so on exercise most days of the week, with a larger amount of time on the weekends. The good news is that for most people this is enough. Training five days a week provides plenty of opportunity to build the fitness required for mountain climbing.
Intensity. Intensity can range from very easy to extremely hard. This can also be expressed as aerobic intensity and anaerobic intensity. In mountain climbing, the vast amount of activity is aerobic punctuated with shorter bursts of anaerobic activity. This can be reflected in the training plan. For example, longer hiking sessions will be performed at a lower intensity whereas shorter weekday sessions will be a chance to push hard and get the heart rate into the anaerobic range.
Type. A general theory of training is one of specificity. This means that the more closely aligned the type of training is to the actual activity, the more you will benefit. This is important for many climbers, especially if you live in areas with few hills to climb. Most of us will use alternate methods of training and we should make sure that we consider how closely the type of training mimics the actual climb. Hiking, of course, is perfect. A stairmaster or elliptical machines is good. Cycling uses similar muscles and energy systems. Although swimming, yoga, and basketball yield great conditioning benefits, these sports do not translate to climbing in the way that more similar activities do.
Time. Mountain climbing involves long days. It is common to climb for five to eight hours; summit days, such as on Mt. Rainier, often involve 14 to 18 hours of climbing. On these long climbs we generally break the day into segments of about an hour of climbing at a time. During your training a long day of hiking will progressively mimic a day on the mountain. Shorter mid-week training sessions of about an hour develop the habit of putting on a pack and being ready for any rigors the next hour of climbing presents.
Applying the F.I.T.T. principles is a good way of building out a training plan that covers all of our bases. A rough example of a well-balanced training week (in the building phase) could therefore look like this:
• Monday: Rest and Recovery
• Tuesday: Stairs
• Wednesday: Strength training
• Thursday: Short hike
• Friday: Rest and Recovery
• Saturday: 2 hour aerobic activity ie. cycling, hiking, or running
• Sunday: Half-day hike
This example is simply a guideline; everyone will have a slightly different approach to how they map out their training plan. Just as there are many routes to the summit of the mountain, there are many ways to develop a training plan. The important things are that your training plan contains the right balance of activities that develop the fitness and strength to be successful on the mountain. At the same time, the best training plans are ones that fit our lifestyle, are enjoyable, and therefore sustainable.
- John Colver
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.
Posted by: | December 24, 2012
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training
We are coming in to the home stretch of 2012. If you’ve been practicing workouts and exercises you’ve accomplished a lot already. Lets use the last week of the year to work on flexibility with The Home Stretch.
The Home Stretch is exactly what it sounds like: the last bit of your workout, the brief but essential stretching routine that will keep your muscles limber and strong. The routine starts at your toes and stretches to the top of your head and as far as your fingertips can reach.
UPPER CALF STRETCH
Starting position: Begin this stretch in the Downward Dog yoga posture: hands and feet flat on the ground, torso arched with rear up in the air, legs straight. If the Downward Dog position is uncomfortable, perform this stretch by leaning forward against a wall or another source of support, such as a tree or building, with arms straight and hands flat against the surface with legs straight and heels on the ground.
Movement: Place your left ankle above and behind the right ankle, just off the ground, so that you can feel an isolated stretch in your right calf. Keep your knee straight so as to isolate the gastrocnemius —one of two major muscles that comprise the calf. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds. Switch sides.
LOWER CALVES AND ANKLES
Starting position: Same as the Upper Calf Stretch — Downward Dog or the variation leaning against a wall.
Movement: Move your left ankle above and behind your right ankle as in the Upper Calf Stretch, with one difference: bend your right knee to isolate the soleus muscle in the lower part of your calf. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Switch sides.
Starting position: Lie on your back with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Rest your head on the ground.
Movement: Raise your right leg, with a slightly bent knee if needed. Grasp the back of your upper leg (hamstrings) with both of your hands and gently pull toward the center of your body until you feel a stretch in the hamstring. Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides.
Starting position: Lie flat on your stomach, chin on the ground and arms at your sides.
Movement: Raise your right ankle by bending your right knee. Grasp it behind your back with your right hand and then gently pull toward the center of your body until you feel a gentle stretch in the quadriceps muscles (the front of the thigh). Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides.
Variation: If lying down on your stomach is uncomfortable, do this stretch standing up. Hold on to a tree or other support with your free hand, if necessary, as you grasp your ankle and gently pull it toward your body.
Starting position: Sit in a kneeling position with your left leg forward. Your right knee and left foot will be on the ground, with both knees bent at 90-degree angles.
Movement: Imagine that your pelvis is a bowl of water on a table. Now, think of gently tipping the water out of the bowl from the back as you gently press the bottom part of your pelvis forward and the top part of your pelvis slightly back so that you feel a stretch in the muscles that connect the front of your hip to your right leg. That subtle tipping will activate the hip flexor in the front of your right leg. Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides.
ILIOTIBIAL (IT) BANDS
Starting position: Stand upright near a tree, wall, or other surface for balance. Cross your right leg over your left leg.
Movement: Extend your left arm to the surface for balance. Bend your body to the left with your right arm extended overhead, as though you’re doing a variation on the Side Bender from the Daily Dozen. Your goal is to feel a deep stretch in your right hip extending down to the outer part of your right leg.
Variation: Try the Pigeon Stretch if you’re particularly flexible. Sit on the ground and bend your left leg so that the heel is near the right hip. Extend the right leg straight behind you.
Starting position: Sit upright with legs bent and heels placed together in front of you.
Movement: Gently press your knees toward the ground to feel a stretch in the adductors (inner thighs). Hold for 20 seconds.
Starting position: Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground.
Movement: Gently move your knees to the left, placing them on the ground, making sure to also keep your shoulders on the ground. You should feel a stretch in your middle and lower back. Extend your arms to either side, and move your head so that you are looking to the right (away from your bent knees). Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides.
STOMACH AND CHEST STRETCH
Starting position: Lie on your stomach, palms placed on the ground on either side of your chest, directly below your shoulders.
Movement: Look up toward the sky, gently curving your back while supporting your weight, hands on the ground. This is popularly known as the Cobra pose in yoga. Hold for 20 seconds.
Starting position: Stand upright or sit on your knees with your upper body strong and straight. Lift your left arm above your head and bend the left elbow to stretch the left triceps muscles.
Movement: Place your right hand on your left elbow to support the stretch, gently pressing the elbow back until you feel the muscle stretching. Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides.
Starting position: Stand near a tree or another support. Place your left hand on the support, with your left arm fully extended.
Movement: Without moving your feet, rotate your body to the right until you feel a stretch in your left shoulder and the left side of your chest. Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides.
To finish the Home Stretch, take five full breaths. First, exhale and deeply Squat to the ground, arms downward. Inhale by pushing up on your heels, extending your legs, and reaching your arms to the sky. Take these breaths very slowly and deliberately — you’re bringing relaxation into all areas of your body at the end of your workout, setting the tone for the next stage peacefully and with a great workout behind you.
- John Colver
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.
Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts with John and other readers on the RMI Blog!
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